Case Study - Scottish Water


Why we joined Logistics UK's Route to Net Zero Commitment



To help logistics businesses meet the challenges of climate change - one of the most pressing issues facing the global community - Logistics UK launched its Route to Net Zero commitment in summer 2021, to encourage its members to pledge to decarbonise their operations as quickly and effectively as possible. Scottish Water was the first Logistics UK member business to sign up to the commitment; here Elaine Pringle, the company’s Fleet Manager, explains why the publicly-owned water and waste water services provider signed up, its strategy to transition to net zero, and its advice for others on their journey to decarbonisation.  


The Target

At Scottish Water we set a target to transition our operations to net zero by 2040 – ten years ahead of the UK-wide legal deadline – and our plans to achieve this for the road transport section of our business revolve around converting the entire fleet to alternative fuel power as swiftly and efficiently as possible. While the fleet accounts for only around 6% of our overall operational carbon emissions, it is a key priority area in our overall decarbonisation strategy; we signed up to Logistics UK’s Route to Net Zero commitment to pledge our dedication publicly and showcase to others the journey we are on, as well as share key learnings to help other businesses achieve their own decarbonisation targets.  



The Road Ahead

We have made an encouraging start on our road to net zero; we now have around 100 electric lease cars and 25 electric vans in the fleet. Our focus remains on the successful mobilisation of these vehicles, and (looking to the future) assessing which models will work best within the fleet going forwards.  


Payload, range, and speed of charge are all key considerations as we look to transition the fleet further. Payload has a direct impact on a vehicle’s range, which is why we have been focusing on transitioning our smaller vans that do not carry as much equipment and travel, on average, 75 miles. We need to operate many vehicles that require a range upwards of 300 miles, on a single charge; at Scottish Water, we are waiting for suitable technology solutions that will be able to handle these journeys to come to market.   


Charging is a key logistical challenge in the transition to alternatively fuelled vehicles. We are at the early stages of charge point installation, with charging facilities already installed at around 20 of our sites. We are planning to install infrastructure for home chargers – around 80% of our fleet are home starts – and are looking to increase the number of offices that have charge facilities. However, the biggest issue is capacity - at some of our smaller sites, we may not have sufficient power to fit the number of chargers needed. We understand that there will be more hurdles to overcome regarding charging and infrastructure as we increase the number of electric vehicles in our fleet, and we hope that within the next three years there will be an increase in the number of available public EV charging hubs across the road network.  


It is important to understand the correlation between charging speed – which must be a key priority for manufacturers – and efficiency. If we have vans on the road that need to stop and charge for an hour, or two, that vehicle and driver would be unable to work during that time, leading to decreased productivity. We are mitigating these challenges by prioritising the vehicles that we can transition – those that typically cover fewer miles that can either be charged at a depot, or home, overnight and are able to complete their duty cycle within that range.  


Exploring Alternatives 

The path to decarbonising HGVs is not yet as clear, with significant uncertainty over which fuels will be the most appropriate for HGVs, and differing views around hydrogen, electrification and electric road systems. There is much discussion surrounding which solutions are the best way forward for these heavier vehicles, and government research is underway to enable it to determine the best path forward. Scottish Water will be participating in a hydrogen HGV trial, as well as looking into alternative fuels such as CNG, LNG and biodiesel. There are substantial costs to converting vehicles or purchasing new ones and it is difficult to justify those costs as part of the public sector, without the assurance that it is an effective way forward for decarbonising heavier vehicles. 


Advice to Others

Each business is individual; however, we would recommend to others starting their journey to identify the ‘quick wins’-: the changes that can be made easily, and the vehicles that can be transitioned now. Businesses must first consider whether this switch is viable economically; operational considerations are key too, such as whether the vehicles can be maintained locally, and the mileage range. It is important to start engaging with your drivers early in the process as their enthusiasm and willingness to transition is almost as important as the vehicles.  



Our transport decarbonisation strategy will speed up significantly once improved supporting infrastructure and better model range are in place.  We are however committed to our Route to Net Zero by 2040 roadmap and feel that it would be beneficial for leading infrastructure decision makers, manufacturers and operators to create and participate in a forum to hear the challenges and work to create viable solutions. Together, we can all work to make decarbonisation a reality.  


For more information on Route to Net Zero, including how you can apply click here.