A digital path to sustainability with Bentley Systems
A new year has started amid global economic uncertainty, and some of the trends we expect to see are an increased focus on efficiency as businesses try to do more with less, and progress towards decarbonisation, with digital transformation as the common thread that will drive them forward.
To reflect on those themes, we talked late last year with experts from Bentley Systems at the Year in Infrastructure Conference and Going Digital Awards, to hear their views on the links between the adoption of digital technologies, increasing operational efficiency, and sustainability.
To get the perspective for the water industry, we spoke with Gregg Herrin, Vice President of Water Infrastructure and Sandra DiMatteo, Industry Marketing Director, Water Infrastructure at Bentley Systems.
Smart Water Magazine speaks with Gregg Herrin and Sandra DiMatteo, Bentley Systems
The evolution towards widespread adoption of advanced technologies can be seen in how the projects in the water category of the Year in Infrastructure Awards have changed in recent years: compared to five years ago, when projects may have used one or two technologies, nowadays projects use four or five Bentley technologies plus also three or four technologies from other companies. “We have seen a lot wider adoption of a lot more technology”, said Gregg.
Digital technology can also help improve the resilience of water infrastructure operations to extreme weather events
He commented on the current outlook for investment in digital solutions by water utilities, noting that utilities are pursuing investments to address specific needs, like a need to expand or rehabilitate parts of the utility, or to run their operations better; and they are recognising that using digital tools can help them do that a lot more effectively. “It’s a cost of whole life cycle, whether it is designing new infrastructure in bringing water to locations, or in existing facilities, to improve their operations; we see the whole gamut”, added Sandra.
Digital technology can also help improve the resilience of water infrastructure operations to extreme weather events. The combination of technologies available can help recognize any potential issues. “A lot more sensors are available, they are a lot easier to install, they are more affordable; that becomes one source of data”, said Gregg, pointing out that the data will help you if you combine it with tools to recognise what that means, and to tell you what to do about it.
Taking that data and being able to set alerts based on it is the second part, he explained; this is where digital tools can help you see if the system is behaving outside of what it normally does, identify the cause, and react: “you can identify the different possible actions you can take, what the likely outcome is, and based on that, make a better decision to use in the real word”. And Sandra emphasized, “we are helping utilities to be more prepared, but also, when there is an emergency, to be more resilient”.
We are going to see digital twins become almost a standard of what is expected
Asked about their vision for digital twins in the water and wastewater sector in the next 5 to 10 years, Gregg answered “we are going to see digital twins become almost a standard of what is expected”. He explained that lots of utilities have a GIS system, a SCADA system, and other sources of data, but not a lot of utilities have realised yet how much of a benefit there is in combining that: “we really think that it is going to change in a big way in the next 5 to 10 years”. Sandra stressed that “interoperability is key”, and Bentley software has been founded on that basis of being open and interoperable. She described how interoperability is facilitating the digital twin, breaking down the silos between all the different systems, so everyone has visibility to the data to make better decisions.
Better decisions are key to increasing efficiency, and also boosting decarbonisation efforts. Decarbonisation might be the biggest challenge of our time, and digital solutions can support businesses to move towards more sustainable, less carbon-intensive operations. They empower teams to learn about the impacts of operations on the environment and react accordingly to meet sustainability goals.
Interview with Rodrigo Fernandes, Director, ES(D)G at Bentley Systems
To learn more about how Bentley is helping to build a sustainable world, we had the opportunity to chat with Rodrigo Fernandes, Director, ES(D)G – Empowering Sustainable Development Goals at Bentley Systems. While ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – is an imperative for business, Bentley went further to coin their own term: ES(D)G, which combines ESG with the Sustainable Development Goals and means “empowering sustainable development goals”.
ES(D)G is our most strategic priority for the next decade
As a company in the business of advancing infrastructure through software technologies, Bentley aims to empower sustainable development goals through their products and services, recognizing that infrastructure is not only responsible for carbon emissions, but also plays a role in driving a better response to climate change. “ES(D)G is our most strategic priority for the next decade”, said Rodrigo, and stressed that the handprint or positive impacts of their technologies, through their users, are really important for the company.
An example of this strategy of empowering users to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is the integration of the EC3 tool with the Bentley iTwin platform for infrastructure carbon calculation, as a lifecycle assessment tool for better carbon transparency.
The water industry is increasingly committing to net zero carbon targets
The water industry is increasingly committing to net zero carbon targets, and Bentley’s digital solutions help measure progress towards these targets during infrastructure design, construction and operations. If you are building a new infrastructure, it is possible to start calculating the embodied carbon footprint from the early stages of design. After, when you move to operations, you have tools such as WaterSight to quantify energy and water consumption, which can then be transformed into a carbon footprint. “We have our own tools for quantification, and as much as possible we are establishing partnerships”, noted Rodrigo, adding that for operations “we are a launch partner with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, to address operational challenges”.
By quantifying, you also identify opportunities for reduction; you can establish goals and monitor how you are progressing. Rodrigo commented on some examples of infrastructure projects that have used Bentley’s tools to become more sustainable and resilient, including a company in the Netherlands that was able to optimise their water system to reduce energy consumption and their carbon footprint by more than 30%, through the use of technologies that were levering hydraulic modelling to optimise pumping operations. “These technologies can be used both to decarbonise and to climate-proof infrastructure”, he emphasised.
Companies are increasingly leveraging digital technologies to reach their sustainability targets
Thinking about the future, Rodrigo highlighted the benefits that their technology can provide to address some of the infrastructure challenges of both developed countries and those trying to develop. In the former ones, where infrastructure is in place but is ageing, by reducing energy, carbon and the cost of operations, where technology can help address issues like water leakage. Countries trying to develop have their own needs: new infrastructure and water cycle management approaches that ensure access to enough water for different uses; in this regard, he pointed to the important role of the water-food-carbon nexus, as a theme for the next years and decades.
Lastly, when asked about his role as a European Climate Pact Ambassador, Rodrigo said he focuses on businesses: “I am trying to allow companies to understand that many technologies that are available today can already be used to address many of the challenges they have for decarbonising”. In this regard, he noted that while companies may be looking at alternative sources of energy (e.g., installing solar panels) or carbon offsets, it is important for them to realise they also need to look at their internal processes to become more efficient in their operations, or to adopt circular approaches, in order to reduce costs, energy use and carbon.
Companies are increasingly leveraging digital technologies to reach their sustainability targets. As Bentley Systems supports users in their journey towards becoming digital, learning about their needs and innovating with them, it is promoting a culture of sustainability, with solutions that help users realise infrastructure outcomes that are more sustainable and more resilient. We look forward to hearing more from the company this year as it continues to support the digital transformation of infrastructure.