Net zero by 2027 – taking on the challenge of carbon emissions
We will achieve a net zero carbon emission position in 2027, three years ahead of the PIC ambition and the first water company in England to meet this ambition.

Northumbrian Water have reduced operation emissions by 46% since 2009 and are the only water company in the UK to use 100% of the sludge remaining after sewage treatment to produce renewable power – we have also used our experience from this to create further opportunities for green gas development.


We will power all 1,858 of our sites using renewable electricity for at least the next four years, enabling us to eliminate the equivalent of 125,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. The company will create zero avoidable waste by 2025; this will mean eliminating, re-using or recycling 90% of waste from their operations, and working with partners to contribute to the circular economy in their regions. Beyond this our investment in natural solutions such as reedbeds has provided environmental benefits in biodiversity and reduction in CO2 emissions, with the use of hydroelectric power and solar continuing to contribute.


Looking ahead, the use of Digital Twins, pilots of large scale battery storage and the production of hydrogen in hydropower sites that cannot be connected to the grid demonstrates the continued industry leadership in this area.

100% Renewable Energy Supply
From April 1 2018, a new green electricity deal covered everything from the company′s largest treatment works down to its smallest telemetry systems.


Northumbrian Water now powers all 1,858 of its sites using renewable electricity for the next four years. This means Northumbrian Water can achieve 125,000 tonnes of CO2 savings each year - over 600 times the weight of the Angel of the North.


This was achieved alongside the UK first ‘Corporate Power Purchase Agreement’ Green Energy Deal. Northumbrian Water signed a long-term agreement with Danish renewable energy specialist Ørsted that will see the water company take almost a third of its renewable energy demand from an offshore wind farm. The 10-year deal, the first Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) of its kind in the UK, is an expansion of a renewable electricity supply agreement between the companies, which started in April 2018.


Northumbrian Water sources 30% of its renewable electricity directly from the Race Bank Offshore Wind Farm, off the coast of Norfolk. The Corporate PPA will deliver approximately 100GWh per year of renewable electricity from the offshore wind farm to Northumbrian Water consumption sites in the North East, Essex and Suffolk, amounting to approximately 1TWh across the term.


As well as supporting the growth of Northumbrian Water’s renewable energy activity, the agreement will help drive down costs of operation through a long-term fixed price for electricity. Race Bank Offshore Wind farm is one of the newest operational wind farms in the UK with commissioning being achieved earlier this year. It is capable of generating up to 573 megawatts (MW) of green electricity from its 91 Siemens Gamesa 6 MW wind turbines. With the corporate PPA, Northumbrian Water will purchase around 100GWh a year for 10 years, corresponding to 23 MW of capacity from Race Bank.

Power from Poo
Northumbrian Water is the first water company in the country to successfully turn 100% of our sewage sludge – 2million cubic metres – into renewable energy, generating more than £5m of efficiency savings that we can pass on to customers each year.


This produces 10MW energy – the equivalent of the amount needed to power about 20,000 homes. At present, 88GWh of energy – enough to power 7,000 homes – is passed into the grid annually through our gas-to-grid plant at Howdon, North Tyneside. A second gas to grid plant at Bran Sands in Tees Valley is currently in development.


As part of the Power from Poo process by moving the final sludge as a cake to land rather than a liquid we have reduced our carbon footprint from 90,000 tankers per annum to 10,000 trailers annually. This has contributed to us reducing emissions by 46% since 2009 and hitting both our 2015 target (of 20% reduction) and 2020 target (of 50% reduction) two years early.

EU Pennine PeatLIFE
A key catchment partnership project that we continue to be involved in is the £6 million Pennine PeatLIFE project.


This started in November 2017 and will focus on areas of the North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland, repairing 1,535ha of damaged areas of blanket bog or ‘peat bog’ over the next four years.


This project is led by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership in collaboration with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership. It is financed by the European Union’s LIFE Programme, Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities. We also help finance the project and sit on the board of the partnership, advising on peat restoration, supporting with water quality sampling and monitoring in the uplands. The project will also test innovative ways of funding, identifying new approaches to paying for environmental improvements with multiple benefits for everyone.

Hydroelectric Power
In 2016 at our Grassholme reservoir, near Mickleton, County Durham as part of a £3 million scheme we launched the latest in a series of renewable energy schemes harnessing the power of water at Northumbrian Water facilities.


Hydroelectric stations have been built at Selset Reservoir, near Barnard Castle, Mosswood water treatment works, near Consett, and Kielder Reservoir, in Northumberland. The hydro power plant at Kielder is the largest of its kind in England, generating some 20,000 megawatt hours per year of electricity - enough to meet the average annual needs of around 5,000 households.


NWL Current Installed Hydro Capacity






Kielder Reservoir

Raw water

Third Party


Selset Reservoir

Raw Water

Third Party


Mosswood Water Treatment Works

Treatment Works



Wear Valley Water Treatment Works

Treatment Works



Lartington Water Treatment Works

Treatment Works



Derwent Reservoir

Raw Water



Grassholme Reservoir

Raw Water



Hury Reservoir

Raw Water

Third Party


Cow Green Reservoir

Raw Water



Reedbeds at Hanningfield
The reedbeds at Hanningfield were a first for sustainable drinking water treatment.


It provides a natural method of dealing with the sludge which remains after drinking water treatment. This now contains 16 reed beds, with a surface area of more than 10 acres, have been constructed and planted at a cost of £4.5million.The natural plantation is now an essential part of the drinking water treatment process for the nearby water treatment works. Part of the drinking water treatment process involves separating silts and algae from the raw water - it creates up to three million litres of a sludge containing ferric used in the treatment process every day. Most of the sludge is water which, once treated, can be recycled back to the reservoir for re-use.


Reed bed systems had been used successfully for many years to treat sewage and food waste but never before in the water treatment process. It naturally recycles the valuable water from the sludge without mechanical or chemical processes. Traditional methods of dewatering sludge involve mechanical systems which require high levels of maintenance labour and power. The reed beds save 70 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year compared to the traditional system. The creation of the new reed bed is also an important addition to the wildlife habitat of the reservoir – so a cleaner, more efficient, natural and environmentally beneficial scheme.

Continued Innovation and Next Steps

Our ambition for carbon reduction continues, with new innovate ideas, pilots and schemes under investigation.

Large scale battery storage pilots
We are planning to pilot the use of large scale battery storage at a number of sites across the North East, Essex & Suffolk.


The aim of these pilots is to prove the process′ ability to reduce Northumbrian Water′s energy costs, helping to keep customers′ bills as low as possible. This ties in with ambitious goals outlined in the company′s business plan for 2020-2025, including delivering improvements to the environment and lowering customers′ bills. The batteries are set to be in full operation by the end of summer 2019.


This work again puts Northumbrian Water at the leading edge of energy management, and is another great example of innovation for which the company is becoming recognised as a leader, within and outside of the water industry. Partnering with Ikigai Capital who will manage the operation of the battery array and benefit by taking a share of the savings and income achieved.


The batteries themselves are ‘second life′ li-ion units recovered from Renault electric vehicles, with energy storage engineers Connected Energy providing the technology. It is a great example of the three companies working in close partnership in the circular economy, helping to tackle waste and increase recycling.

Digital Twinning
Northumbrian Water is working with Newcastle University to use digital twin technology to improve the way it manages its assets and responds to major incidents.


Four post-graduate students are working with Northumbrian Water over the next three years to gather real-time data from its water and sewer networks. They will use this to create a virtual model of the systems, allowing the company to run computer-generated simulations of incidents such as burst mains, heavy rainfall or serious flooding, to show in a matter of minutes what could happen to homes and communities during such events. This means the company, together with emergency responders, can identify problems quicker and easier than ever before, improving planning, decision making and response times. The idea was borne out of Northumbrian Water’s 2018 Innovation Festival.

Soil Organics
Flood waters take organic matter and minerals out of soils, exacerbating the negative cycle of climate change.


Studies carried out in partnership between Northumbrian Water and Durham University have investigated a technique to tackle this using Water Treatment Residual (WTR), a waste bi-product of the treatment of drinking water. This is currently put into landfill but research suggests it can be used as a positive resource to regenerate soil. Trials conducted at Weetslade County Park, north of Newcastle, have shown that soils amended with WTR increase their flood holding capacity, reducing erosion. This therefore improves both flood resilience and plant growth, with a positive contribution to biodiversity and carbon storage.

Ochre Reprocessing
This project – a partnership between Northumbrian Water and Durham University – is investigating the use of waste material recovered from mine water as a replacement for chemicals used in water treatment.


Through this process, ochre, a polluting material produced from abandoned coal and metal mines, is converted to ferric chloride and ferric sulphate solutions, used for phosphorous removal from waste water. This process diverts ochre from landfill, which in turn could save money for the taxpayer, which currently pays for this via the Coal Authority, and for Northumbrian Water customers, if the need is removed to purchase more expensive chemicals to do this job.

Solar Energy PV
At Bran Sands, on Teesside, the company has installed a 931-panel solar array on the roof of the facility and there is further solar panel generation in our Essex & Suffolk Water headquarters at Sandon Valley House.


We are in the development stage of installing a further 10MW of PV across around ten sites.

Hydrogen Production

Working with a partner, we have received planning permission to build a hydroelectric power station and hydrogen electrolyser at a location where it is not feasible to use the electricity or transport the electricity away from the site, making sure no opportunity for green energy production is untapped.