Specialists advising the water sector on its goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 have said collaboration will be needed both within and beyond the industry to deliver the necessary innovation.

Mott MacDonald and Ricardo will today set out their view on how the sector can meet its challenging target – one of its five Public Interest Commitments.

The consultants have set out the following options for companies to consider as they develop their future plans.

  • Reducing emissions caused by wastewater treatment processes – cutting the amount of methane and other gases being released from wastewater treatment works
  • Increased energy efficiency – putting in place cutting-edge systems to manage energy
  • Increasing self-generated renewables – such as solar power and anaerobic digestion
  • Purchasing green electricity – low carbon sources such as wind power and biomass
  • Providing biogas to the energy grid – so other industries have access to low carbon gas
  • Rolling-out electric and alternative fuel vehicles – hydrogen and vegetable oil-powered
  • Moving to electric-powered construction equipment – such as diggers

One of the project leaders, Ian Behling, said: “The work we’ve done so far in developing the route map has highlighted the ambition shown by companies and the scale of the challenge to deliver against the commitment. It has also further highlighted the need for collaboration within and beyond the water sector to help deliver the innovation and change needed to meet the net zero challenge.”

Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty admitted there were challenges ahead but stressed that “water companies are committed to protecting and enhancing the environment and intend to be part of the solution to the climate crisis”.

The sector has already cut gross operational emissions by 23 per cent since 2011 and boosted renewable generation by 40 per cent. There has been a significant increase in the purchasing of green electricity to over 2000 GWh.

The net zero carbon pledge is sponsored by Peter Simpson at Anglian, Heidi Mottram of Northumbrian and Yorkshire’s Liz Barber.

Simpson said: “Climate change is not just an environmental issue – it’s the defining societal and economic challenge of our time. The issue is a genuine emergency, we have no time to waste. Achieving net zero is part of our industry’s wider commitment to always act in the public interest.”

Mottram added: “As we approach the United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP26 – in Glasgow later this year, the urgency and necessity of taking action has only increased. Britain has sought to be a leader in tackling the climate crisis, which gives all of us in business and industry the potential and opportunity to demonstrate leadership.”

As well as the immediate impact of carbon reductions, the industry intends to share its learnings to help other major energy-using industries to deliver their own plans.

Progress on the net zero carbon goal will be independently assessed each year, with key milestones reported publicly. Individual companies will use the action plan to inform their own detailed approaches to meeting net zero across the industry by 2030.

Yesterday, Severn Trent unveiled the latest steps in its own triple carbon pledge.

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