United Utilities scoops £400m European Investment Bank funding

United Utilities has secured £400m investment from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to fund "ambitious" water supply and wastewater management improvement projects.

Agreement for the funding was recently signed in Manchester by United Utilities chief financial officer Russ Houlden and EIB vice president for the UK Simon Brooks.

According to United Utilities, EIB is its largest single investor and the latest funding will benefit 6.8m people across north-west England through individual schemes to improve drinking water quality and enable more energy-efficient treatment of wastewater.

The first set of projects to be supported by the fund includes those that take account of the potential impact of water and wastewater during extreme weather and climate variability over a 25 year period.

These will form the first phase of United Utilities’ capital expenditure programme for its 2010/15 regulatory programme.

Mr Houlden, said: “Our current investment programme is the largest we have ever undertaken, and funding like this is vital to secure the improvements that our customers expect and that the environment deserves.

“The EIB is the biggest single investor in United Utilities and this is cost-effective funding that provides real value for money for our customers. Given the present financial climate, it is really encouraging to see European money helping to deliver the essential new infrastructure that will improve the quality of life for everyone here in the north-west of England.”

Another project set to benefit from the funding, is a £100m sludge balanced asset programme (SBAP) project at Davyhulme wastewater treatment works in Manchester. It is thought that the scheme will provide enhanced sludge digestion and help to improve soil conditioner that can be recycled for farmland use.

As a result of the works, large volumes of biogas will also be generated that can then be used to produce green energy to power the entire plant, with any excess transferred to the National Grid.

Additionally, the investment will be used to upgrade wastewater treatment plants at 12 locations in Liverpool to generate heat and electricity through combined heat and power engines.

It will also fund flood alleviation schemes, by increasing sewer capacity during heavy rainfall, and improve water quality in rivers and along the coastline by upgrading sewer overflow points and building 101 new storm water detention tanks.

Over the last five years the EIB has provided almost £3bn in funding to UK water companies.

Commenting on the investment, Mr Brooks said: “Large-scale specialist investment that addresses risks from a changing climate is essential to ensure clean tap water and safe wastewater management for future generations.

“The European Investment Bank is committed to ensuring that long-term investment by UK water companies can best prepare for climatic uncertainties, alongside increasing energy efficiency in the sector.”

Carys Matthews

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