How Denmark Is Paving The Way For Net Zero Water Goals
As the pressures of climate change, population growth, ageing infrastructure, water mismanagement and pollution all increasingly take hold over the next few years, experts are predicting a 40 per cent shortfall in freshwater resources by 2030… just eight short years away.
As such, it’s becoming increasingly important to make the move to net zero where water is concerned – and, in fact, water companies in England came together to pledge in 2019 to reach net zero for operational emissions by 2030, the first detailed plan of its kind in the world.
But it seems that it might be that Denmark is the nation to really turn to for inspiration in this regard, with the Danish water sector already making serious inroads towards becoming climate positive by 2025 and energy neutral by 2030.
According to Water Online, the industry has already put targets in place to achieve these goals, which work alongside the government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent come 2030.
Furthermore, a tracking framework has been introduced that will support the work being done to limit net energy use and drive down emissions. Companies will be able to submit reports voluntarily, with the 2021 status report showing that the industry is now well on its way towards success.
Speaking to the news source, Sofie Hyldal Thorgaard, a technical advisor at the Danish Water Technology Alliance in the US, explained that operational efficiency has been at the forefront for solution providers and utilities in Denmark for decades, with regulation and political incentives also helping with the sustainability drive.
For example, the water sector has been economically benchmarked since 2011, with individual economic efficiency requirements in place. Benchmarks are included on environmental factors, with financial incentives available to limit pollution below regulatory limits.
This in turn has led to water companies measuring operations in real time – and, in order to achieve this, increased adoption of digitalisation has been seen.
Ms Thorgaard explained: “Collecting data is essential because you cannot manage what you cannot measure. In my experience, a utility can typically find 50 to 70 per cent of energy savings by implementing digital solutions and measuring operations with an eye to real-time control.”
“Most wastewater treatment plants spend approximately 54 per cent of their total energy consumption on aeration. Utilising variable frequency drives on the blowers and controlling air distribution remotely according to actual needs instead of a fixed set point saves both energy and money. Furthermore, it is a small exercise with a significant impact and a relatively short ROI,” she went on to say.”
The expert concluded by saying that the solution will require efficiencies in both wastewater treatment and energy production.
In Denmark, for example, more than 90 per cent of wastewater is collected and treated. And figures from a Danish Environmental Protection Agency study in 2018 show that the wastewater sector produced two-thirds of the amount of energy used to transport and treat wastewater.
All of this certainly offers great food for thought for other water industries around the world. Who knows what changes we’ll see in the near future?
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