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Carbon transformation in action
The Abu Dhabi Sustainable Water Solutions Company has galvanised its staff, contractors and suppliers into action to reduce carbon emissions and drive energy efficiency.
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Carbon transformation in action
The Abu Dhabi Sustainable Water Solutions Company has galvanised its staff, contractors and suppliers into action to reduce carbon emissions and drive energy efficiency.
2 / 2

Carbon transformation in action

Over the past eight years the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (now known as Abu Dhabi Sustainable Water Solutions Company, or SWS) has put carbon reduction at the heart of its cultural identity - and its public image. Lisa Girrbach-Terry, sustainability consultant at Mott MacDonald and Dr Arouge Agha, consultant at SWS, explain how the company has galvanised its staff, contractors and suppliers into action to reduce carbon emissions and drive energy efficiency.

Running a major sewerage network processing an average of 890,000m3 of wastewater per day is a carbon intensive business. But SWS is not shying away from the challenge of lowering its carbon emissions while serving a growing urban population in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The company has gone to enormous lengths to accurately calculate its carbon footprint and to uncover innovative ways to reduce it.

SWS is open about the fact that its sewage treatment activities contribute 5% of Abu Dhabi’s overall waste emissions, and 0.5% of the Emirate’s entire carbon footprint. This is because of the large amounts of energy needed to pump wastewater around the country and treat it to the highest standards.

Since 2012, however, climate mitigation has become integral to SWS’s business practices and cultural identity. Reducing emissions is seen to be the responsibility of everyone at the firm - not only because of the environmental and social benefits - but because carbon has become a proxy for resource efficiency.

Continuous improvement

Mott MacDonald has worked closely with SWS since 2012 to demonstrate the direct and indirect links between less carbon use, lower costs, efficient capital expenditure and better business performance in the short and longer term.

We have also encouraged its commitment to continuous improvement: setting stretching targets for carbon reduction and being transparent about its progress. Every year, the firm publishes data on operational emissions associated with the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. By 2020, this had fallen by 9% from the 2016 baseline.

During a review of carbon reduction opportunities, the company identified potential operational cost savings worth up to AED 300M by 2030. It also set a target to reduce annual carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. To achieve these goals, it has begun implementing PAS 2080, the first global standard for carbon management in infrastructure. PAS 2080 gives a practical guide to reducing the whole-life carbon of an asset from the initial design, through its operational life to decommissioning. SWS is one of only a handful of companies globally to have adopted the standard, which was developed by Mott MacDonald and Arup for the British Standards Institute.

A low carbon culture

The investment that SWS has made in its people over the past eight years is paying off. Staff have already soaked up the message that action to reduce carbon and energy efficiency delivers results. Getting people to take ownership of targets and pilot projects is not a problem.

This is an advantage when it comes to implementing PAS 2080 because it has a strong focus on governance. Every part of SWS’s business will be included in an annual carbon audit and each department has to identify roles and responsibilities for carbon management and set relevant key performance indicators. Last year, SWS stepped up the intensity of its training and support for staff.

We ran 45 training sessions for around 1,000 staff focused on carbon awareness, carbon quantification tools, training for suppliers and contractors and lessons learned from pilot carbon management projects. One challenge is to ensure that people’s enthusiasm for innovation is directed at hot spots, such as electricity used by treatment plants or emissions from sludge disposal, which offer the greatest potential for carbon or energy savings.

Another priority is to ensure that staff are confident about putting the theory of carbon management into practice to drive down carbon and cost. This is particularly important for design and engineering teams who must use quantitative tools and models to inform decisions about capital investment. These teams have the greatest potential to influence SWS’s whole-life carbon emissions - by using less resources at the outset – and lowering carbon costs from its 2020 baseline.

Carbon leadership

By sticking its head above the parapet with low carbon targets and initiatives, SWS has also won praise from policy-makers and other stakeholders, such as the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

External contractors also welcome its commitment to help drive up skills and expertise. Consultants, suppliers and contractors have benefitted from carbon management education and technical training that puts them in a better position to win work on future infrastructure projects. SWS awards certificates of appreciation to suppliers who take part in training that is beyond the scope of their contracts.

With the UAE set to host the COP 28 global climate conference in 2023, SWS is in a good position to stay ahead of the curve on carbon policy, regulation and standards in the UAE, and be an advocate for innovation in the region.

Click here to see how we can help you explore scenarios, assess options and develop strategies to align your activities with the transition to a net zero world, and to cut your own emissions as far and fast as possible.

Lisa Girrbach-Terry

Sustainability consultant, Mott MacDonald

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