Sustainable Resources

Yorkshire Water has a Strategic Business Objective to be efficient and effective now and in the future, with an industry leading workforce, zero waste and a responsible supply chain. 

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As such, we are working hard to cut our greenhouse gas emissions and embodied carbon, and to reduce our resource consumption and waste production. We're doing this by working with our supply chain and other partners as well as focusing on our own operations and using sustainable resources.

Reducing operational emissions

Our continual reduction in operational greenhouse gas emissions is independently verified through our achievement of the Carbon Trust Standard. This is a key part of our Climate Change Strategy.

Operational greenhouse gas emissions are those emitted in the delivery of our clean and waste water services. We have reduced these emissions by 18.7% since 2008/09. The majority of our operational emissions are associated with electricity consumption so we've been both reducing the amount of electricity we use and also increasing the amount of renewable electricity we generate ourselves.

In 2015/16 we achieved our lowest ever emissions of 353 KTCO2(e) and we've committed to further reduce these emission and maintain the Carbon Trust Standard this year.

Reducing embodied carbon

Embedded carbon emissions are those that result from the purchase of goods and the construction of new assets. Reducing this carbon helps us realise new cost efficiencies, drive innovation and enhance our environmental performance.

We recognise the important role that Yorkshire Water has to play in reducing UK carbon emissions and have therefore endorsed the Government's Infrastructure Carbon Review. In doing so we made six commitments to reduce the carbon in the construction, operation and maintenance of our assets. One of these is a 50% reduction in the carbon embedded in new assets that we build. As part of this we are now working to ensure that carbon is a key priority in our investment decisions.

Electricity consumption and renewables

To keep costs low, reduce emissions, and minimise demand from the national grid we work to minimise our electricity consumption and maximise our generation of renewable energy.

In 2015/16 we consumed 578GWh of electricity and generated 65GWh of renewable electricity, primarily by harnessing the calorific value of sewage sludge. For example, our new £23m bio-energy plant at our Blackburn Meadows Treatment Works in Sheffield is now generating 18% of the energy we use on that large site.

Overall we supplied 11.3% of our electricity needs through renewable self-generation in 2015/16. We were on track to achieve our Performance Commitment to generate 12% of our energy needs but unfortunately our digestion facility at Esholt Treatment Works in Bradford was damaged during the Christmas 2015 floods.

Through our investments we are working to go beyond our Performance Commitment by generating approximately 18% of our own electricity needs by 2020. Current plans include:

  • A £71.9m investment in a sludge treatment and anaerobic digestion facility at our Knostrop Works in Leeds, planned for completion in 2019.
  • A £1.6m investment by our sister company Kelda Water Services (KWS) to install a 0.5MW wind turbine at Old Whittington treatment works in summer 2016.
  • A planning application for the installation of solar panels adjacent to Elvington Treatment Works, which would provide 15% of the site’s needs.

Turning waste into resource

Minimising waste is essential to help us remain efficient, reduce our environmental impact, keep bills low for customers and provide returns for investors. We have made a commitment to our customers that we will divert much of our waste from landfill. As we are already achieving close to 100% landfill avoidance, we work with service partners and customers to reduce wastes where possible and also take action to embed circular economy behaviours.

We have been successful in increasing the rates of recycling from our offices, construction sites and operational sites.

We are working on a range of projects with circular economy principles at their core. Our key project is delivering our ambition to make the Esholt Treatment Works in Bradford one of the most sustainable in the world and an internationally leading demonstration of the circular economy in practice. Our vision for the site is one that supports sustainable economic growth in the region by maximising the value of currently under-utilised energy, land and water resources on the site. Esholt is already almost entirely self-sufficient for its energy needs through low carbon renewable energy generated on site.

Our sister company, KeyLand Developments, is returning large volumes of redundant waste water filter media at the Esholt Works back to good use as an aggregate, working in partnership with Thompsons of Prudhoe. To date 195,000 tonnes had been sold for reuse, of which about 25,000 tonnes was used in the construction of the new Apperley Bridge Rail Station. Once the last of the material has been recovered, the large footprint of the redundant filter beds will be prepared for brownfield redevelopment.

Sewage sludge is a large and renewable resource. Through a variety of approaches we are generating renewable, low cost, low carbon energy from sewage sludge. After treating the sludge we also create products for application to land as a sustainable substitute for petrochemical fertilisers and peat composts.

Working with our supply chain

Our ambition is for our global supply chain to share our commitment to the continuous improvement of the water environment and wider sustainable development. Our Sustainable Supply Chain Policy applies across all of our supply chain activities and seeks to articulate a consistent approach with straight forward expectations..

We will work with our supply chain to ensure security of essential supplies, continually reduce demand for depleting natural resources and to enable a cycle of social, economic and environmental improvements. We expect a similar message to be passed through the supply chain by everyone we work with. We have launched a new framework to consistently incorporate a holistic set of sustainability criteria in our procurement decisions. From September 2015 all new contracts have been required to follow our new framework which includes for a sustainability risk assessment.

Find out more about working with our supply chain.