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Creating a net zero carbon future

About the blog

Robert Brears
Robert is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley), The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan), Blue and Green Cities: The Role of Blue-Green Infrastructure in Managing Urban Water Resources (Palgrave Macmillan)


  • Creating net zero carbon future

The water sector is energy-hungry and is responsible for a significant amount of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The water sector is energy-hungry, with energy consumption by the sector equivalent to all the energy used by Australia. In 2014, around 4% of global electricity consumption was used to extract, distribute, and treat water and wastewater as well as 50 million tons of oil equivalent of thermal energy.

By 2040, the amount of energy used in the water sector is likely to double due to trends including increased desalination, large-scale water transfers, and increasing demand for wastewater treatment, as well as higher levels of treatment.

The energy used to supply water and clean used water is responsible for around 3–8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With global demand for water projected to increase by 55% by 2050, a business-as-usual scenario will see emissions increasing by 50% in the same timeframe.

Anglian Water’s solar future

Anglian Water is installing solar energy at one of its key operational sites in Huntingdonshire as part of the company’s goal of becoming net carbon zero by 2030. Grafham Water Treatment Works, which uses around 45 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year to supply clean water for hundreds of thousands of customers, will have 42,000 solar modules installed on operational land at the site to generate over 26 percent of the energy used by the works. The renewable energy generated will save around 3,5000 tons of carbon annually.

This initiative is on top of other renewable energy systems the water company has already initiative including:

  • Bio-resources: Anglian Water has 10 existing sludge treatment centers and Combined Heat and Power engines to power on-site operations with any excess exported to local electricity networks. Through the company’s bio-resources strategy, Anglian Water aims to maximise its bio-resources potential with the company working with the agricultural sector to recycle these nutrients on land
  • Solar: The water company has a number of solar arrays installed on its operational sites and is trialling an energy storage solution to store excess solar energy generated during the day and using it at other times, helping reduce reliance on energy from the grid
  • Wind: Anglian Water already has three existing wind turbines which generate around 14GWhs of energy per annum with the company exploring wind power in places where it would be appropriate


Water utilities of the future will be energy utilities too, exporting excess renewable energy to local electricity networks.  

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