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Thames Water Plans to Use ‘Poo Power’ to Heat London Homes, Cutting Carbon Emissions

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A new proposal from the UK’s largest water company is set to harness the awesome might of “poo power” — using sewage to heat a new house development to drastically cut carbon emissions and help the environment.

That’s right, taking the concept of recycling waste incredibly literally, Thames Water has said it hopes to harness heat from human waste at its treatment plant in south-west London and warm more than 2,000 homes in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Waste not, want not, as they say.

When Thames Water treats sewage, which is when it removes contaminants from its wastewater, it produces a clean, warm water known as effluent. The Guardian explains that it usually flushes the effluent back into a local river system. But the water company says it can now direct that warm water to a new energy centre, where it will help heat the water sent to warm local houses. 

The centre will use heat pumps to boost the temperature of the wastewater and then transfer the warmth to a separate system of water pipes that go to the homes. 

Thames Water and Kingston council have applied for capital funding (meaning funding for infrastructure) from the government for the scheme, according to Business Green, which they have said would be able to supply up to 7GWh of low carbon heat annually to 2,000 homes. 

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Over 30 years that would mean saving 105,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, as homes are normally heated with gas, the company said. That’s equivalent to 157,000 return flights from London to New York. 

Sarah Bentley, the chief executive of Thames Water, said it was all about unlocking the potential of “poo power.” 

“Renewable heat from our sewer network is a fantastic resource, so it's vital we are a leading player in energy transition and unlock the full potential of 'poo power’”, she said

"Protecting and enhancing the environment is extremely important to us, and we have committed to doing all we can to find new and innovative ways to achieve our net zero ambitions over the next 10 years,” Bentley continued, 

Meanwhile, Caroline Kerr, the leader of Kingston council, described the project as “ground-breaking.” 

Kerr said: “It’s a first for England and shows we are serious about reducing carbon in the borough. This is a real opportunity to be bold and ambitious for future generations.”

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The district heating scheme could be expanded so that publicly owned buildings and commercial buildings in the town centre of the borough of Kingston can benefit from it too. 

Kerr added that the Kingston project could help inspire other similar methods of heating across the country, especially as the government is set to ban gas boilers in new housing developments from 2025.

The UK’s first district heating scheme to be warmed by human waste was set up in 2015 by Scottish Water to provide 95% of the heat required by Borders College in Galashiels, the Guardian reported.