Norfolks Voice

Anglian Water’s leading response to climate change

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive, Anglian Water

To mark the countdown to COP26 and following the announcement of the government’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, I wanted to share with you the actions Anglian Water is taking to tackle the climate crisis we all face.

Here in the East of England we are uniquely susceptible to the impacts of climate change which, along with population growth, is already placing pressure on our water resources and water recycling networks. We are wholly committed to playing our part in addressing these impacts to drive a resilient, sustainable future for our region; indeed our commitment to act in the public interest, and seeking the right outcomes for society and the environment, is enshrined in our company constitution through the changes we made to our Articles of Association in 2019.

Our commitment to the environment and to addressing the impacts of climate change also shapes how we finance our capital investments. We became the first European utility to launch a Sterling Green Bond back in 2017 and our Green Bond Impact report published this month highlights how we have continued our sustainable investment within the region, investing £876 million to date in around 850 projects since 2015. Together, these projects have saved over 160,000 tonnes of CO2e.

This week we have been recognised for our leadership in corporate sustainability by global environmental disclosures organisation CDP, securing a prestigious A-List rating for our approach to tacking climate change. In a week that also saw the publication of our latest Climate Change Adaptation Report, detailing the actions we have already undertaken and our future plans to ensure we adapt our operations and infrastructure to the increasing risks of drought and flood, together with other climate change risks, I hope you can see how important this is to us. These adaptation activities will be delivered alongside our commitment to become a net zero carbon business by 2030. 

We started this journey back in 2010 when we publicly announced our intent to actively reduce our carbon impact through stretching targets. Since then we have reduced capital carbon by 61% from a 2010 baseline and operational carbon by 34% since 2015. I am incredibly proud to be one of the three CEO’s leading the industry on the carbon challenge, and the first industry sector to make the commitment to become net zero by 2030. I personally want to see this ambition shared across the UK business sector and as co-Chair of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group have taken many opportunities to highlight the importance of tackling capital carbon alongside operational carbon.  

In September we achieved a significant milestone in our ambitious goal, energising a solar array at Grafham Water Treatment Works. This renewable energy source will generate over a quarter of the energy used by the site over the course of the year and save around 3,500 tonnes of carbon annually, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the site. This is part of our renewable programme to install solar at a number of our operational sites over the next five years.

Last month saw the launch of the Water UK routemap on how the industry will become net zero by 2030. This sector route map provides the trajectory, actions, opportunities and behaviours required to meet this hugely ambitious target, hailed by the UK’s High Level Climate Action Champion Nigel Topping as “one of the most significant steps taken by any industry in the world”. We want to show leadership to set the pace for other energy intensive and utility sectors around the world.

There are already great examples of innovation, significant increases in renewable energy generation and more recently electrification of vehicle fleets. However, we also recognise there are many more opportunities to be explored and this can only be done through innovation and collaboration, not only within the water sector but beyond. We are currently working to foster exactly this kind of shared learning and progress through Innovate East, our partnership with Yorkshire Water and Essex and Suffolk Water. This initiative will build on the route map and work to fast-track progress towards carbon targets by using the knowledge and insight of stakeholders both inside and outside the sector. We would like to invite you to collaborate through a series of virtual events, beginning in the spring, that build on the success of our inaugural Innovate East event in 2019 which brought together over 2,000 attendees from almost 300 organisations across the globe. We'll be in touch early next year with more details about the events and how you can get involved.

I believe if we collaborate with others across sectors and look at the challenge holistically, reaching net zero and adapting to climate change gives us a huge opportunity to enhance our environment and drive social prosperity. I hope that you will continue to support and work with us as we collectively secure the green future that is within our grasp.