Policy Brief: The potential of the wastewater sector in the energy transition
Today, European wastewater treatment plants consume the equivalent of more than two power plants’ worth of energy every year as well as a considerable portion – about a fifth- of municipalities’ electricity bills. The costs incurred by society equate to approximately €2 billion a year. Nonetheless, these plants could be producing up to twelve power plants’ worth of efficient, renewable, flexible energy to contribute towards a low-carbon, circular development of the European economy. The EU co-funded POWERSTEP project, led by research and industry players, has demonstrated a range of full-scale lab-tested innovations for energy positive wastewater treatment. At its heart, the concept is based on the extraction of increased organic matter from wastewater which is converted into biogas and subsequently applied to new or existing plants at a similar cost to conventional treatment, resulting in a reasonable payback time. Achieving an energy positive wastewater treatment plant is based on sound technological development that requires a combination of new concepts together with an optimised integration of available technologies, e.g. sludge digestion and biogas valorisation. POWERSTEP has demonstrated in six large-scale references in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland that WWTPs can improve their water treatment while harnessing the untapped potential of biomass as...
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