Climate change

We consider the impacts of climate change on our services and adapt our business accordingly.

Climate change is the long-term change in average weather conditions, including temperature, precipitation and wind. It is predicted that our climate will change dramatically and for the north west England, this will result in higher daily temperatures in both winter and summer, and a shift in our rainfall from summer to winter. This will mean there is likely to be:

  • more frequent and/or higher magnitude drought events in summer;
  • more rainfall in the winter; and
  • more occurrences of heavy rainfall.

Climate change has been the subject of strategic concern to us for over two decades. As a water and wastewater utility provider, we have first-hand experience of the impacts of extreme weather events on our operations and our customers, and we recognize our part to play in mitigating climate change.

To ensure consistency and emphasize the importance of our climate change activities, we have a 'protect and enhance the environment' promise within our business plan for 2015-2020, which includes a climate change resilience commitment.

Our response to climate change can be split into two areas:

  • adaptation - making sure our services are resilient to a changing climate; and
  • mitigation - reducing the carbon emissions associated with our services, e.g. through our energy strategy.
  • Adaptation

    The recent flooding and drought in our region are the forerunners to longer-term impacts of climate change. Our strategic risk planning to address such unavoidable impacts is mature, but we recognise the ongoing need to improve our understanding of climate risks. We have therefore adopted a 25-year planning horizon (to 2040) to ensure the resilience of our water resources (see our Water Resource Management Plan) and to enable the sustainable future management of drainage systems.

    In 2011, we published our first adaptation report that explains to government how we are preparing for a changing climate. Our report sets out how we intend to manage material risks associated with climate change and outlines our partnership-based approach. Our second adaptation report, published in 2015, builds on this and reports progress on our actions.

    We recognise that we must take a more sustainable approach to the development, management and operation of our assets in order to effectively adapt to climate change. For example, continuing to pursue a policy that we make all our sewers bigger to take account of the increases in rainfall can no longer be considered a sustainable approach. Instead, we will maintain our service to customers through a more holistic, integrated and partnership-based approach as set out below.

    Our approach is consistent with our strategic direction, set out in playing our part in which describe our strategic vision for the whole business from 2015 to 2040. The aspirations set out in 'playing our part' are then used to direct our asset management process.

    For a more detailed infomration on how we have incorporated climate change into our business strategy refer to our CDP response.

    We recognise that we must take a more sustainable approach to the development, management and operation of our assets in order to effectively adapt to climate change. For example, continuing to pursue a policy that we make all our sewers bigger to take account of the increases in rainfall can no longer be considered a sustainable approach. Instead, we will maintain our service to customers through a more holistic, integrated and partnership-based approach as set out below.

    Water

    Reducing demand for water is paramount, and our efforts to encourage and support water efficiency measures by customers will continue to expand. We will continue to work with external partners to integrate our messaging further afield and we are committed to being water efficient throughout our own operations by reducing leakage and monitoring our own water usage. We have secured accreditation to the Carbon Trust Water Standard which recognises companies for their measurement management and reduction of their own water usage.

    In terms of managing water supply and demand, we already have a single, very capable integrated supply zone covering the majority of the North West. Generally, this system is proficient in managing demand, but where there are extremities that remain ill-equipped to deal with future challenges we will bring more supplies online to meet any potential shortfalls.

    Wastewater

    The key risk to our wastewater service is the predicted increase in more intense rainfall events across the region. The sustainable management of surface water is vital in adapting to this risk. Current work to improve our management of this risk includes:

    • working with Defra, DCLG, Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) and developers to promote the implementation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS);
    • working with LLFAs and the Environment Agency (EA) to develop Surface Water Management Plans across the region; and
    • embedding our partnership working approach with Local Authorities, EA and others.

    There is the potential to deliver enhanced benefits to all parties with sustainable interventions, implemented in collaboration with other stakeholders, moving away from traditional costly capital schemes, helping to share costs. On the wastewater network we are further developing our risk based approach using data on population growth and climate change amongst others to predict both the current and future risks to the service that our sewerage network provides. We can then combine our risk data with that from other stakeholders to identify areas of common risk, facilitating partnership working to jointly resolve problems.

    The requirement for other stakeholders to adapt to climate change acts as an opportunity to establish better working relationships with key stakeholders and regulators. It enables us to address the barriers and interdependencies needed to manage adaptation activities and deliver mutual benefits. This will enable robust sustainable solutions to be put in place for complex issues, where multiple agencies are jointly responsible. Working collaboratively in tackling these issues will reduce the costs of the adaptation activities. We are focusing heavily on this approach through stakeholder engagement and partnership working to tackle these issues more effectively.

  • Mitigation

    The key factor in climate change is an increase in greenhouse gases (GHG's).There is global scientific agreement that as a result of human activity the amount of GHG's in the atmosphere is increasing and affecting the global climate. Therefore minimising the GHGs emitted as a result of our operations will mitigate climate change.

  • Our energy strategy

    Our energy management strategy has three objectives each of which have potential benefits to our carbon footprint. These are to:

    • reduce our consumption,
    • increase our generation, and
    • make smarter use of our assets.

    Energy efficiency measures are important but there are limits to the extent they can contribute to any mitigation strategy therefore we need to deploy renewable technologies effectively to fill the gap.

    Our first 500kW turbine is now generating power at our Fleetwood treatment works. This facility is also home to one of the biggest solar panel installations in the North West. During 2015/16 we installed Europe's first commercial scale floating solar array at Godley, in Manchester. The installation covers an area equivalent to the size of six football pitches, with the 12,000 panels floating upon 30,000 floats. The 3MW solar PV installation at Godley aims to generate 35% of the water treatment works' annual power requirements, or the equivalent of 800 homes worth of electricity per year. Our Manchester Bioresources Centre in Davyhulme employs a ground-breaking configuration of thermal hydrolysis to maximise energy generation from sludge winning an Annual Institute of Chemical Engineers award for innovation in 2013/14 and in 2016 we began to inject biogas into the national gas network.

    We have ambitious plans to continue to increase our renewable generation over the next few years towards a target to generate around 35 per cent of our consumption by 2020. Most of the energy we generate is used to power our works with some of the excess gas or electricity being put into the national grid. This generation from renewable sources reduces our energy bill and allows us to access Government incentives. In 2016/17 UU generated the equivalent of 149 GWh from energy recovery and from wind and solar photovoltaics and this represents 18 per cent of our 812 GWh energy consumption. Equivalent to 24GWh was exported as biogas or electricity in 2016/17 and this reduced our net carbon footprint by 7,657 tCO2e. In the coming year we will be moving to a renewable power contract with our electricity supplier so that the electricity we purchase will come from renewables sources which will further reduce our footprint.

     

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