Last week, the UK water system announced its ambitions to decarbonise a full two decades ahead of schedule. As the producer of almost one third of all UK industrial and waste process emissions, it will be a huge step forward for climate action if achieved. We explore the groundwork that must be in place for this transition as well as the other, less-obvious benefits that will come as a result.
The Net Zero 2030 Routemap
The route to a net zero water system is complex and will need outside support both from an investment and infrastructural point of view. The Routemap predicted that a potential investment of £2-4bn would be needed to secure its goals.
The pay-off of this is that the sector will reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tonnes. It makes sense for the water sector to be making these strides now, in light of recent concerns of shortages.
In October, the sector announced that the UK could be facing a shortfall of over 3 billion litres per day by 2050. The expected shortage links directly to the effects of climate change. In that way, the new Routemap recognises how our own security ties to the health of our environment.
Power to change
Creating a net zero water system requires engagement across many sectors. Fortunately, much of this development is already forecast in other areas of the UK’s net zero strategy.
Wind power generation, for example, will be central to serving the sector’s electricity needs. Boris Johnson announced earlier in the year plans to raise UK wind power capacity by 10GW by 2030 and to eventually power every home in the country by wind alone.
In comparison, the water system only requires 3GW for its operations.
The production and processing of sewage waste is, of course, an essential service. But, in our squeamishness, we may be overlooking a potential gold mine of green energy.
Since sewage naturally secretes biomethane, if we can install the means to capture and store it, we will have created a truly renewable form of natural gas from what was a harmful by-product. In turn, this gas could be used to heat our homes and cook our meals. Some innovative farming projects have already demonstrated the value of such projects by farming biomethane from livestock waste.
Additionally, this gas will provide an alternative fuel source for UK transport. Turning our transport sector green, be it through electrification or green gas, is also essential for reaching net zero.
Finally, the water sector has called for large-scale rewilding of 20,000 hectares of grass and peatland and planting millions of trees. These developments would support carbon capture by organic means, furthering the goal of net zero in all sectors.
ESS is proud to promote sustainability in our water cycle wherever possible. We offer guidance on energy and water conservation as well as the procurement of favourable supply contracts. The combination of a deregulated water market, and now a shorter time frame to hit net zero, make insights like these more valuable than ever. To find out how we can help your organisation, get in touch.