The utility, which provides essential services to the Moreton Bay, Noosa and Sunshine Coast regions, is one of 14 Australian and New Zealand water utilities, alongside Water UK, to have joined the Race to Zero campaign.

The combined utilities from Australia, New Zealand and the UK serve more than 72 million customers.

The Race To Zero is a United Nations-backed global campaign rallying non-state actors – including companies, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions – to take rigorous and immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030 and deliver a healthier, fairer zero carbon world.

Unitywater’s Acting Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions Ivan Beirne said Unitywater has developed a sustainability pathway that contains both short and long-term goals that aim to further protect public health and contribute to sustainable services while addressing the challenges of population growth and changes in our environment.

“Unitywater is committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and aims to implement innovative solutions that are in sync with our environment and create employment and prosperity across our region, while delivering essential services to the community in an economically and environmentally sustainable way,” Mr Beirne said.

“These solutions will reduce our energy consumption, reduce our carbon footprint, and increase green energy production on site, helping us to keep costs down for our customers whilst ensuring sustainable outcomes for the communities in which we operate and live.”

Solar panels have enabled the Kenilworth Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) to become energy neutral and a cogeneration plant is producing renewable energy to partially power the Kawana STP.

STP upgrades are part of a management plan that aims to save the equivalent of $2.5 million per annum in energy costs from 2020 to 2027. Future STP upgrades include the increased reuse of Biogas, and solar panel and battery installation at four of Unitywater’s largest treatment plants.

The projects have put Unitywater on track to reach its 2025 goals of 45% carbon emissions reduction (baseline 2019-20); 100% biosolids reuse/diversion from landfill; and 15,000 MWh renewable energy generation.

“We have set relevant short-term sustainability goals which will be the stepping stones towards a healthier, more liveable and sustainable future,” Mr Beirne said.

Water Services Association of Australia Executive Director Adam Lovell congratulated the water utilities for their commitment and leadership and said the industry has a central role in reducing emissions but is also in a unique position to produce renewable energy.

“As early adopters of wind, solar and waste to energy technology to power our infrastructure, we are thrilled to see so many of our water utilities joining the Race to Zero pledge,” Mr Lovell said.

“The urban water industry is at the cutting edge of many innovations to reduce its carbon footprint like producing renewable energy from food waste, harvesting the valuable resources that can be recovered through wastewater treatment, producing green hydrogen and ammonia which can be used as green fuels, using significant land corridors and reservoirs for solar panels and transitioning to electric vehicles.”

The announcement comes as the international water community hosts the first Water Pavilion at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, bringing together more than 30 organisations, governments and companies to share water-related solutions.