​Human sewage could power over half a million UK homes

Advances in Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) key to meeting electricity demand

Sludge could be one answer to the UK’s energy crisis is sludge according to the UK’s leading resource management company, Veolia. More human waste should be being turned into energy for the National Grid, as an unprecedented “energy gap” looms in a decade’s time1. Now more advanced technologies mean that biogas from all the available sewage could now deliver an estimated 1,697GWh - enough electricity to power over half a million homes.

We produce over 11 billion litres of human sewage in the UK every day2; however, not all of this is being harnessed at the many Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities up and down the country. Meaning a lot of our waste is going to waste. On average 66% of sewage is currently being AD treated3 but with recent developments in technology, enabling us to extract even more gas from sewage, we can now fully realise its benefits.

“Investment in new facilities will boost our renewable infrastructure and create jobs while reducing our carbon footprint" 
John Abraham, Chief Operating Officer – Water, Veolia UK

John Abraham, Chief Operating Officer – Water at Veolia UK, comments: “Investment in new facilities will boost our renewable infrastructure and create jobs while reducing our carbon footprint. We need to stop relying on fossil fuels as human sewage could make a significant contribution to meeting our renewable energy targets, while keeping the lights on and taking pressure from the National Grid.”

Harnessing energy from human waste was first used in Exeter in 1895 to power Victorian streetlights. Today, the potential power from human sewage could now keep around fourteen million LED/LCD TVs, 112 million phone chargers, 280 million alarm clock radios or ten million game consoles4 running constantly, increasing the resilience of the National Grid and helping to control energy bills.

1 The Guardian: Engineers warn of looming UK energy gap, January 2016
2 Waste water treatment in the UK, Gov.co.uk
3 Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan, Gov.co.uk 
4 Based on each of these household goods being used 24/7/365