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Thames Water Sees Solar Potential at 10% of Its Sites

November 02, 2012

Thames Water Utilities Ltd., the U.K.’s largest privately owned water supplier, sees potential to add solar power installations at about 10 percent of its 3,500 operational sites, its head of energy said.

The utility already buys power from solar plants installed at 41 sites including waste facilities with a combined 5.9 megawatts and aims to add 2.9 megawatts more by March, energy and carbon manager John Gilbert said in an interview.

Kemble Water Holdings Ltd.’s Thames Water unit, which provides water and sewage services to 14 million customers in the London area and the Thames Valley, generates 14 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. It hopes to boost that to 20 percent by 2015. Most of its alternative energy comes from anaerobic digestion plants that generate power using methane from sewage.

“The company uses a lot of electricity to pump water so we look to exploit any opportunities from renewable energy, aiming to control the cost of power and to reduce carbon emissions” Gilbert said by phone. “PV is a natural extension to our renewable energy portfolio.”

Thames Water, acquired in 2001 by the German utility RWE AG (RWE) and then bought by Kemble Water five years later, signs long- term power purchase agreements with developers to buy power from solar plants installed in its sites. It agreed to the U.K.’s first solar PPA last year, a 25-year contract valued at 7 million pounds ($11.2 million) with developer Ennoviga Solar Ltd. for 3.7 megawatts at three sites.

‘Competitive’ Prices

Solar PPAs offer “competitive” prices for electricity for Thames Water, according to Gilbert. In these deals, the Reading- based company aims to pay rates below wholesale market prices for power and to consume the energy generated on site to avoid losses, he said.

The utility, which is also building two wind turbines, has a framework agreement with four solar developers comprising Ennoviga, British Gas, Promo and Infinity, the energy manager said. The developers own the plants and also receive feed-in tariffs, or guaranteed premium rates for clean energy.

There’s potential to build at least 12 megawatts in total, or almost 1 percent of the company’s annual electricity needs, Gilbert said. Thames Water is also looking at installing projects on some of its water tanks, which could increase this potential, and at the viability of multi-megawatt plants using the so-called renewable obligation certificates, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marc Roca in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randall Hackley at

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