United Utilities: Leading on carbon management

United Utilities has established itself as an industry leader on carbon management and was the first water firm to appoint a carbon manager, Chris Matthews, who has since become head of environment and sustainability.

In 2006/07 it completed the first phase of its carbon management plan which included a six-month study with the Carbon Trust to establish a carbon accounting baseline and develop an emissions reduction plan.

The results showed a 2005/06 greenhouse gas emissions baseline of 488,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Some 72% stemmed from electricity use, 20% from non-CO2 process emissions (methane and nitrous oxide), 3% from transport fuel use and 4% from other fuels. Just 1% was from rail and air travel.

The study also identified 1.57 million tonnes of CO2 emissions which the firm influenced but did not ‘own’.

The company set a target to cut its projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 by 8%, an actual reduction of 5% on its 2005/06 baseline. It also adopted the government target to cut its CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050.

The 8% reduction is to be delivered partly by a £22 million biogas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) power generation programme which will raise the company’s rewnewable energy yield by 80%. The engines at Davyhulme, a major sludge treatment site in Greater Manchester, have been replaced doubling the site’s generation capacity to 9 megawatts. In total the company will have CHP at 23 sites.

Further emissions reductions will be delivered through a pump efficiency programme - this will test larger pumps’ efficiency and calculate whether to replace them. The programme is expected to deliver 4,000 tonnes of CO2 savings, a quarter of which have already been delivered.

Mr Matthews says the projects were schemes from the sector’s fourth asset management planning period funded on a standard business model, delivering payback within five years. Rising energy prices are making further energy- and carbon-saving schemes economic.

The company is thinking about using biofuels to power generators and finding low-carbon technologies to improve asset performance.

It also plans to promote water efficiency to customers to help reduce emissions, and engage with its suppliers and staff to further cut energy use and CO2.