Icon Water has released its eMission Possible Plan, detailing a strategy to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2045.
The plan was released on World Environment Day (Sunday, 5 June) as part of its commitment to the United Nations Race to Net Zero campaign.
General manager of customer engagement Davina McCormick said Icon Water saw an urgent need to make this important goal a reality.
“This is an area of significant focus the world over; I think it’s safe to say everyone is aware there is some urgency and we need to move now to meet our goals,” she said.
Company-run “Let’s Talk” forums revealed Canberrans wanted Icon Water to shift from supporting to driving innovation to resolve climate issues.
“Canberrans are behind us on this,” Davina said.
“The race to net zero was one of the key areas of discussions we’ve had with the community. Most Canberrans who participated in the forum supported our net zero target and wanted us to be an innovator in this space.”
Icon Water environment and sustainability manager Benjamin Bryant said it was a role the company was ready to take on.
“As a water utility provider, much of what we do relies on our environment being clean and healthy. We have always been invested in developing ways to reduce our environmental footprint,” he said.
“This plan puts in place a pathway that focuses on tackling our carbon footprint and supports our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Race to Zero.”
Sustainability and resource recovery coordinator Joel Edwards said the pathway was “ambitious but attainable” with interim targets aligned with the ACT Government’s targets to ensure consistent progress.
“We’ve already met many of the interim targets thanks to the ACT Government’s renewable energy policy,” he said.
Since 1990, the company has halved its greenhouse gas emissions through a combination of hydro and solar installations and energy initiatives, buoyed by the ACT achieving 100 per cent renewable electricity.
Part of this involved generating carbon insets (credit) through projects including the reforestation of almost 800 hectares of land in NSW with native plantings.
But Joel said there was little time to rest.
“In 2021 Icon Water was generating a little over one per cent of the ACT’s total emissions,” he said.
“It may sound small, but that’s not an insignificant amount in the grand scheme. So there are plenty of opportunities to make a very real impact.”
Joel said its wastewater treatment activities represented a major proportion of its emissions – a key challenge for the water industry.
“We’re now setting our sights on those more recalcitrant emissions inherent to the industry,” he said.
“Now that we’re monitoring and collecting data, rather than relying on generic equations, that puts us in good stead to manage and reduce our emissions by implementing new technology and innovations.”
To better understand the fugitive nitrous oxide and methane gases that contribute to almost 70 per cent of Icon Water’s wastewater emissions, the company is collaborating with the University of Queensland and peer utilities to improve data collection.
Further decarbonising initiatives will involve minimising emissions from drinking water production through education and exploring smarter networks.
The company will also focus on “greening” its NSW electricity use and switching to zero emission vehicles before offsetting residual greenhouse gas emissions.
To develop its pathway to net zero emissions, Icon Water first measured its footprint, then considered technical feasibility, operational suitability, timing and cost of the greenhouse gas abatement options available.
Weighing up the economic cost of each feasible option, it identified the best decarbonising options to prioritise.
Davina said the company was now ready to crack on with the first iteration of the pathway.
“There are some challenges ahead, problems to be solved, and we know the technology will evolve and we will need to adapt to stay on track. But we’re committed because ultimately, this is about the legacy the industry leaves behind.”
For more information about Icon Water’s eMission Possible Plan visit Icon Water.