Thames Water switches to 100% renewable electricity in bid to meet net-zero by 2030

Pictured: A floating solar array on Thames Water's Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in Walton on Thames. Image: Thames Water

In its latest environmental, social and governance (ESG) statement, published this week, the water firm sets out the first steps it is taking as part of its overarching bid to reach net-zero operational carbon emissions by 2030.

The statement reveals that Thames Water had hit its 2020 emissions target, to reduce Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions by 34% against a 1990 baseline, two years ahead of schedule.

According to the statement, this reduction was largely due to the company’s shift towards self-generated renewable energy. Thames Water claims that 22% of its 2018/2019 electricity needs were met by sewage (281GWh), wind (5GWh) and solar power (12GWh).

In a bid to reach its net-zero target, the statement confirms, Thames Water recently began sourcing 100% of its remaining electricity from external renewable generation arrays, through a PPA with an as-yet-unnamed “green tariff” electricity supplier.

“Becoming more sustainable is a longstanding commitment of ours, and, in April 2019, we took it a step further with a pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030,” Thames Water’s interim executive chairman Ian Marchant said.

“At the heart of our sustainable thinking are nine sustainability themes making up our sustainability policy. We use these as our guiding principles to help us make the critical decisions that safeguard the delivery of our services to customers over the long term.”

The statement additionally details Thames Water’s progress in minimising leakage in the face of megatrends such as climate change and population growth, and the company’s recent work to enhance biodiversity at five of its key sites.

Its publication comes after Thames Water signed a £1.4bn five-year revolving credit facility (RCF), with the interest rate linked to annual performance against sustainability indicators, late last year.

Net-zero transition

With the UK Government having this year legislated for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Thames Water is one of several British businesses and bodies to have set stricter deadlines for the ambition.

Skanska UK and BT, for example, have set 2045 deadlines, while OVO Energy, JLL UK and Guardian Media Group have their eyes on 2030. Other firms, including the likes of Aldi UK, are already claiming carbon-neutrality after investing in carbon offsetting.

The transition is also beginning to take hold in the public sector. Speaking at an event in London this month, the Environment Agency’s chair, Emma Howard Boyd, unveiled the body’s 2030 net-zero target and hailed it as a “significant change to business-as-usual”.

Local authorities are making similarly ambitious steps, with Nottingham City Council, Edinburgh City Council, Manchester City Council, Leeds City Council and Sutton Council in South London among the cohort of councils with pre-2050 net-zero ambitions. However, a recent report from think tanks Green Alliance and Localis found that councils are unlikely to reach these ambitions without further support from central Government.

The net-zero transition at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum

edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum returns in 2020, as some of the biggest companies, individuals and organisations championing sustainability gather at the Business Design Centre on 4 & 5 February to discuss the emergency response in transitioning to a net-zero economy.

The flagship, multi-award-winning event features keynotes speakers including Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Rebecca Marmot, Unilever CSO; Tom Szaky, TerraCycle CEO; Gilbert Ghostine, Firmenich CEO plus directors and senior managers from Interface, Vattenfall, John Lewis, Taylor Wimpey, Aviva, Pret A Manger, Pernod Ricard, LEGO Group, M&S, Diageo, Tesco, WSP, BASF, Mondelēz and more. For details and to register, visit:

Net-Zero November: Get involved 

The edie content team is gearing up for Net-Zero November – a month of themed content and events dedicated to informing, inspiring and empowering sustainability and energy professionals on the road to a net-zero carbon future for their business.

Find out more about exactly what we have in store and how you can get involved by clicking here. 

 Sarah George

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