APE welcomes updated provisions on energy neutrality in the European Parliament’s report on the UWWTD
Aqua Publica Europea welcomes updated provisions on energy neutrality in the European Parliament’s report on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD), which was adopted today in plenary.
Aqua Publica Europea, the European association of public water operators, welcomes updated provisions on energy neutrality in the European Parliament’s report on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD), which was adopted today in plenary.
The European Commission’s proposal required the wastewater sector to reach energy neutrality at national level by 2040 but left limited room for manoeuvre in only accepting green energy produced within wastewater treatment plants. The ENVI Committee’s report opened the possibility for Member States to produce energy off site and, if certain conditions are met, to purchase renewable energy from external sources through power purchase agreements up to a maximum of 25%. The European Parliament’s report has now increased this threshold to 40%.
Whilst we embrace the vision of a wastewater sector energy neutral by 2040 to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement, we welcome this updated provision that makes the energy neutrality objective more technically realistic. Water operators have limited options to produce green energy and many are unable to expand in a dense urban environment or to buy new fields to produce energy off site. It is estimated that biogas production (when cost effective) can only cover 30-50% of energy needs of wastewater treatment plants whilst wind turbines and photovoltaics require large surfaces to produce significant amount.
Aqua Publica Europea keeps, however, strong reservations on other provisions from the European Parliament’s report, in particular the use of up to 20% of national financing to complement Extended Producer Responsibility to cover the costs of quaternary treatment for micropollutants. We are concerned that this would undermine the polluter pays principle, generate inconsistencies across Members States affecting the proper functioning of the internal market and lead to an increase of water tariffs for households in a period of inflationary pressure.
We will closely monitor the development of negotiations in the Council ahead of the next ENVI Council meeting on 16th October and then in trilogues with the European Parliament and the European Commission to ensure a high level of environmental and public health ambition with strong safeguards for water affordability and balanced requirements between urban and rural areas.