skip to Main Content

How do you forecast carbon emissions in the water business?

Tricarbon has been working with United Utilities to create a carbon forecasting tool. Water industry regulator Ofwat has asked UK water companies to project their carbon emissions over the coming years and Tricarbon has been helping United Utilities make it happen.

Forecasting carbon in the water industry is a tricky business. There are factors which are common to all businesses when projecting carbon emissions, like the changing carbon intensity of the electricity grid, but there are a number of unique factors which are harder to quantify in the water industry.

Adverse weather tops this list (as the Beast from the East recently demonstrated) since periods of particularly wet, dry or freezing weather conditions cab cause a spike in electricity demand, as additional pumping and treatment efforts are required. There’s also the stage of the ‘AMP’ to consider. The AMP, or Asset Management Phase, is the five-year business cycle in which the water industry operates. Emissions can vary dramatically depending upon the current stage of the AMP, with periods of large infrastructure deployment (and hence emissions increases) followed by winding-down periods (with lower emissions).

Emissions are also impacted by operational concerns, such as unexpected asset failures or unforeseen emergency maintenance. Although the industry anticipates these impacts effectively, when they do happen, there tends to be a spike in emissions, as energy-intensive repairs are undertaken.

And let’s not forget methodologies. Every emissions source has a methodology by which it is quantified and reported, but these can change as processes and data sources mature, meaning that a litre of water treated one year might have a different carbon footprint to a litre of water treated the following year.

Developing a forecasting tool under these circumstances therefore requires the best available data alongside the best available assumptions, but it can be done, and United Utilities are now trialing the tool. The first test will be to assess how the tool’s predictions perform against real data generated during the upcoming annual carbon accounting exercise.

Watch this space to see how we get on…

Back To Top