Ofwat’s Innovation in Water Challenge has sparked imaginations across the sector in a united effort to find solutions to common challenges faced by water companies. Utility Week finds out more about Anglian's successful bid: a tool to measure the whole life carbon and costs of assets

Anglian, together with its capital delivery partners in the @One Alliance and Welsh Water are developing the tool, which its designer said has the potential to be “a real game-changer for the industry” in the sector’s journey to net-zero.

Lindsey Taylor, innovation manager at Anglian, explained the two-year project will create a tool to measure the whole life carbon of an asset to inform design and investment teams to make sustainable long-term decisions.

“At the moment as an organisation we’re absolutely brilliant at measuring and managing capital carbon and operational carbon, but we look at those in isolation without tending to consider maintenance or end-of-life,” Taylor said. “We realised no one in the sector is doing this. We’re all talking about whole life carbon and connecting up carbon with cost, but there are no tools to enable us to measure whole life carbon.”

She explained the collaboration with @One Alliance, Anglian’s group of seven capital delivery partners, as well as Welsh Water in development of the tool will enable the industry to make informed decisions about assets.

“The project is about facilitating the industry’s move away from purely capital and operational carbon accounting to true whole life carbon cost management. It aims to develop digital visualisation tools that put carbon at the heart of our decision-making processes – in design teams or governance teams, they can make more informed decisions with whole life data.”

Over two years, the project will develop a whole life carbon database by adding information on the carbon impact of maintenance, replacement and end of life to existing data sets on operational and capital carbon.

That will then be connected with cost databases for the first time in the sector before integrating these into the design stage for teams working on the building information modelling (BIM).

“Once we’ve connected all those things we can start to create the visual project environment for our design teams so they can start to make really informed live decisions where they see high carbon and cost hotspots in their design. That’s where I truly think the power is in this project.”

Some of these datasets do exist, for example Anglian has a carbon modeller that looks at capital and operational carbon, but the tool would allow that to be updated with emissions factors, new materials and other information.

“This tool really puts sustainability and long-term thinking at the heart of our processes,” she said. “We’ve got to do this, otherwise we’re doomed when it comes to climate change, so we have to provide our teams with the right tools to make informed decisions. We ask a lot of our engineering community in terms of cost, carbon and expect them to balance all those things so this tool should make it more straight forward and obvious for them.”

Taylor explained the collaboration with Welsh Water will be important to challenge how the team at Anglian approaches the work and to represent the voice of other water companies to ensure the finished tool would work for the wider sector.

Since beginning the work Taylor’s team has been approached by multiple other water companies to be a part of the project with Affinity, Severn Trent, Southern, Thames, South East, United Utilities all interested in becoming involved.

“All the organisations are at slightly different points in their carbon journey so that involvement is exactly what we need. We’ve learned so much not just from a technology perspective but also from a cultural and behavioural perspective on how you embed carbon thinking into the psyche of an organisation so we want to share it.”

Taylor described the partnership with the @One Alliance as the incubator for the project and highlighted the experience Sweco and Skanska have from comparable ventures in other industries to bring to the task.

“If we can make it work on proper projects with our capital delivery partners, we know we can make it work anywhere and everywhere,” Taylor said. “I truly believe this could be completely game changing for the water industry. Then there’s no reason not to copy and paste it to other sectors. Everyone can use these tools – any sector could pick the approach up and run with it when we’ve shown it works.”

As well as applications in other industries, there is potential to develop similar data visualisation tools for biodiversity net gain or climate change resilience. Taylor added it could be used to feed the data into a digital twin to run scenarios for understanding the impact and costs of assets for two-degree or four-degree warmer climate.

“If you don’t start making some of these informed decisions around whole life carbon costs as early as possible, especially in the design phase, it’s essentially a missed opportunity,” Taylor said. “If we can create these visualisation tools that allow our teams to see where the carbon and cost hotspots are that will drive innovation.”

Furthermore, it will help inform investment decisions to decide the most sustainable solutions to problems.

“This project has an opportunity to really change how the industry manages whole life carbon and cost, if we get this right it could be truly game changing,” Taylor said. “We’re on the precipice of wanting to deliver net zero and this is one of the key tools to change the way the industry delivers projects.

“We could never do this as Anglian Water alone, the collaboration and partnerships are essential. We’re hugely proud to have this opportunity to develop this with and on behalf of the industry. It really is the next step the industry needs to take in terms of carbon and cost management.”

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