Hydro Nation Forum minutes: January 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Hydro Nation Forum held on 15 January 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Chair)
  • Barry Greig, Scottish Government (Vice Chair)
  • Stuart McCaskell, Scottish Government 
  • Allan Reid, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) 
  • Pauline Silverman, SEPA 
  • Mark Williams, Scottish Water (SW) 
  • Barbara Barbarito, Scottish Water 
  • Martin Reilly, Scottish Water 
  • Donald MacBrayne, Scottish Water Horizons (SWH)
  • John Sammon, Scottish Water Horizons 
  • Donna Very, Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) 
  • Bob Ferrier, Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) / James Hutton Institute 
  • Rachel Helliwell, CREW / James Hutton Institute 
  • Jim Panton, Panton McLeod 
  • Andrew Allan, UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science
  • Robert Kalin, University of Strathclyde 
  • Neil Kitching, Scottish Enterprise (SE)
  • Gail Walker, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) 
  • Peter Robinson, Scottish Canals 
  • Michael Martin, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)  


  • May East, Gaia Education / UNITAR Fellow 
  • Steven Hutcheon, Highlands and Islands Enterprise 
  • Chrysoula Pantsi, Edinburgh Napier University School of Engineering and Built Environment 
  • Neil Gordon, EnviroCentre 
  • Prof Alan McDonald, British Geological Survey 
  • Adrian Sym, Alliance for Water Stewardship
  • Hannah Peach, Hydro Nation Scholar

Items and actions

Item 1 – Introduction and opening remarks

1. The Cabinet Secretary opened the 15th meeting of the Forum and welcomed those in attendance. She highlighted that 3 presentations would be provided on distinct aspects of the hydro nation agenda:

  • SW’s journey to net zero – how it intends to meet challenging emission targets.
  • SW Horizons-led Stirling heat network project – a groundbreaking project supplying heat extracted from the nearby WwTW.
  • SEPA’s evolving water resources strategy – how the industry can respond to challenges and manage consumption. An update would also be provided on the River Leven revitalisation project.

2. The Cabinet Secretary noted that on 13 January 2020 the Scottish Government published a consultation on the latest version of the principles of charging (PoC) and statement of investment for 2021-27.  She explained that these are critical documents for the strategic review of charges process undertaken by WICS. The Cabinet Secretary also noted that the statement of investment now includes a longer-term vision for the water industry, developed by SW and key stakeholders.  

3. Key issues for the 2021-27 regulatory period include SW’s response to the climate emergency, assisting household customers with affordability issues and developing a strategic plan to cope with the investment needs of aging assets. A final PoC and statement of investment are expected to be published in summer 2020.  

4. The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that the minutes from the last meeting had been approved and published on gov.scot and that there had been no proposed changes to the hydro nation strategy since the last meeting,  reflecting that the recent focus has been on other strategic developments, specifically the Water Sector Vision. 

Item 2 – Scottish Water journey to net zero - Mark Williams presentation

5. Highlights included:

  • SW will host or generate 300% renewable electricity by 2030.  It currently consumes 450GWh from the grid annually and already hosts some 900GWh. Hitting this target may not necessarily improve SW’s carbon footprint but it will help achieve Scotland’s aspirations.   
  • SW’s target to reduce emissions will apply across both its network and capital investment programme.  This differs from the UK target which will only apply to the network. 
  • A detailed route map will be published in 2020. 
  • SW will aim to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions including methane and nitrous oxide, not just carbon dioxide. 
  • The largest contributor to SW’s carbon footprint is grid electricity, particularly on treating wastewater. 
  • Emissions have been reduced by 41% since 2006 due to leakage reduction, energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy.
  • SW has estimated it will produce 1.2m tonnes of carbon emissions in the SR15 investment programme.
  • SW’s simple route map includes reducing its carbon footprint, maximising renewable energy generation and investing in natural capital. 

6. The Cabinet Secretary invited comments from members, noting the significant contribution from methane and nitrous oxide towards SW’s emissions and confirmed she was pleased that SW had recognised the importance of reducing these emissions. Neil Kitching noted that SW’s target is tougher than England and Wales but that this may not be apparent to the public. He suggested that SW consider how to communicate this.  Mark agreed and highlighted that the Customer Forum had also noted this point. Mark raised the importance of clear wording when engaging with SW’s supply chain as they have an important role in helping SW meet its targets. Mark added that SW intended to meet with Zero Waste Scotland to share knowledge.    

7. Bob Ferrier noted that it is positive to view procurement in terms of carbon cost and that this provides an opportunity to move towards more ethical procurement in general. Mark confirmed that SW has always put environmental challenges to its supply chain but that this will have an increased focus moving forwards.  

8. Bob Kalin queried whether SW had considered estimating the total carbon cost for historical investment. Mark noted that this hadn’t been considered yet. However, he confirmed that SW is trying to estimate a cost of carbon (per pound invested) and this may allow comparisons to be made.  

9. The Cabinet Secretary noted that the Scottish Government recently consulted on the role of public sector bodies in tackling climate change. Ministers have challenged all public bodies to indicate when they will achieve zero emissions. The Cabinet Secretary noted that due to the nature of activities some sectors can never reach this goal, for example food production, so others’ efforts will be needed to achieve the national targets. The Cabinet Secretary thanked Mark and confirmed she would write to ask SW for further information on its aspirations, particularly around appropriate communications.

Item 3 – Stirling Heat Network - Donald MacBrayne presentation

10. Donald began by highlighting that the Barracks building is heated via the Stirling Heat Network. He confirmed that the project was a collaboration between SW and Stirling Council. The network currently covers 2.5km but there is potential to expand and connect more premises. Donald noted that the scheme could be used as an exemplar and SW is considering a scheme in the East-end of Glasgow with an initial phase to connect up households in an area of high fuel poverty. 

11. Donald noted that total capital investment was £6.1m including a £2m low carbon infrastructure transition programme (LCITP) grant. He added that this grant support was essential to deliver the project.  Donald also confirmed that the renewable heat incentive (RHI) was a critical success factor and that, as current support mechanisms are due to close in March 2021, future projects may need paused until future support mechanisms are clarified. 

12. Gail Walker noted the proposed Glasgow project and queried whether SW had mapped the proximity of WwTW and low-income housing areas to determine if similar projects are viable. Donald noted that the SG had created heat maps several years ago for demand vs supply and that SW has started to match these maps with its assets. Donald confirmed that SW had initially considered similar projects at WwTW above a certain size, but ultimately determined that heat can also be extracted from the network itself, i.e. in Galashiels. SW had recently commissioned another project in Campbeltown to extract heat from a pumping station. 

13. Donald highlighted the existence of “gas islands” Scotland – remote areas where gas must be tankered in, producing a high carbon cost to serve. He suggested it may be beneficial to develop heat from sewage projects in these areas to help meet carbon targets. Gail asked whether SW had noted any issues from users of the heat networks for example, if there was a misconception of odour. SW confirmed it has promoted the heat network as being low carbon and cheaper for no user investment. Donna Very confirmed that WICS is a user of the heat network and that the process for being supplied was easy – Stirling Council visited and provided detailed information.    

14. Bob Ferrier queried whether planning departments had been proactive in asking SW to consider creating heat networks. Donald noted that this hadn’t happened yet but that SG policy means no new gas connections from 2024 so developers will be looking for alternative solutions. He added that new developments and customers outside the existing gas network are big opportunities for SW.  

15. Barry Greig raised the proposed east end Glasgow project and asked whether a lack of grant support would influence SW’s decisions. Donald noted that this does present a risk and that SW is considering whether the scheme is contingent on further RHI support. He also highlighted that SW is not currently funded for low-carbon projects and that SWH can’t borrow so they are considering how to raise income.

Item 4 – Leven Programme/Water Resources Strategy - Pauline Silverman presentation

16. Pauline Silverman gave an update on SEPA’s work on the River Leven programme noting the following key points:

  • Collaborative working between a number of partners including SE, SW and the community.
  • Helping Fife Council view the river as an asset to build amenities and improve the climate.
  • A sustainable growth agreement had been signed with the parties
  • An evaluation model would be developed to record progress against sustainable development goals.
  • The ultimate aim is connectivity and Sustrans would be asked to assist with the creation of a path network to improve access between Loch Leven and the shore including bridges to cross the river. 
  • A rail link to Levenmouth has been agreed and Network Rail is now one of the collaborators. 
  • Fife College is offering relevant courses so that students can be key partners in development. 
  • Diageo aims to have their River Leven distillery to be the first net-zero emissions distillery in Europe. 

17. At this point the Cabinet Secretary thanked members for their input and handed over to Barry Greig, Vice Chair.  

18. The programme was welcomed as a method of using the environment for economic restoration. Gail Walker noted that she was encouraged with the high level of community engagement. She queried whether SEPA had evaluated the success. Pauline confirmed that SEPA is working with existing community groups to allow them to take ownership and be involved and offered to contact Gail and provide further information.  Bob Ferrier highlighted that CREW has undertaken similar engagement evaluations previously and offered to provide the detail to SEPA.  

Action 1 – SEPA to provide information on River Leven community engagement to CAS.

Action 2 – CREW to provide community engagement evaluations to SEPA.

Item 5 – Hydro Nation Agenda: Progress Update

19. Barry Greig highlighted that this Forum would need to consider how the Hydro Nation strategy aligns to the wider water industry vision; potentially with the sectoral vision becoming the core of the domestic part of the current HN strategy. He also noted that SEPA is producing a water resources strategy, partly arising from instances of drought in 2018. Barry confirmed that this strategy will align communications across public sector stakeholders and consider how Scotland uses its water resources. He added that the strategy will build on SW’s use water wisely campaign to help produce an action plan.  

20. Barry presented the progress paper highlighting key developments since the last meeting:

  • The 6th annual Hydro Nation report was laid on 19 September 2019 to positive comment. 
  • OOSKAnews is delivering a series of aquaNOW audiences with an aim to expose achievements in Scotland in a global context. The next event is scheduled for 30 January 2020 and would consider Water and Pharma. Barry recommended that members attend events and suggested they may also be asked to participate.
  • Caithness General Hospital in Wick is the first hospital in the world to be certified by AWS.
  • The Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service continues to help water businesses bring products and processes to market more quickly. The number of applications has been a challenge during the second phase of the service and focus is now on one-to-one engagement with companies.
  • The SW development centres at Gorthleck and Bo’Ness have been busy facilitating new trials and upgrades are now necessary to meet the rising demand.  Donald MacBrayne offered site visits to any interested members. He also confirmed that SWH is involved in Interreg Europe - maintaining and collaborating with test centres across Europe.
  • Scotland had participated in a pilot governance review undertaken by OECD.  An action plan was under development to address the few outstanding issues identified under the pilot
  • The SG continues to support the water futures programme in Malawi – over 85% of assets have now been mapped across all districts. Bob Kalin clarified that all districts have now been visited but the project team is re-visiting to ensure nothing has been missed. Bob confirmed that over 285k sanitation points and 120k water points have been identified – in instances of flooding the government can pinpoint which assets are at risk and take action. 
  • The Malawi Scotland Regulatory Partnership is also providing support to help create the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) and Malawi Environmental Protection Agency.  Allan Reid confirmed that SEPA recently visited and noted that the NWRA has yet to appoint a CEO. He noted that progress should be made once this milestone is complete. 
  • Engagement continues to be a challenge in India. Officials met with the Indian Consul General in late 2019 with a view to developing better communication channels with Indian authorities.
  • 2 further Hydro Nation scholars have completed their studies and 4 new scholars joined the programme in October 2019.  Interviews will shortly commence for the 2020 intake. Bob Ferrier noted that the programme has attracted a mix of individuals from across the world showing that there is global interest in Scotland – some 17 countries have been represented. It was noted there is a challenge to find Scottish scholars and it was suggested that slides should be produced to allow stakeholders to promote the scheme. Bob Ferrier noted that CREW encourages scholars to engage with the wider industry and helps facilitate placements. He highlighted that one of the scholars who was seconded to SW has now been employed. Barry offered to circulate a detailed list of scholars and PhD topics to help identify suitable placement opportunities. Bob Kalin suggested that fellowships could be offered to successful scholars to help share knowledge. Barry confirmed that SG/CREW currently supports one Hydro Nation (International) Fellow and is investigating other opportunities, but that funding for non-core HNSP activities such as fellowships is a challenge.

Barry Greig invited forum members to provide an update on recent activity.

21. Gail Walker confirmed that CAS had recently completed 2 key pieces of research. The first reviewed community engagement, working with SW and the Customer Forum, to identify best practice and recognise communities as an asset. 4 models of successful engagement were studied and it was determined that a spectrum of engagement exists. Gail noted that when communities have clear roles and responsibilities they are more likely to participate. A report would be circulated to members following publication at end January 2020.

22. CAS had also worked with DWQR to research private water supplies (PWS) and support mechanisms for communities. Gail noted that most unregulated supplies are untreated and users are unware of the underlying risks. She also noted that some owners of PWS have limited knowledge and that improvement measures can be unaffordable. A report would be published at end February 2020/March 2020.

23. Bob Kalin queried how many people are served by PWS.  It was noted that some 21,000 PWS serve roughly 3% of the population. Bob Kalin noted that this presents challenges in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Clean water and sanitation. BG confirmed that SG considered the SDG targets relevant to Scottish supply as much as to the rest of the world and that this was a key driver in the SG’s approach to policy. Rachel Helliwell noted that climate extremes can affect the sufficiency of PWS and that CREW is undertaking a project to investigate weather impact and resilience. 

24. Barbara Barbarito noted that SW is investigating treatment products that could be used by owners of PWS. However, owing to the effect of climate change, quantity of supply is likely to be a bigger challenge. Barbara also confirmed that SW is progressing installation of top-up taps and that 19 are now in operation across Scotland. SW would also publish its Strategic Plan on 5 February 2020.  

25 Donna Very confirmed that WICS continues to assist Romanian delegates and that it would shortly host 3 interns to help a water company draft a business plan. WICS had also delivered workshops on tariff setting and economic regulation for Lithuanian delegates. Donna noted that WICS is in the process of developing an engagement contract with New Zealand. It was also noted that WICS is considering how to continue to engage with European counterparts after 31 January 2020.  

26. Allan Reid confirmed that SEPA is also considering how to continue its work in Europe after 31 January 2020. Allan noted that SEPA has engaged a 3rd party agency and would provide feedback to members in due course.  

27. Peter Robinson highlighted that Scottish Canals had published a report in November 2019 to detail the value of the investment in canals since 2002. Peter also confirmed that Europe’s first Smart Canal is nearing completion in Glasgow and that walking tours will be offered at the upcoming flood risk management conference. Scottish Canals are also due to publish a revised corporate strategy which would reflect on carbon and consider capital and operation savings arising from the smart canal. 

28. Neil Kitching confirmed that the First Minister had recently launched the low-carbon challenge fund; a £6m fund offering support for SMEs. Neil noted SE would host a workshop on 27 January 2020 in Edinburgh and invited members to attend. Neil also confirmed that SE would host a workshop in March 2020 to discuss Aquatic pollutants.

Action 3 - SG to circulate a detailed list of scholars and PhD topics.

Item 6 – Hydro Nation Strategy Development

29. Barry Greig suggested that this item is deferred to allow proposals to be further developed and to consider how the strategy aligns with the wider sector vision.  

Item 7 - AOB

30. Barry Greig highlighted that CREW is working on a project with Scottish Canals exploring the challenge of delivering large multi-stakeholder infrastructure projects. The project will consider governance, funding and delivery challenges. Rachel Helliwell confirmed that CREW had issued a call to action and would provide an update as the project develops.

Hydro Nation Forum Minutes: January 2020


Email: waterindustry@gov.scot


Water Industry Team
3F South
Victoria Quay

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