Sustainability is particularly high on the agenda of Dutch water boards. With things like green energy, sustainable innovations and sustainable procurement, they have been playing an exemplary role for years. Seven water boards are now preparing for the next ambitious step: certification on the CO2 Performance Ladder.
In April of this year, the water boards started a reconnaissance process: what must be done to obtain a certificate on the CO2 Performance Ladder? That question will be answered in the coming year. Then Wetterskip Fryslân, Delfland, Limburg, Vallei and Veluwe, Noorderzijlvest, Vechtstroom and Hollands Noorderkwartier will all be certified.
This affinity with sustainability is a logical consequence of the tasks of water boards, says Meinke Schouten, policy adviser circular economy, sustainable civil engineering and SRI at the Union of Water Boards: “Water boards are naturally busy solving environmental problems such as climate change. Think of flood defenses, water storage areas, water quality, climate adaptation. Themes such as the environment, climate and sustainability are naturally an extension of this. That is why we want to take our responsibility, by reducing our own impact on the environment and showing others how you approach that. ”
Renewable energy, recovering raw materials and sustainable purchasing
The Union of Water Boards acts as an umbrella organization, which helps and facilitates the 21 water boards in the Netherlands and provides access to knowledge in all kinds of areas. This also applies to CO2 reduction and sustainability. In addition, the Union of Water Boards is responsible for formulating an overall sustainability strategy, complete with an ambitious dot on the horizon.
Until recently, this sustainability strategy consisted of three pillars: sustainable energy, recovery of raw materials from waste water and sustainable purchasing. "Water boards have been generating sustainable energy for years by extracting biogas from sludge in water treatment plants," Schouten explains the first pillar. "These days, more and more new forms of sustainable energy generation are being added, such as solar energy, wind energy and aquathermy."
The second pillar focuses on the recovery of raw materials from waste water, such as bioplastics and cellulose. Pressure is currently being experimented with and innovated in that area. The CO2 Performance Ladder already plays an important role in the third pillar, sustainable procurement. Schouten: "More and more water boards are using the Ladder in their tenders, so that sustainable contractors have a greater chance of winning a tender."
Towards energy neutral
One of the objectives set by the Dutch water boards is energy neutrality in 2025. By 2020, water boards must already generate 40 percent of their own energy demand in a sustainable and sustainable way. "We are well on the way and we will probably achieve that," says Schouten.
That prediction does not come out of the blue. Water boards are increasingly investing in sustainable energy and more ambitiously. For example, the Rivierenland Water Board recently started using a solar park of 7,200 solar panels. The Noorderzijlvest Water Board, in turn, gave the green light for the installation of 9,500 solar panels at 8 sewage treatment plants.
Another and innovative example can be found at Waterschap Aa en Maas. "When renovating a weir in Vorstenbosch, it was equipped with a water wheel," said Schouten. "So it became a hydroelectric power station, which also generates sustainable energy."
Water boards also expect a lot from aquathermie, or the extraction of heat and cold from sewage, waste, drinking and surface water. That is why the Union of Water Boards, together with 35 other parties, signed the Green Deal Aquathermie. The Aa en Maas water board is currently investigating whether pilot projects can be started in this area in East Brabant.
With the above initiatives, energy neutrality should be within reach within a few years, but the sustainable objectives have now also been broadened. CO2 reduction goes further than just sustainable energy management. Schouten: "All forms of CO2 emissions must be critically examined, with the same goal that the central government has set: a CO2 reduction of 49 percent in 2030." That is where the CO2 Performance Ladder comes in.
Getting started with the CO2 Performance Ladder
Seven water boards decided to certify themselves on the Ladder. "They already expect contractors to be certified on the CO2 Performance Ladder and therefore think it is nice to set a good example themselves," explains Schouten.
More importantly, the CO2 Performance Ladder provides an important guideline for achieving the CO2 reduction target. “Water boards are already working with the Climate Monitor, but it focuses primarily on sustainable energy. By working with the CO2 Performance Ladder, they make it clear where all CO2 emissions within their own business operations exactly come from, "says Schouten. “It gives a more integral picture. That is important, because as an organization you become much more aware of your own CO2 emissions and what you can do about it. ”
Innovate and collaborate
Both innovation and collaboration are indispensable for achieving the objective, Schouten argues. A good example that illustrates the importance of innovation can be found at Scheldestromen Water Board. The water board is currently investigating the possibilities of using dredged material from ditches for bank protection constructions. Structure mats are generally used for this, which are made of tar. By replacing it with dredging, banks can be protected in a more sustainable way in the future.
If such innovations and opportunities are then also shared with the other water boards, things can happen quickly. Collaboration and exchange of knowledge has therefore always been a matter of course. "A winged statement within the water boards is:" We don't want to reinvent the wheel. " That is why we work together as much as possible in our sustainable ambition, for example also with the certification on the CO2 Performance Ladder. It is simply smarter and more efficient. "
Another important asset is the collaboration with market parties, concludes Schouten. More ambitious steps can be taken precisely by working together and deepening and strengthening the relationship between contracting authority and contractor. “We hope to go further in the future than just putting a tender on the market. Can we, for example, explore a project in advance, together with market parties, to look for opportunities for CO2 reduction? We will focus on this in the coming time. "