Anglian becomes first to embed public interest at its core

The board of Anglian Water, in conjunction with its shareholders, has approved a fundamental change to its Articles of Association to enshrine its long-term commitment to deliver wider public interest outcomes for society and the environment by altering the core documents that govern the overall management of the business.

The Articles of Association is a legal document that determines how a company is run. Embedding public interest objectives in this document will mean the company’s board must take account of the wider impact Anglian Water has on customers, communities and the environment, as well as delivering a fair return for shareholders.

The board also intends to sign up to a set of Responsible Business Principles and to report on its performance as a responsible business.

The company, which was named Responsible Business of the Year by Business in the Community in 2017, plans to incorporate in its articles a commitment to publish a statement that sets out its performance in relation to key environmental, social and ethical activities.

This approach ensures Anglian Water’s reporting is aligned with best practice reporting standards across Europe, which require Public Interest Entities to publish a non-financial reporting statement.

Although the UK Government has not defined water companies as Public Interest Entities, Anglian Water said it was identifying itself as such a company in recognition of the high standards it ensures.

Peter Simpson, CEO of Anglian Water, said: “This change signals our cast-iron commitment to the wellbeing of communities in the East of England, going far beyond the provision of clean drinking water and effective treatment of used water.

“And while it’s a big step forward, it’s also the natural next step of the journey we’ve been on for years.”

A year ago, Anglian Water made a series of financial and corporate commitments that included liquidating the company’s Cayman Islands resident (but UK tax-domiciled) subsidiary, and reducing debt and gearing, by greatly reducing shareholder dividends.

These funds have since been reinvested into programmes of work that that will further reduce leakage and improve security of supply for customers.

Simpson added: “We’ve now moved on to driving the development of the water industry’s Public Interest Commitment. Setting our own ‘social contract’ in stone as part of our company’s constitution is the natural next thing to do.

“For years we’ve operated diligently in the background, striving to minimise our impact on the environment while positively contributing to communities where we’ve been able to impact. This change marks a new era that codifies that approach and makes it permanent, ensuring all future owners and investors will be obligated to work in the same way, and giving regulators, stakeholders and customers the confidence that this is simply how we work.

“We know the bar is set appropriately high for us as providers of an essential public service. This change should signal that we are very comfortable with those high expectations, and we will always seek to exceed them.”

O2 looks to the stars to fuel CAV connectivity

O2 has launched a new project with the European Space Agency to address the notable strain which will be placed on networks with the introduction of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

While there has been a nod to the potential pitfalls of providing connectivity for CAVs, it hasn’t received a significant amount of attention to date. O2 claims it has done research on the segment, and wide-scale adoption of CAVs could generate up to 4 TB of data an hour. This would certainly place a strain on urban networks, but the usecases don’t end at the city limits; the strain placed on rural networks might be too much of a burden.

Code-named ‘Project Darwin’, O2 and the European Space Agency will work with Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, as well as various universities and vertical start-ups, to create connectivity solutions combining 5G and satellite communications.

“Project Darwin is an important piece of the connected and autonomous vehicle puzzle,” said Derek McManus of O2. “The research taking place at Harwell during the next four years will be vital in the creation of new transport ecosystems for the UK public and the companies that will offer these services.”

“Autonomous vehicles need robust, high-speed mobile data connections to operate effectively,” said Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency. “Building the technology to link them to telecoms satellites will allow you to take your car wherever you want to go, and not just to areas with a strong mobile signal.”

This is one of the questions which the telco seems very keen to avoid at the moment; what is being done to ensure 5G is not an ecosystem for the privileged? Or at least not for a longer period of time than is necessary.

Having just driven back to London from the South-west, your correspondent can confirm the patchy nature of 4G. Telcos and government will tell you this is an area which is constantly improving, but it isn’t although we were taking countryside backroads. The M4 is one of the most important and busiest arteries of the UK. Maybe we are expecting too much, but the number of times devices dropped off 4G coverage is not encouraging for these future usecases which depend on constant and reliable connectivity.

These are questions which are perhaps being addressed elsewhere but not directly in the UK. How quickly is the network growing? Are network densification strategies advancing as quickly as other nations who are driving towards the 5G promise?

Business Secretary Greg Clark has stated the UK has ambitions to lead in the CAVs segment, but to do this the right connectivity conditions need to be in place. It does not appear the network has been rolled out far or densified enough to meet the demands of this emerging segment, whenever it appears.

Satellite is often seen as the ugly duckling in the connectivity mix. It is often considered as an option for the developing nations, and largely overlooked for those who can afford to build connectivity closer to the ground. However, digital divides exist all around the world, albeit nowhere near as extreme or consequential as regions such as Africa. If there are ‘not spot’s, or even areas of weak/patchy signal, some 5G usecases are undermined. CAVs is one of them.

Attitudes towards satellite connectivity have been shifting over the last 12 months, and it does appear to be increasingly becoming an important ingredient in the connectivity recipe. The UK network is evolving and improving, but it is far from perfect; satellites look an asset which are becoming more of a necessity than back-up.

Scotland’s Energy future ‘faces major obstacles’

Scotland faces “substantial obstacles” in the drive to cut carbon while keeping energy supplies reliable and affordable, a study has said.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh said compromise and trade-offs would be needed to help meet future energy needs.

The society’s experts have called for a new independent Scottish energy commission.

Both the Scottish and UK governments have committed to cutting carbon.

At the same time, Scotland’s big energy companies have been investing in green energy.

And the UK oil and gas industry has said “it is listening” to concerns about climate change.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s report came after a two-year investigation, which included speaking to experts, industry figures and the public.

It said that in the last few decades, Scotland had manage to virtually eliminate the burning of coal, while being able to produce 100% of its electricity from renewable sources on days when “conditions are favourable”.

But the report called for more to be done, including :

  • Cutting energy demand
  • Energy investment decisions should be considered by the Scottish and UK governments “in a timely manner”
  • Increasing the ability to store energy
  • Tougher rules on making new housing and other buildings more energy efficient
  • Increase investment in trials of community energy schemes and “energy education” in schools, colleges and universities.

Strathclyde University’s Prof Rebecca Lunn, who co-chaired the society’s inquiry, told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “In Scotland, a large part of our electricity is renewables, but only about a quarter of our current energy consumption is actually electricity – most of it is in heat and transport.

“We still have nearly 80% of oil and gas, and we need to take that from oil and gas into something that is low carbon, which is a really significant challenge.”

Prof Lunn said converting gas-burning domestic heaters to run on heat coming from beneath the ground was one of several options – but added that these types of projects were expensive.

“Ultimately, we need to do things differently, so we need to increase the volume of renewables, but that’s not gong to be enough to produce what we require in the long run,” she added.

“Energy is likely to become more expensive and we need to combat that because we already have social justice issues in Scotland around what heat people can afford.”

The Royal Society of Edinburgh report said no single energy policy would solve the issues it highlighted, while pointing out that many methods of generating energy had advantages and drawbacks, including:

  • Carbon capture and storage could limit climate damage, but needed “a very high level of continued investment”
  • Developing new green energy schemes like solar and tidal, and a move from natural gas to hydrogen, could significantly cut carbon, but also require high levels of investment
  • Supplying energy from one source to multiple buildings, known as district heating, could help people struggling to pay energy bills, but has “high up-front costs”
  • “Significant oil and gas reserves” in the UK continental shelf provide a secure energy source, but burning fossil fuels continues to make the climate change issue worse
  • Shale gas and fracking could improve energy security, but there is “significant uncertainty” over how much is stored underground.
  • Nuclear power stations “provide Scotland with a significant amount of secure, reliable generation”, but building new ones, managing nuclear waste and decommissioning result in “substantial costs”.

The report came as big energy companies like Scottish Power and SSE have been investing in green energy projects.

Unravelling the water quality paradox – complex challenge on horizon for utilities

A complex water quality challenge is on the horizon for utilities as more becomes known about micro-pollutants, customers acquire the means to carry out analysis at the kitchen tap and the downward pressure on cost remains.

BlueTech Research chief executive Paul O’Callaghan captures viewpoints from some of the industry leaders taking part in next week’s BlueTech Forum taking place in London.

Paul O’Callaghan: The nineteenth century techniques that have defined water treatment in cities and towns across the developed world may be reaching their expiry date. Based on the concept of removing pathogens from water and filtering solids, these processes have kept populations healthy for decades and facilitated urban growth, but they fail to take into account the myriad chemicals now entering water sources and being identified in drinking water.

Professor Shane Snyder, executive director of the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute in Singapore will participate in a roundtable on the water quality paradox at BlueTech Forum, which takes place in London, 5-6 June. He says:

“The world’s water supplies will be continually taxed by emerging contaminants,” substances that were unknown – or that little was known about – until recently.”


Urbanisation, population growth and climate change are all impacting on these changes to the aquatic environment. Snyder, who has testified before US Congress on the disruptive effects of pharmaceuticals in water, also says the regulatory environment is “antiquated” and the speed at which new chemicals are entering the market “is much faster than our ability to calculate the water safety levels.”

He says that with today’s technologies anything is detectable, but the presence of trace chemicals may not mean that the water is unsafe. “It’s not going to be just hydrogen and oxygen,” he says. “There will always be various other substances, some of them helpful, some of them not.”

Chemical mix – assume everything is present including pathogens, micro-pollutants and metals?

Snyder also points out that chemicals do not occur individually:

“The exposure will always be mixtures of chemicals and that’s the other conundrum, regulations are assuming presence of one chemical, but the reality is that in water supplies there’s a mixture of contaminants or chemicals and in every water supply that mixture will be different. It’s breaking down our paradigms of how we would previously regulate water.”

Given that it would be impossible to regulate for all of these substances, the obvious approach would be for utilities to assume everything is present including pathogens, micro-pollutants and metals. A multi-barrier response could then be deployed combining conventional and advanced filtration and disinfection technologies to safeguard drinking water against pathogens and micro-contaminants.

The paradox is that shifting to a higher level of water treatment comes at a higher cost and a higher carbon footprint, which consumers are also unlikely to settle for. If consumer pressure continues to grow, one way of mitigating some of the whole-life cost of upgrading water treatment would be to go to direct potable water reuse, taking the discharge straight from the wastewater works to the drinking water treatment plant and treating it to this higher standard.

Historically wastewater treatment, a system that also dates back to the nineteenth century, has existed in isolation from water treatment. It has been vital to protecting the environment and water sources from pollution, but future urban water and energy demands mean the model needs reimagining to build resilience into watersheds.

Potable water reuse – critical for overall water resilience

Ralph Exton, chief commercial officer, Suez Water Technologies & Solutions, says potable water reuse plays straight into the debate on overall water resilience. “The ability to reuse water is critically important,” he says, “but there are still a lot of perception issues around whether that water’s safe.

“Reuse water goes through many more treatment stages and a lot more effort goes into analysis, yet people are more reluctant to drink the water. There’s a perception that it’s not as safe as the water drawn from naturally occurring sources.

“The reality is that in some parts of the world, those ‘naturally occurring’ waters have micropollutants that just haven’t been tested before. Once they’re tested for and found to be present in the water, then action needs to be taken anyway.”

Paolo Zacchi-Cossetti, director for open innovation at Xylem, is clear that technological advances in sensors and micro-pollutant detection means power is shifting from utilities to customers.

“A lot of low-cost sensors have been under development and companies like Spout and Orb have taken inspiration from the lead contamination issue in the water supplies of Flint, Michigan,” he says. “These low-cost portable devices can be used by consumers and provide a lot of information regarding the water you’re drinking.”

Zacchi-Cossetti cites figures from the city of Chicago where, following the lead contamination event in the water supply at Flint, Michigan, consumer demand for lead-testing of water supplies rose by 33,000%, and from Pittsburgh where the rise was 27,000%.

This has created real challenges for the utilities having to respond to this increasing demand. The risk is that better informed customers may demand higher quality water from their utility, even where the health benefit does not necessarily warrant it.

Public education – more information needed on micropollutants

Exton agrees that low-cost sensing is an important piece of the equation, but it has to go along with providing clear data and educating the public. In many cases the information available to educate the public on micropollutants just is not there, or it is not sufficient, or there has not been enough testing done to give assurance.

“Even a basic level of analysis will not necessarily be understood properly, let alone the more frequent, real-time data that is becoming available,” he says. “Without the education and communication piece, you could be creating more of a problem than you have today.”

Professor Snyder believes the public would feel more secure about their drinking water if it was screened using bioassays, an analytical method to determine concentration or potency of a substance by looking at its effect on living cells or tissues.

“The area I’ve studied most is the use of in vitro bioassays to test the water and determine how human cells respond to the mixture of chemicals present,” he says. “I don’t think that alone will help us say ‘safe’ or ‘not safe’, but it will surely help us prioritise what we should be looking for.

“This technique has been used in medicine for a very long time and I think it’s what we desperately need in water.”

Looking forward to the water quality roundtable he is participating in at BlueTech Forum, Professor Snyder says he welcomes the debate:

“The last time I checked, there were about 15,000 new chemicals registered every day of the week, whereas the US Environmental Protection Agency regulates just 90 compounds. As I always say, what’s the better answer? Is there a better way to do this? If so, we’d love to hear.”

BlueTech Forum 2019 takes place on 5-6 June at Kew Gardens, London, UK. Professor Shane Snyder and Paolo Zacchi-Cossetti will host a thought-leadership roundtable on the water quality paradox. Ralph Exton will host a roundtable on resource recovery. Paul O’Callaghan will deliver the opening address on water market developments and evolving technologies. To register visit

Sustainable drainage regulations come into force in Wales

Pioneering UV tech to tackle microorganisms in water wins United Utilities innovation contract

A fledgling Cumbrian company whose innovative technology with the potential to be up to 90% more energy efficient which could help slash the cost of water treatment worldwide has won its first major contract with United Utilities.

Penrith-based Typhon Treatment Systems’ new ultraviolet (UV) LED water treatment technology is one of the first systems in the world capable of using UV from LEDs to neutralise harmful microorganisms on an industrial scale. Other LED UV treatment systems are currently only effective at treating small amounts of water for very low flows or personal use.

North West water firm United Utilities uses UV in its drinking water treatment process to remove microorganisms or to remove earthy smells caused by algae. It also uses UV treatment in separate installations to treat bacteria in wastewater before returning it to the environment.

Potential to be up to 90% more energy efficient

Head of Innovation, Kieran Brocklebank commented:

“Until now the only way of using it to treat the huge volumes we need has been using traditional technology that uses mercury in glass bulbs. But with the potential to be up to 90% more energy efficient, as well as more reliable, easier to maintain and safer, Typhon’s new LED version was a brilliant idea we wanted to develop.”

Typhon’s long term contract with United Utilities follows the world’s first large scale operational trial of the technology at the water firm’s Cumwhinton Water Treatment Works, near Carlisle, where Typhon built a test LED UV reactor.

The two companies have been working together on the technology since its potential came to light as part of a worldwide tech talent trawl United Utilities launched in 2017.

Typhon was among seven finalists in United Utilities’ Innovation Lab – giving them access to the water giant’s huge wealth of data, systems and expert knowledge to incubate their ideas and help bring their idea to market.

Director of Water and Scientific Services, Dr Martin Padley added:

“We really believed in this technology and we’ve helped Typhon prove it works for the water industry. It’s great to have signed a long term contract which means we can use this novel kit in our next five year investment period not just to treat drinking water more reliably and at lower cost for our customers, but also potentially to treat some of the cleaned wastewater we return to the environment as well.”

Typhon is now hoping to market the product worldwide as a unique, cost-effective, low maintenance UV water treatment, which could eventually render traditional lamps, based on mercury, obsolete.

Welcoming the contract Typhon Treatment Systems’ managing director Matt Simpson said:

“We can’t overstate the importance of UU’s support to the development of our technology. This first commercial contract is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from our team and theirs. We look forward to continued cooperation with UU. We do have plans to apply this technology worldwide.”

Severn Trent uses machine learning to tackle leakage by filtering 5bn data points

Severn Trent has started to use machine learning to help transform the way it approaches leaks and is now looking to use advanced analytics across other areas of its business.

The FTSE 100 company has created an advanced leakage detection model that uses data from its network to help identify, locate and manage leaks.

The model forms part of an innovative programme of work that Severn Trent is undertaking to help reduce leakage – the Midlands-based water company said it is already seeing impressive early results.

Rob Ryder, Technology and Lab Data Manager commented:

“We’re really excited by this project, and it’s fantastic that we’re already seeing brilliant results. We’ve created the model by applying advanced analytics to data from our network of pipes collected through sensors, which gives us loads of valuable data which we can use to anticipate and manage leakage across our region. When using the model we’re getting the most out of our network data, giving us the upper-hand when it comes to locating and fixing leaks.”

Severn Trent teamed up with Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital services in the UK, to create the complex machine learning model which is already seeing notable early results.

The company says that, in the areas the model has been used, time to find leaks has reduced by over half, engineers are able to pinpoint leaks more accurately, and overall the network in those pilot areas seen a reduction in leakage of over 16%.

Rob Ryder continued:

“The amount of data we’re analysing is huge. We’ve collected about five billion records of flow and pressure data that we’re able to use to help our teams on the ground while also ensuring we can understand our network better.

“This new advanced capability allows us to explore possible outcomes that were not previously available to us – so we’re in a position where we can tackle leakage more effectively and more quickly for our customers, and improve their experience with us.”

Amit Ghosh, Group Account Executive Energy and Utilities at Capgemini’s UK Business Unit, added:

“We brought our deep expertise in data science and analytics, and our pre-built analytical models, which combined with Severn Trent’s subject matter expertise in leakage operations enabled them to fast track the roll out of the solution. Severn Trent is a true innovator who believes in the power of data and we are taking our relationship to next level by helping them build a strong internal capability to deliver a truly insight driven business.”

The water company is now looking to use advanced analytics across other areas of its business, to help solve some of the company’s other key challenges.

Severn Trent progresses clean energy from food waste plans

Severn Trent offers customers video calling service to report leaks

United Utilities installs floating solar farm at Lancaster reservoir

United Utilities is building a floating solar farm on the surface of Langthwaite Reservoir in Lancashire.

Once complete, it will generate enough electricity to meet all the power needs of neighbouring Lancaster water treatment works which produces water for 152,000 people across Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.

In a part of the UK renowned for its rainfall it might seem bizarre to turn to the power of the sun, but the company says it’s a match made in heaven, and it will help reduce water bills for customers.

Richard Waggitt, Head of Renewable Energy at United Utilities, explained:

“In this case water and electricity really do mix. Solar panels are more efficient than they used to be; there is a misconception that you need high levels of sunlight, when in fact daylight is sufficient.

“What you do need is unshaded space for the arrays, and that’s where the surface area of our reservoirs is a real advantage.”

The new floating array at Lancaster will be around 7,200 square metres in size with some 3,520 solar panels. The installation will cover an area the size of a football pitch and will provide 1MW of power – the equivalent of the needs of 200 homes.

United Utilities started the eight week installation process at the beginning of October. The project is being delivered for United Utilities by Forrest and local suppliers will play a key role in the construction, including Carnforth firm Northern Pontoons.

Barry Tayburn, head of energy, at Forrest said:

“Installing this floating PV scheme for our long-term partner United Utilities is a great showcase of innovation. We have commissioned a brand new float system for Lancaster, working with local businesses Northern Pontoons and Aqua-Dock, producing the floats off-site. Once transported to the reservoir, tables of 20 panels are floated out via a launch platform and then connected to anchors in-situ. This system really is a viable option for producers of large amounts of energy as a serious alternative to ground-mounted arrays.”

Lancaster array is United Utilities’ 2nd floating solar installation

The Lancaster array will be United Utilities’ second floating solar installation. The company installed Europe’s first commercial floating solar array at its Godley reservoir near Manchester in February 2016 – the array is three times the size of the one proposed at Lancaster and can generate 3GWh of electricity per year.

UU Pontoons under construction 1A floating solar installation consists of “rafts” of floats with the solar panels mounted on top. The rafts are bolted together and anchored, to allow for fluctuations in water level, using specially designed mooring and anchoring systems.

Richard Waggitt added that the company had learnt a lot from the installation at Godley:

“The solar panels are less visually intrusive than people expect. They don’t reflect dazzling sunlight because they absorb light as part of the conversion to electricity. We do our best to ensure that, within reason, they blend in with the environment.

It is also thought that floating solar panels can help reduce the growth of algae in the water by blocking out the light. Less algae means the treatment process can run with fewer chemicals and less energy.

The new floating array at Lancaster provides the opportunity for a research team from the University of Lancaster to study the effect this kind of installation can have on water quality.

United Utilities aims to use all the solar power it generates in-house rather than export it to the National Grid.

United Utilities plans to install another 22 solar sites over next two years

Richard Waggit continued:

“Increasing our generation of renewable energy is not only good for the environment it’s good for our business too. Energy is one of a water company’s largest controllable operational costs. By generating our own power, we can protect United Utilities from a volatile energy market, which will allow us predict our cost of treatment and stabilise bills for our customers.”

Floating solar is one part of United Utilities’ strategy to embrace renewable energy. The company already has over 40 land-based renewable systems across the North West region. The majority are solar arrays on roofs and open ground at its treatment sites across the North West, with a capacity of 45MW of power a year. It plans to install another 22 solar sites over the next two years.

Solar is the biggest renewable growth area for United Utilities, with wind turbines and combined heat and power from wastewater sludge digestion forming the main additional elements of the company’s renewable energy strategy.