Nine years to Net-Zero

By Matthew Humphreys, National Account Manager, Utilities

Quick wins, long-term solutions and expert support for the UK water industry

In line with the UK water sector’s target to achieve Net-Zero by 2030, the Water UK Net Zero 2030 Routemap outlines several potential pathways to CO2 neutrality. Along each route, specific interventions provide both immediate impact and lasting benefits.

When we surveyed water companies about progress, feedback showed varying degrees of preparedness and confidence. Respondents had already selected a primary pathway, with 50% opting for a transport-led approach, two clusters of 19% choosing demand-led and removals-led strategies, and 12% following combined methodologies.

Let’s explore the possible pathways and interventions – including quick wins and longer-term strategies – to speed your journey to Net-Zero.  

Burning fossil fuels interventions

Quick win: Replacing gas oil with HVO

Swapping red diesel for renewable HVO is an effective first step to greener fuel. A consultant will perform an asset survey to ensure HVO compatibility, then oversee tank cleaning, inspection, and fuel replacement. You’ll also receive a maintenance schedule to prevent microbial contamination and fuel degradation.

Proactive planning: Transforming sewage sludge into biogas

Combined heat and power (CPH) engines use the natural process of anaerobic digestion (AD) to transform sludge into biogas, which can power site operations, create electricity and heat, or be sold back to the local grid. In turn, the heat generated from CHP facilities can expedite the AD cycle.

 

Long-term strategy: Planning for sustainable onsite hydrogen production

Electrolysis extracts hydrogen from partially treated wastewater with no carbon emissions. A possible scenario could involve powering your wastewater plant with hydrogen by day, then continuing electrolysis out of hours, creating green energy to sell or fuel company vehicles.   

 

Transport interventions

Quick win: Energy efficiency – journey reduction

Upgraded drainage systems minimise wastewater volumes and the road miles to remove them. A comprehensive programme of waste reduction, recycling, and repurposing cuts tankering requirements and bring you closer to carbon-free practices.

Quick win: Alternative technologies – electric vehicles (EV)  

Using ready-made technology, EV charging points can be installed within weeks. A trusted partner can also map your longer-term transition to green vehicles – covering feasibility studies, implementation, commissioning and sign off.

Long-term strategy: Hydrogen or biogas fuel infrastructures

Hydrogen or biofuel-led power for your HGV fleet is ready and waiting. An environmental consultant will create a tailored conversion plan, including interim adaptations, decommissioning and ongoing support.  

Natural sequestration interventions

Quick win: Planting trees

While trees take decades to impact CO2 levels, planting can still be a quick win for water companies. An ecologist will survey land and select appropriate tree species, yield class, and management practices to ensure your investment thrives for generations.

Long-term strategy: Peatland restoration

Restoring degraded peatlands boosts biodiversity and reduces emissions. An environmental consultant can manage the delicate ‘re-wetting’ process, restoring natural water flow and soil saturation, and provide peatland feasibility surveys, design, excavation, and planting.

Long-term strategy: Grassland restoration

Grassland restoration enhances the natural landscape and preserves biodiversity. Working with an environmental specialist shapes your ideal approach – from spontaneous succession to topsoil transfer – as well as strategies to boost species richness within ex-arable spaces. 

 

The move to Net-Zero is a monumental challenge – but an environmental risk expert can identify your correct carbon reduction pathway, build the right blend of interventions, and ensure you deliver on the sector’s vision for a greener future.

Find out more on our dedicated water web page here