May 102013


Thames Water have got fat – but they’re not afraid to burn it.

This is not a health directorate following too many hefty business lunches in the water sector, but the news that the company is going to fuel their Beckton sewage plant with the fat that collects in their sewers -  a very practical solution to the traditional massive logistical headache of ‘fat-bergs’.

Anyone who’s been to London will have noticed the dizzyingly large amount of takeaways and eateries. And that’s where the fats will be trapped from – before they’ve even hit the pipes below. The company’s own press release mentioned chicken fats by name, so a picture of one of London’s fine fried poultry establishments to illustrate this piece seemed fitting.

These fat-based plans follow further recent news about Thames Water’s ever-expanding strategies for their ‘poo power’ plants. A bunch really committed to making volts from muck of all kinds, it seems.

This is no plug for one water company though – it’s just that they’re doing some eye-catching stuff right now. Of course we know very well from our consultancy work with water companies the length and breadth of the UK that the appetite is about more than fat and poo going to good use.

Yorkshire Water, for example, is leading the way when it comes to non-sewage low-carbon energy generation. Their enthusiasm for hydro and wind power is the main focus as they push upwards towards a target of 14 per cent of their electric needs coming via renewables by 2015.

And it will probably come as little surprise given the amount of attention Scotland’s renewable efforts get, that Scottish Water are trailblazing a really novel idea – a hydro turbine system in their pipe network near Falkirk, no less.

So there are lots of firsts; biggests; bests being claimed among the UK’s water suppliers. Let’s hope the healthy competition continues in an upwards drive of innovation – and most of all, let’s hope some of those savings are passed on to the hard-up consumer.

Water in the UK is a big issue. Our upcoming At Home with Water report looks at the other side of sustainability in the industry – what people are doing in the homes. You can sign up here to get launch info and attend an online, interactive webinar. 

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