A tool that can measure an organisation’s carbon footprint and help reduce its emissions has been developed by consulting engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV. The tool will be beneficial to companies with South Africa’s carbon emission tax planned to come into effect in 2015. It will enable companies to save money by identifying processes or technologies with high carbon emissions and replacing them with more efficient options with lower carbon footprints.

The tool was recently used for a computation for eThekwini municipality and a programme of intervention is being drawn up to lower its carbon footprint.

Siva Chetty Royal HaskoningDHV’s principal environmental engineer explains that the tool measures three different scopes of carbon emissions. “Scope 1 emissions are those emissions an organisation is directly responsible for, such as fuel consumption. Scope 2 emissions are those measured according to the energy use of a company as supplied by a utility such as state-owned power utility Eskom. Scope 3 emissions are those for which an organisation is indirectly responsible, such as those produced during the manufacturing process of chemicals that are bought by a wastewater treatment plant for example.”

Although the tool was developed with individual water treatment plants in mind, it can be used to measure the carbon footprint of a multitude of treatment works, processes and networks in a municipality.

“The tool clarifies all forms of consumption from paper and fuel to electricity and chemicals so with this tool, organisations can establish where the most emissions are generated and implement strategies to reduce them. Once a baseline is established, it is possible to create scenarios to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint” he says.

It is expected that the tool will pave the way for a change of mind-set from that of being fixated on capital expenditure (capex) to that of a life-cycle approach, where capex and operating expenditure are considered as investments for long-term financial gains.

“By taking a lifecycle approach and spending appropriately in the short term, utilities will quickly receive the returns on capital investment and, subsequently, record long-term financial gains,” Chetty says.