A low carbon water industry in a changing world

World-leading greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for Victoria’s water industry

Victoria’s water industry is committed to leading on climate change action – adapting not only to the physical impacts of climate change but reducing its greenhouse gas emissions as we transition to a low-carbon economy.

Victoria’s water industry releases almost 900,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. This represents nearly 25% of the Victorian government’s total annual emissions and is similar to the emissions produced by over 250,000 cars on Victoria’s roads each year. As such, Victoria’s water industry is facing a double-edged climate challenge – contributing a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere just as Victoria’s climate is becoming hotter, drier, and more extreme.

At the same time, economic, societal, and regulatory expectations are changing – requiring water corporations to manage their climate risks and do more with less water while ensuring Victorian’s water bills remain some of the lowest in Australia. This complex, multi-faceted challenge requires us not to look at emissions reductions and climate adaptation as two distinct disciplines, but instead as two intertwined sides of the same coin. What that means in practice is that Victoria’s water utilities are first and foremost using direct emissions reduction rather than carbon offsetting to meet their net-zero targets, and that these direct actions also have a benefit in terms of climate change adaptation. For example, extensive investment in waste-to-energy facilities reduces Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions from the sector, and also contributes to the circular economy by producing renewable energy sources.

Victoria’s water corporations have now committed to world leading new emissions reduction targets in the Statement of Obligations (Emission Reduction). This Statement puts water corporations on the path to achieving a collective 42.4% reduction in emissions and sourcing 100% of their electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2025; achieving a 93.7% reduction in emissions by 2030; and achieving an 100% reduction (net-zero) in emissions by 2035.

This makes Victoria’s water industry the first in Australia to commit to net-zero by 2035 and puts Victoria alongside the United Kingdom as world leaders in water industry emissions reductions.

The Statement sets out a strong emissions reduction framework to ensure Victoria’s water industry invests efficiently and effectively to reduce their emissions at lowest possible cost. Our water corporations are already exploring and investing in projects which improve energy efficiency, generate and use more renewable electricity, transition their vehicle fleet to zero emissions alternatives, produce clean energy from waste, and more. These initiatives are creating jobs, reducing water corporations’ electricity and operating costs, and protecting our environment whilst also unlocking cost effective initiatives which achieve multiple circular economy objectives for all Victorians.

Working collaboratively with the Victorian government, Victoria’s water corporations are a crucial foundational pillar to Victoria’s low carbon and energy transition: able to provide sustainable recycled water for renewable hydrogen production, working proactively to explore and understand the potential for pumped hydro storage across Victoria, and promoting the regeneration of natural capital through the production of new agricultural products and soil enhancers created from waste materials.

Featured image: Excerpt from Victoria DEWLP Climate Science Report 2019