While we await the Scottish Government's substantive response to the Hyrdro Nation consultation, they might want to take a look at what is happening in the Netherlands. Dutch public water authorities are upgrading existing sewage works into energy generating 'factories'. The aim is eventually to make sewage plants 'NEWater' factories, producing nutrients, energy and water. For example, global resources of phosphorus are shrinking and the price increasing.
The Dutch plan is made possible by a very different approach to wastewater investment than the short termism of UK water regulation. They take a long term view of investment tied into their legislative commitments to reduce energy use by 2% per year until 2030. They take a 30 year view of investment rather than our five year cycles. They also have much greater collaboration between the water and waste sector and have government investment in R&D.
Unlike the privatised industry in England, Scotland could follow the Dutch model. Scrap the costly regulation system that seeks to ape the privatised industry down south and go for a new long term model that develops new technologies like NEWater. A 30 year plan means you can look strategically at the asset base and adopt radical solutions. There is increasing collaboration between local authorities in Scotland over waste management, so a collaborative link with Scottish Water is much easier. The Hydro Nation paper already identified the opportunities for better R&D and this would give an opportunity to apply these technologies.
It would also make a real contribution to energy efficiency as Scottish Water is the biggest user of energy in Scotland. Making the public sector duty to reduce carbon emissions a reality.