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New sewage market: a resource which should not go to waste

The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat), the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales has taken the next steps in opening a new market that uses treated sewage to generate energy. Ofwat has set out guidelines and requirements on water companies to share common, consistent information about the waste – including about quantities and its moisture content – so those interested in buying it can make informed decisions on the value of the product they are buying.

Severn Trent has started operations at its latest green gas plant in Roundhill near Stourbridge (photo courtesy Severn Trent).

The treated sewage – known as bioresources – produces biogas, or green gas, which can be cleaned and injected into the gas grid or used to generate low-carbon electricity. When processed it can also be safely used in the agricultural sector as a fertiliser.

Ofwat is also introducing new requirements on water companies to publish information about their water resources, to encourage them to trade water between themselves and with third parties. This could mean water moving from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce and help respond to the challenges of population growth and climate change.

We’re always looking for opportunities for customers to get better value. Sometimes that means thinking creatively about how we can get more from all parts of the water sector – even those that might make some of us feel a little squeamish. The idea of reusing waste to create low-carbon electricity works and can deliver environmental benefits and could also result in lower bills for customers. That’s why this idea is too good to leave in the dump, said David Black, Ofwat Senior Director of Water 2020.

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