Investment management firm Downing is backing Southern Water with around £12 million to build 12 new solar electricity facilities to run the utility’s treatment plants & pumps.

Power of up to 8.4GWh, equal to the annual needs of 3,000 British homes, will result from the deal.

Downing Renewable Developments, the finance house’s in-house project development team, will manage development and construction of the sites, with the electricity generated being directly utilised by Southern Water.

Across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Southern Water provides water to 2.6 million customers, and sewage services to 4.6 million customers.

This ground breaking project is phase one of Southern Water’s solar strategy, supporting its ongoing Net Zero plans.

Its chief financial officer Stuart Ledger said, “This is a key step for us, as we continue to progress our environmental and turnaround plans.

“This additional investment we are making in solar across 12 locations will provide onsite green energy to run our treatment plants for our customers in a way that is more sustainable, cost-effective and with improved resilience. We are really pleased to be working with Downing on these projects who have a proven track record in this area.”

The solar deal is Downing’s third with a UK water utility. Tom Williams, head of energy & infrastructure, responded: “We are delighted to have been selected as the preferred partner to deliver these solar sites for Southern Water.

“It’s great to see a proactive commitment by energy-intensive industries such as water treatment and distribution to reduce their carbon footprint. As an accredited B Corporation, Downing is proud to be involved in this initiative –  another example of Downing underlining its commitment to sustainable investing.”

Controversy around river & coastal pollution arising from sewage spillages has dogged privatised water utilities in recent months.  In the year to April 2021, Southern claims its counter-measures cut spillage incidents by 27%.

Downing’s deal with Southern follows other partnerships between solar developers & water utilities. In 2017, Lightsource BP completed Europe’s biggest floating solar farm, the £6.5 million, 6.3 MWp development  – pictured –  on Thames Water’s Queen Elizabeth reservoir complex at Walton on Thames, south of London Heathrow airport.


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