Anglian Water - Finalist in the BITC Award for Environmental Leadership

Key highlights
  • £4.5m a year to be spent on a range of energy efficiency measures and clean energy investments
  • £236m since 2005 – has been in the conversion of sewage sludge into heat and power
  • Energy Initiative has cut the energy bill by more than £20m from 2010 to 2015
Finalist in the BITC Award for Environmental Leadership

In a bid to transform the business and put carbon and cost reduction centre stage the regional water business has taken embodied greenhouse gas emission reduction to another level.

Making incremental improvements to its overall carbon footprint was never part of the plan for Anglian Water. No, the business – which supplies water and water recycling services to more than six million domestic and business customers across the east of England and Hartlepool – had bigger fish to fry.

When you set tough, ridiculous goals, that’s when innovation happens.

“We realised quite a long time ago that reducing carbon meant reducing cost and we needed to commit to an ambitious target to reduce our footprint,” says Matt Pluke, the company’s energy manager. “By moving the dial and making incremental improvements, we knew we would get better and cut costs. But the business would not be transformed.”

What came next was some seriously ambitious goals – targets Pluke thought would be impossible to achieve when they were originally set. These included a 70 per cent reduction in capital (or embodied) carbon by 2030 and a 7 per cent reduction in real terms in gross operational carbon by the end of this decade.

“This tough approach moved us way beyond what we might be regulated to do in the sector. As a result, the business has changed hugely. When you set a tough, ridiculous goal, that’s when innovation happens,” he adds.

Leading from the top to drive efficiency

Endorsed by the board, the company commits £4.5m a year to be spent on a range of energy efficiency measures and clean energy investments. Generating renewable energy since 2004, the business has wind turbines and solar PV on its sites. But the majority of its investment – £236m since 2005 – has been in the conversion of sewage sludge into heat and power using combined heat and power engines (CHP) across nine sites.

Every year, Anglian will typically invest £450m on assets to maintain or enhance its service in response to a burgeoning population and tightening water quality standards. The goal to reduce the capital carbon on assets has been “one of the biggest drivers of innovation and new thinking” according to the business. A Carbon and Water Modeller is used to measure carbon and appraise all options, enabling super efficient design. This is integrated into all decision-making so that schemes which do not meet the carbon/cost targets are sent away for redesign at an early approval stage.

In 2015, the company met its goal of halving the capital carbon in any new assets it builds (against a 2010 baseline) – hence the revised, stretch target of 70 per cent by 2030. In the same year, operational carbon was reduced by 16 per cent. Meanwhile, since 2009, the amount of renewable energy being generated onsite across the business jumped by 315 per cent and the ongoing efforts to cut carbon continue to deliver environmental savings of around 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every single year.

Translated in pounds, shillings and pence, the company’s Energy Initiative has cut the energy bill by more than £20m of a five year period, from 2010 to 2015. And taking into account the investment in clean energy technologies, a total benefit of more than £14 million was calculated for 2015/16 thanks to reduced power costs, exported power and renewable incentives.

“If you think about the global challenges we face in terms of population growth, climate change and finite resources, the global picture translates into the Anglian Water regional picture,” says Pluke. “Around 29 per cent of our land is below sea level and we have the lowest rainfall in the country. A lot of our assets are susceptible to flooding.”

Valuing water

It is a situation the directors of the business saw early on, and decided to act to safeguard the company’s future. “Water is far too precious for people not to value it and look after it. Most companies are starting to see this now, but when we started to take carbon out of the business, people were asking was how much it would cost to do so, rather than seeing carbon as expensive energy use.”

Maintaining momentum is now the name of the game for Anglian. It is seeking to align its suppliers with the overall ‘reduce carbon, reduce cost’ vision. The @One Alliance is one such collaborative effort which will see a range of partners develop around 800 infrastructure schemes worth approximately £1.2bn between April 2015 and March 2020, to maintain and improve the water mains and the sewerage network in the region, while continuing to keep a lid on carbon emissions.