WELSH Water has revealed that climate change continues to impact on how it delivers essential services throughout Wales and in Herefordshire, and that it will continue to decarbonise its operations on its ‘Journey to Zero by 2040’ in the global fight against climate change.
This follows the recent IPCC report which revealed a ‘code red for humanity’; that the UK is already undergoing disruptive climate change with increased rainfall, sunshine and temperatures. Welsh Government declared a climate change emergency in 2019 and this year, formed its first climate change ministry, who Welsh Water are keen to continue to work closely with on the Team Wales effort.
Welsh Water, which announced its net zero by 2040 target in June, has witnessed first-hand the extreme impacts of climate change, and has spent the past decade combatting the effects through cutting its own emissions, becoming more energy efficient and investing in innovation. With Wales obtaining its first ever amber heat warning in July, the drought in 2018 and Storm Dennis in 2020, these changes are having a significant impact on the water and wastewater infrastructure.
The not-for-profit water company is part of what has always been an energy intensive industry to deliver essential services and it faces a significant challenge in decarbonising. Welsh Water is determined to take bold action and to minimise its own emissions and has already made great strides towards net zero emissions, with ambitious targets for the future:
- 2021: Welsh Water now generates 23% of its own energy needs through wind, hydro, solar and advance anaerobic digestion (AAD) with the rest procured from 100% renewable energy resources.
- 2025: It will invest a further £21 million to become 35% energy self-sufficient by 2025.
- 2030: It will reduce total carbon emissions by 90%
- 2050: It will become 100% energy self-sufficient – or energy neutral.
Welsh Water has partnerships with a large number of global experts and academic institutions as part of its ‘iLab’ innovation process, as well as links through this process to businesses and Universities in Wales. Over the next five years £50m is being invested in research and on new innovation to face long term challenges. Much of this is targeted at the adoption of low carbon technologies. Between now and 2040, the company will also continue to deliver nature-based solutions through its biodiversity plan, tree planting, peatland restoration, wetland treatment and catchment management to both enhance the environment and capture carbon.
Planning and adapting services for the long-term is an essential part of the strategy. As the planet continues to warm, climate change will bring with it more extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods. Welsh Water is preparing assets and services for the changes and impacts to the supply chain that such weather events bring, including its innovative Rainscape sustainable drainage project in Llanelli and Gowerton, a £115 million investment, which aims to make communities more resilient to flooding.
In 2018, the majority of Llanelli escaped flooding during Storm Callum, thanks to Welsh Water’s RainScape work. Without RainScape, it was likely more than 100 homes would have been flooded.
Peter Perry, CEO of Welsh Water said:
“Climate change is an existential danger to future generations, and some of the changes are irreversible. This is a global fight, which requires bold action. As Wales’s not-for-profit water company, this is about us leading the way and taking responsibility for managing the biggest challenge of our time, focusing on the long-term and ensuring we help protect our customers, communities and the wider environment while doing the right thing for generations to come.
We know that our customers care about climate change and back stronger action to combat it, we need to collaborate with partners, experts, customers and communities to find new solutions and work in different, innovative ways.”