Water and electricity does mix (despite Ofwat's red tape)
One of the great things about working at Friends of the Earth is that we get to meet lots of interesting people. Some of them show a real commitment to doing their bit to save the planet.
A few weeks ago, I met Ben from Yorkshire Water, a company who are at the sharp end of dealing with some of the effects of climate change, notably flooding and drought. But the processes involved in giving us clean water supply and cleaning up the delightful stuff we send them in return consumes stacks of energy.
Ben told me that Yorkshire Water's first priority is to cut their energy use as much as they can. By improving their processes and by enabling and educating us all to reduce our water consumption they can slice a huge chunk off their carbon footprint.
But Yorkshire Water also wants to generate their own clean, green renewable energy. Remember all that lovely stuff we flush down our toilets? They're converting that through anaerobic digestion (AD) into gas to be used in a combined heat and power (CHP) system. Waste not, want not, heh?
They'd like to do more but they are stymied by a frustratingly bonkers bit of red tape. Due to an edict from their regulators, Ofwat, they are only allowed to invest in two renewable technologies, AD and hydro-electric.
Like all water and sewage companies they have large industrial buildings on which they could install solar panels and vast tracts of land where they could generate loads of electricity from onshore wind. But they can't, because Ofwat won't let them.
Yorkshire Water has had to go to the great lengths of setting up arm's length companies to circumvent these regulations. They are hoping to get permission to build a new wind farm near Harrogate as well as other suitable sites, maximising the sustainable resources that they have.
The coalition Government has given its commitment to tackling climate change, increasing investment in renewable energy and cutting red tape. Perhaps they need to have a word with Ofwat.
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