Report finds digital transformation brings savings for wastewater utilities

Oct. 25, 2022
New research, from a digital technology company and an independent economist, claims that process automation and digital solutions could reduce a wastewater utility’s annual carbon emissions by up to 2,000 tons and operation costs by up to $1.2 million.

A series of new reports for the wastewater and energy sectors highlights the impact that technology can have in reducing carbon emissions and the costs of wastewater treatment for reuse.

ABB, a global digital technology company, published the “Energy Transition Equation” report, which the company says reveals how better use of wastewater could relieve pressure on water supplies.

“Global data shows that only half of our wastewater is properly treated,” says Brandon Spencer, president of ABB Energy Industries. “Allowing untreated wastewater back into our water courses not only has a disastrous effect on fisheries, animals, marine biodiversity, and public health, but it is also a terrible ‘waste’ of this commodity. We need to be doing more.”

Treating wastewater, however, requires a lot of power, with the industry at large consuming up to three percent of the world’s total energy output and contributing over 1.5 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions.

The report culminated after nine months of research and modelling with an independent economist to demonstrate how process automation technology can deliver both carbon and cost savings in wastewater treatment.

The company’s report finds that, in wastewater sites, utilities could reduce carbon emissions by up to 2,000 tons per annum, the equivalent volume of CO2 responsible for 30,000 tons of glacier mass lost every year. With over 50,000 existing wastewater plants worldwide, the opportunity, if scaled, is upwards of 100 million tons of CO2 saved.

Furthermore, in applying a package of process control and digital solutions, water companies could reap annual operational savings of up to $1.2 million (9.5 percent) per plant, opening revenue streams to ensure higher volumes of wastewater are treated and less is discarded in rivers and seas.

The reports’ economic modelling was undertaken by independent economist Steve Lucas of Developmental Economics in conjunction with ABB Energy Industries and supported with desktop research of academic and industry sources. ABB says that it will publish further economic reports focused on the offshore, power, and chemicals markets across 2022 and 2023.

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