Intercontinental utility collaboration
Digital Solutions Utilities Europe

Intercontinental utility collaboration to cut emissions by one million tonnes

Monday, 19 September 2022

Aarhus Vand, Melbourne Water and Severn Trent have partnered on a green transformation project that will see the trio set out plans to cut their greenhouse emissions by one million tonnes.

Coming together

An international collaboration linking Australia, Denmark and the UK has ambitions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the water utility sector.

Aarhus Vand, Melbourne Water and Severn Trent of the United Kingdom have partnered on a green transformation project that will see the trio set out and share plans to cut their greenhouse emissions.

The three utilities have committed to work together to reduce their carbon emissions by one million tonnes.

By collaborating, they hope to “motivate and challenge each other, but not least succeed faster and minimise risk”, according to Claus Homann, CSO of Aarhus Vand.

In terms of progress so far, Melbourne Water has already invested in making its operation greener by using renewable energy at its water treatment plants, generated from a solar farm.

The utility down-under has also set a target to source 100 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.

Melbourne Water is also looking to adopt circular solutions at its sewage works, recovering waste and turning it into potable water, nutrients and energy ready for reuse.

"We are at the forefront of a shift towards a circular economy, transforming our sewerage system, so we can recover Melbourne’s waste, turning it into water, nutrients and energy for re-use," said Nerina Di Lorenzo, managing director of Melbourne Water.

"Partnering with Aarhus Vand and Severn Trent will assist us in achieving this goal."

In the UK, one of Severn Trent’s sewage treatment facilities will be turned into a Net Zero hub, for researching and testing carbon-neutral wastewater treatment technologies on an industrial scale.

Severn Trent has also begun trials on technologies that monitor, capture, and break down nitrous oxide using the power of sunlight.

“The global water industry needs to come together and act now to take more responsibility for carbon emissions.”

It is also using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to optimise its treatment works to reduce emissions, chemicals, and power usage.

Meanwhile, in Denmark, Aarhus Vand is developing a sustainable sludge handling process, ‘digital twin’ technology - which uses simulation and machine learning to find the most optimal green processes.

The utility also is also working towards Aarhus ReWater, which could be one of the most sustainable wastewater treatment plants, once built and operational.

Aarhus Vand released the full outlay of the collaboration:

  • Developing new techniques to measure and record nitrous oxide and methane releases from wastewater treatment sites
  • Enhancing existing wastewater treatment plants with green technology to reduce emissions
  • Incorporating renewable and sustainable resources at treatment facilities
  • Creating a roadmap for the industry to achieve net zero ambitions
  • Developing talent sharing secondments between the three companies.

Energy positive progress in Denmark: a long way to go

While this partnership is a step in the right direction for the water companies, the Danish Water and Wastewater Association (Danva) believes there is still a long way to go before drinking water companies become energy positive.

In a recent survey, Danva recorded the energy purchases, energy production and sold energy of 77 water companies across Denmark.

In 2021, the 77 drinking water companies surveyed purchased in total 103,953,089 kWh while only producing 882,885 kWh of energy and selling 746,811 kWh of energy.

This equated to a total sold-supply ratio of 1.6 per cent.

“Denmark set itself the climate target of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 70 per cent.”

In 2020, the Danish government set the target of a 50 per cent reduction in nitrous oxide emissions from wastewater treatment plants from 2025.

The Paris agreement, which was set in 2015, saw 195 member states undertake the pledge to limit the number of emissions of greenhouse gases.

As part of this, countries had to submit a plan of how they will do this - Denmark set itself the climate target of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 70 per cent.

30 solutions for Net Zero

Emerging technologies are being seen as one of the solutions to help reach net-zero ambitions.

At the Global Water Summit in Madrid, organised by Global Water Intelligence, Isle UK presented ‘30 technologies for Net Zero’.

Some of the technologies included drone emissions monitoring and reporting, methane captured from water, plasmalysis, ultraviolet water treatment and algal reactors.

It was in 2020 when Water UK set out the world’s first sector-wide plan to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and produced a 10-point plan for decarbonisation, including recommendations for the government, regulators and the industry.

“The global water industry needs to come together and act now to take more responsibility for carbon emissions," said Liv Garfield, CEO of Severn Trent.

"This international partnership of water companies feels like one of the most exciting and important moments for the sector in decades.”

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