Winners of the Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge 2023

Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing, has announced the winner of the Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge 2023.

An innovative project between three Victorian water corporations to find greener alternatives to concrete won the major climate change prize.

The winning project – a collaboration between Yarra Valley Water, North East Water, and Barwon Water – focuses on finding low-carbon cement alternatives for water industry applications.

Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Pat McCafferty, said cement is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Cement, a key ingredient in concrete, is responsible for about eight per cent of the world’s carbon emissions – that’s far more than global emissions from aviation,” Mr McCafferty said. 

In the water sector, concrete is used extensively for building pipes, water tanks and treatment plants.

Low-carbon cement alternatives could reduce emissions by up to 50 per cent.

“Tackling our construction works’ carbon footprint is one of the biggest innovation opportunities for the water sector to reduce emissions,” Mr McCafferty said.

The winning project was awarded a $30,000 grant to identify and examine the suitability of low-carbon cement alternatives for use in water industry applications. The initiative aims to expedite the integration of low-carbon cement products within the water sector, potentially becoming a blueprint for the water industry globally.

Leading the project team are Dr Lisa Ehrenfried from Yarra Valley Water, Hayley Vinden from Barwon Water, and Dr Jill Fagan from North East Water.

Dr Ehrenfried, Manager Resilience & Liveability at Yarra Valley, said everyone must share a responsibility to lower Victoria’s carbon emissions.

“Our project isn’t just about cement and construction; it’s a game-changer for the environment.

“By pioneering low-carbon alternatives in the water industry, we’re leading a vital charge against climate change. The world is currently off track to 2.5 degrees Celsius warming, so it is crucial we reduce carbon emissions wherever possible.

“It’s about redefining norms, reducing emissions, and paving the way for a more sustainable future for generations to come,” Dr Ehrenfried said.

Ms Vinden said, “We’re encouraged to think big and make a positive impact on the water sector, and this project will do just that to help reduce the industry’s carbon emissions.”

Dr Fagan said, “Through this project we hope to catalyse low-carbon cement uptake in the water industry and influence uptake more broadly across other regions and industries.”

Video of Ms Shing announcing the 2023 winners is available here.

Featured image: Winners of the Minister’s Climate Innovation Challenge 2023. Courtesy of Yarra Valley Water.

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