Scottish Water, one of the biggest users of electricity in Scotland, has, for the first time, reached the point where it is facilitating the generation of more renewable power than it consumes.

The increase in renewable power generation has been achieved by improving energy efficiency, increasing self-generation and hosting private renewable investment on the company’s estate.

To serve its customers, Scottish Water requires about 445 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, across 4,500 sites such as water and waste water treatment works. This is enough to power nearly 140,000 homes occupied by more than 300,000 people.

The utility company started making concerted efforts to reduce its energy bill and increase renewable generation five years ago. It now has more than 28 hydro turbines, 18 small-scale wind turbines, 24 solar schemes, two biomass plants and three CHP plants.

The company’s milestone was welcomed by Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform with the Scottish Government, who said: “By generating and hosting more renewable power than they consume, (Scottish Water) are providing a great example to other companies. For them, renewable power is lowering their electricity bill – helping to keep customers’ water charges low.

Chris Toop, General Manager of Scottish Water’s energy programme, said: “Facilitating more renewable power than we consume makes a significant contribution to keeping the long-term cost of providing vital water and waste water services as low as possible, while supporting national economic, carbon and renewable energy targets.

“We have invested in a number of innovative measures such as low-carbon, low-cost treatment technologies and doubled our renewable energy capacity to more than 54GWh through hydro, wind, photovoltaic solar, biomass boilers and combined heat and power (CHP).”

Scottish Water has installed more than 4,000 smart meters to target energy opportunities and, in just three years, these have raised the annual financial benefits to more than £7 million, cut carbon emissions by 16 per cent since 2006-7 and facilitated more than £330 million of private investment on its estate.

Scottish Water Horizons Ltd, the public utility’s commercial subsidiary, has invested £16 million in renewables technologies in recent years and has committed to invest a further £50 million in sustainable energy production.

Roseanna Cunningham concluded: “As we consult on Scotland’s draft Energy Strategy, this impressive achievement shows that the Government’s ambition to reduce carbon greenhouse gas emissions by 66 per cent by 2032 is realistic.”

Photo: Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, visits the hydroelectric turbine at Glencorse wastewater treatment plant with Peter Farrer, Chief Operating Officer at Scottish Water