When it comes to the race to net zero water, Water UK leads the charge. Not only did it set ambitious goals, but also in a quite timely manner: the routemap leads to 2030! The cherry on that cake? It’s not only about “net zero.” They’re before and above all aiming for a GOOD one.
with 🎙️ Maria Manidaki – Net Zero Technical Lead and Principal Water Investment Planning Advisor at Mott MacDonald
💧 Mott MacDonald is a global engineering, management, and development consultancy, that places social outcomes at the center of all it does.
What we covered:
🧭 How social outcomes are a north star to guide all carbon actions
🌎 How the full concept of a good net-zero outgrew carbon neutrality and global warning for the better
🍃 How the outcomes of COP 26 might still not be clear enough as to how to roll out the new carbon normal
❌ How leadership is the X-factor in succeeding or failing the net-zero transition
🦶 How wastewater treatment direct emissions may soon represent 60% of water companies’ footprint – and what to do to mitigate it
💸 How to adapt procurement strategies to enable carbon strategies
🧑🏫 How to educate this generation of professionals (and the next one)
0️⃣ Net Zero as a new paradigm rather than a fancy, fresh thinking, collaboration platforms, new standards, and frameworks, zooming out before you zoom in, achieving 2030 objectives with 2050 in sight… and much more!
🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥
Teaser: a Good Net Zero
🔗 Have a look at Mott MacDonald’s website
🔗 Check Water UK’s 2030 Routemap
🔗 Come say hi to Maria on Linkedin
is on Linkedin ➡️
One Pager: a Good Net ZeroOne-Pager-Maria-Manidaki-Mott-MacDonald-Water-UK-PAS-2080-Towards-a-Good-Net-Zero
Quotes: a Good Net ZeroQuotes-Maria-Manidaki-Mott-MacDonald-Water-UK-PAS-2080-Towards-a-Good-Net-Zero
Table of contents
These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂
Get Season 2's Summary!
Antoine Walter: Hi, Maria. Welcome to the show.
Maria Manidaki: Hello. Hi. Good to meet you. Thank you very much for inviting me.
Antoine Walter: Um, Really looking for the discussion. I know I’m seeing that quite often on that microphone, but here I have to say there’s a lot of riddles. I think you will be able to answer. Before, all of that, you know, I have a tradition on that microphone, which is to open with a postcard and you’re sending me a postcard from Athens.
So what can you tell me about Athens, which I would ignore?
Maria Manidaki: right. Okay. Yeah. So yeah, this morning I’m speaking to You from Athens. So I’m Greek and I’m based in the UK working with McDonald’s, but happened to be here this week, combining a little bit of holiday and a couple of days of working before I’m off to Madrid next week for the summit.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned you, you working for Mott MacDonald , right. I don’t want to butcher your job title, but you’re a net zero technical lead and principal war, investment planning advisor. What does that encompass.
Maria Manidaki: What does it mean? Okay. So essentially for people that the note to understand what this means, my background, I’m an engineer. . And I’ve worked in my early career years as an engineer, a designer and doing some construction of water, utility projects and wastewater. Some, a technical person, I have a technical background.
And in the last, I would say 10, 15 years, I’ve been more on the technical advisory space where I help infrastructure, clients plan their capital program. So that’s where the investment planning fits in. So it’s about how do you make the right decision going forward for a solution? And then the net-zero technical lead is because I’ve been in the decarbonisation space for many years now.
And in the last few years I’ve been focusing in helping our clients of how to align themselves to net zero. Really?
Antoine Walter: Decarbonization is really what we will be exploring in a minutes. And you say you’re in the decarbonization space and I put that in the fridge because I’d like you to explain a bit. Describe as that space, but right before, you know, when I was doing my research, I was looking at McDonald’s website and I’ve seen that.
There was a strong purpose on the cover page, which was to say you want to improve society. And I’m wondering if you really walk the talk
Maria Manidaki: Yeah, absolutely.
Antoine Walter: the social outcomes in everything.
Maria Manidaki: Absolutely. I mean social outcomes. If you think about it when it comes to climate change net zero environment and social outcomes, all these things are fundamental for a society to function in a respectful and organized way. Obviously social impact and inclusion. Are increasingly becoming part of our standard vocabulary in the infrastructure engineering sectors, because traditionally in us engineers were seen as this person who is doing some technical calculations for a project.
Then there you go. but I would say in terms of walking the talk that essentially. When you plan for anything being in the water energy transport built environment sectors, you need to really understand the impact on the users of these assets that you have. And hence understanding how an engineering solution can be as inclusive as possible in a community, but also.
Having the right diversity in the teams that deliver that project. Now, when it comes to net zero how the hell does this feel? Does this fit all this? If you ask me, I don’t see decarbonization and carbon as only one extra thing we need to be considering, Net Zero. hopefully by 2050 globally, we’ll be an operating environment.
So if you think about it, every activity, every sector of our economy globally, hopefully depending how we follow the Paris agreement, then the challenge will have to fit into this net zero constraint and operating environment. And that’s why I feel those two things are very much interlinked.
Antoine Walter: Actually talking of net zero and to really go into our deep dive. There was a concept, which I found again on the website from McDonald’s, which I had honestly never seen before, which is that you strive to achieve a good net zero. So it’s not just net zero, which is just a challenge for many you’re sitting on top of that.
It needs to be a good net zero. So what is a good net?
Maria Manidaki: Yeah, this is again, this is a very interesting and very challenging question. I mean, if you ask me exactly the same question last year, I would tell them. There isn’t any definition of net zero, because a lot of people use the concepts of carbon neutrality and net zero interchangeably.
So essentially, if you think about it, if you don’t take into account the latest policies and definitions, net zero is just the balancing act of saying, oh, I’m going to emit as little as possible and the rest I’m going to offset or sequester it’s removed from the atmosphere. So that’s the net zero, and you could achieve that in different ways.
For example, a government, and we saw in cop 26, many governments, said I’m gonna achieve a net zero by 20, 70 or 2050, but there hasn’t been any clarity of steps they have to take. To achieve those reductions before they upset. So for me, this is not a good net zero, because if you take it cumulatively, you might have emitted so many emissions by 2050, and suddenly you’re down to offsetting everything.
When it comes to good net, zero is about following good science, according to the Paris agreement trajectories and say, what can I do to take some steps and reduce. As much as possible, those emissions and as birthing you S PTI definition of net zero, who’s came out just before cop 26. You’re essentially looking at reductions over 90% of your baseline by 2050, before you offset the remaining 10.
Good and bad. It’s always difficult to define, but the important message here is that it’s not a simple equation, just carbon neutrality or net zero. So the net effect is zero is more than that. And we have to do as much as possible to reduce and eliminate and avoid those emissions. Before we accept that a will base a small amount of residual emissions to remove from the atmosphere.
Antoine Walter: It also fits with another piece, which I’ve found on that same website. I mean, I had a good read on your website about the investment opportunity, because I remember I had a discussion on that microphone with Claudia Winkler and Alice Schmidt, and we were discussing how the United nations had made an estimation of the business opportunity of sustainable development.
And they were saying that it’s a 12 trillion. Opportunity Worldwide’s which it’s roughly 10% of the World’s net worth. And I never saw that as a strategy to net zero or two carbon initiatives. And you’re saying that we can shift the narrative and say, instead of talking of cost benefits, rather talk of an investment opportunity.
And again, I’m wondering how do you do that?
Maria Manidaki: That’s another tricky one to clearly define because it’s recognizable from an economic studies that have been made the rounds to climate change and climate, the cost of adaptation in the future and the cost of mitigation, which is the decarbonization. The earlier it happens, the less severe effects.
We will have on the economy. So if you look at the cost benefit analysis from a whole life and long-term perspective, then suddenly it makes much more sense to take action now and invest something. Now. Because in the future is going to be more expensive. This is one angle of looking at it. However, when you look at the investment community where they’re thinking in more shorter term investment cycles, compared to the more longer term, country-level kind of decision-making that are still some policies out there linked to decarbonisation, especially with energy transition where different governments have made it even more attractive.
To accelerate private sector, investment action and invest in some of those, the carbonization technology, particularly with clean energy. So there are two sides of the coin, really? I really prefer to see this as an investment opportunity because as I said, net zero, is not the next new thing.
It’s an operating environment. And the action of the more action we take already, the less are going to be the consequences and the costs in the future where, and we’re going to have more resilient infrastructure, other co-benefits. I’ll give you an example. If you want to say, you know, everyone is talking about nature-based solutions, for example, in the infrastructure space.
Why do we need to consider nature-based solutions or green infrastructure rather than. The traditional gray infrastructure, because those solutions, if we manage to make them work, technically they provide the other co-benefits like resilience, climate resilience, benefits, or, they can prevent some accelerated flooding surfers flooding in the future, or they can provide some amenity value for the local community.
So it’s all about looking at the different opportunity out there to make sure we include in our investment planning.
Antoine Walter: So for the ones listening to that if you’re interested in nature based solutions, I was involved last year in the innovate for city UN conference, and I have made on that microphone, three interviews. James Murray from the city council of Glasgow Sylvana DiSabatino and Macbeth. So just I link them in the notes because you’re right.
It’s fully related. It’s about replacing gray engineering with green engineering one-to-one and then look at the welcome side effects, but I won’t sidetrack you here. You mentioned policies and you’re working for McDonald’s in the UK. From continental Europe point of view, it’s interesting, intriguing, refreshing and really questioning too, to see how the UK leads to charge.
Why did they take that role? And w what’s the ratio of.
Maria Manidaki: If you think about it, the man may have been involved in different parts of.
the world when it comes to decarbonization infrastructure, not only in the UK, but one of the things that I remember I was involved back in 2013. I’m not sure if you are aware of the infrastructure carbon review was essentially a document that publication that Mott MacDonald authority.
I was part of the sorting team. It was published by the treasury and back then. It said essentially it was started at that CEO level. People saying that carbon or greenhouse gases should be looked as a good proxy for resource efficiency. And if that’s the case, then it makes absolute business sense.
To come up with the right innovations and innovative solutions, rather than just waiting for some main policy drivers, et cetera, because back then it was all about the energy transition, which is the most important obviously aspect of the carbonization. But then if you look at other sectors like transport, which has huge amount of emissions, especially when it comes to building big assets and using the cars and the roads, et cetera, you know, how can we look at carbon as a proxy for resource efficiency?
To accelerate the agenda going forward. And there is a mentioning this example is because this required a significant amount of leadership and those leaders, those CEO level people, and. The ones who believed in that concept and taking a proactive step forward, managed to create some sort of a ripple effect going forward of what is the right thing to do as a business, as a private sector business, because don’t forget them that UK infrastructure.
Is privately owned mainly with very good regulation models that of course protect the customers and the environment. But I feel that is something that you gave where I saw. Quite a lot of action being taken accelerated action. Now doesn’t mean that the UK is the best model globally.
If you asked me what is the best model, I would say there isn’t a single best model, but what I’ve seen from my experience on the ground, working with a different value chain members and infrastructure from government regulators, asset owners. Product material suppliers, designers. I saw that they recognize those softer aspects of the carbonization, which is about leadership, collaboration you know, and possibly date.
There was a piece of work that came out of that.
Antoine Walter: the market structure is an enabler. If I keep my content, your hats, I would say if it’s a resource efficiency topic, being an Island’s maybe plays a role, but you’re saying it’s also a matter of leadership and you do have the right leadership in place, which is Stan creating the.
Maria Manidaki: For me. Yeah. The leadership is the most important thing because yeah, I’m an engineer and of course my bias would be, oh, as long as you have the right technical solution, you can achieve that. But it’s not about that. It’s all those softer enablers at the.
organizational level. How do you create the culture of challenge?
Because net zero and climate resilience require really fresh thinking So that we’re talking about. It changed management program at massive scale, not only in our educational system, but all the organizations across the value chain that work in this space. And how do you make a start on that? Well, by having the right leadership at all levels in the organization, and then obviously up to governments, regulators, finance, community, et cetera.
Yeah. So leadership, I would say I’m an engineer and I totally value science and technical solutions. They’re hugely important to become part of the solution. Sometimes when things fall apart are because we don’t have that idea, their super governance to accelerate implementation with these things.
Antoine Walter: So far, we were discussing about 2050, which is the word Stargate towards net zero, but you’re also a member and one of the authors of the net 0 20 30 roadmap, which is published in the UK. I’m wondering, why do you want be 20 years faster than anyone?
Maria Manidaki: Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. That’s a very interesting story. I mean, yeah. So I was involved in supporting Water UK with the sectors net zero roadmap for 2030, and how they started was that what the company is in England. So in the UK we have and. English what the company is. We have Welsh water.
We have Scottish water, Northern Ireland, Walter Case, a little bit different, but what the company is in England, they published a public interest commitment back in 2019 that they will be net zero and net zero industry by 2030. And. Part, and this was for that operational emissions. Yeah. The emissions that can directly control.
And this was part of another number of commitments to the public, to the customers. Basically they’re users of water as part of their social license to operate. And this was a very different. The ambitious challenge, but this was a result of leadership. And when we went to start working with all the water companies and understand how practically can we make a plan that is flexible enough, but there is an alignment to net zero operational emissions by 2030.
You could immediately see quite a lot of challenges because not all of their missions, what the companies have are directly controlled by them. You know, you have the pace of the carbonization of the grid. You have other factors how the costs of electrified vehicles or the hydrogen market is moving. At the time I remember I found it though, this is very challenging, but then I realize moving on from that was 20 19, 20 20.
And going back to last year at cop 26 I realized that the beauty and the most important value of this plan and the bold announcement the sector did for 2030 was that this essentially accelerated the need for action. Because if you suddenly say, I’m going to do things on 2050, and I’m going to include all those emissions.
And that is a vague statement, somewhere out there, the chances are, you’re not going to do a lot of actions. Now, if you think your target is 2050, whereas if you have 2030, at least your operational emissions, that is 2030, you have to really push the boundaries to do something and then include your other scope, three emissions, et cetera. .
Antoine Walter: That’s very interesting. So thanks for going into the details. I mean, that’s where we understand the full implications, in your answer, if I unpack it a bit, it’s not just water. I mean, you named hydrogen, you need electrical vehicle. So I think it’s a bit broader than that.
how do you bridge all these aspects beyond just water?
Maria Manidaki: This is why I wanted to revisit the point. I mentioned earlier that when it comes to decarbonisation, it’s, a systemic problem, to systems level challenge. So you cannot just say, oh, I’m a what company. So I’m only gonna look at my emissions associated. Let’s say with my.
The process submissions like nitric oxide or methane from my wastewater operations, you know, cause these are direct emissions that I have. I’m consuming electricity, I’m consuming heat. You know, I’m going to see your main fossil fuels for my son by generation for my feet. Yeah. My, my sleds tankers, et cetera.
So all of these things belong in inverted commas, into other infrastructure sectors and require decarbonisation trajectories and action by other sectors. But the whole point of bringing it all together is to have the right evidence space, to have proper discussions and with very high level people in regulation and government, in other sectors of it, asset owners, to see how we can collectively in the system level, address this challenge as quickly as possible.
Antoine Walter: it’s zooming out before we zoom in. If if I try to.
Maria Manidaki: It’s the same. It’s the same thing. If you are like, you know, like you and me as a citizens, basically in any country in Europe, in, in any contractually, we’re saying, okay, so what is. Is that what that is the things that I can do. And what does the things that I can talk to other people that I can influence, not only for the carbonization, but other things as well.
And suddenly you realize that on your own, you cannot do a lot of things. So that means you need to create the right networks, the right communities, the right platforms to.
have. At collaboration in this space, because whoever says net zero is an easy task and I’m going to do it on my own, being an organization, a government or whatever that may be.
I don’t find this very credible.
Antoine Walter: so when you mentioned the, these bet firms, for instance, does that mean that you have like working groups at what UK or in the net zero route map? How’d you come together with the rest of the value chain?
Maria Manidaki: Absolutely. So what are you gave? I’ve got many working groups for specific topics. That is one, of course on Carbone, one on resilience, one regulation, and many others. You have the UK water industry research body where all water companies sit together and do some research projects, ambling to decarbonization that.
Platforms with a supply chain from British water that our international peer to peer discussions like we’ve been, and that’s the beauty in Mott McDonald because we operate at a global scale. We have also managed to facilitate quite a lot of these dialogues with our clients in the UK, with other clients, in New Zealand and Singapore, you know, in other parts of the world.
And yeah, the whole point is to share the.
learning and See, what has worked, what hasn’t worked for each other and yeah, it’s a collaborative process based care.
Antoine Walter: So once you have these learnings and you put them together, I guess one right way to to enforce them is to turn them into policies.
Maria Manidaki: It’s clear actions. Absolutely. So if you look at the roadmap, the net zero roadmap, obviously it’s you for a refresh because things have moved on. Quite quickly since it was first published. I remember it was the first sector route map on its kind, we were basically creating new ground.
But yeah, so when it, and what it did do it tried to put all the little pieces of the puzzle together from a technology. Policy other enabling environment, supply chain costs other things into a number of pathways to net zero. And what are the key actions that are under the direct control of the water companies that are more in an influence role for the supply chain or regulation or the government?
That was the result. And they use that as a blueprint for companies to create their own detailed action plans.
Antoine Walter: Yourself. You’re also involved into the writing of frameworks and standards, her rights, because you’ve been contributing to the PAS 2080 update. So really you noticed the way I said it’s that I was reading my notes here. is 2080?
Maria Manidaki: Okay pause as we call it. .So PAs is essentially a publicly available specification, which is a step before. Document becomes a standard, you know, like we have the European British standards ISOs. Yeah. And that he’s done for, or being a positive called the pause is that there’s a little bit quicker to be published and it ha it can be revised after a few years more easily, rather than.
Having, when you probably say nice, or for example, or a Brit standard or a European standard, it can take years to publish. And then it’s a little bit locked until the next revision, which could be many years on the line. So PAS 2080 , we first co-authored it in 2016, it was the first specification or standard.
If you like to. To be a management standard for carbon, whole left carbon and infrastructure. And so it wasn’t a technical standard, you know, like you have concrete steel standards, et cetera. So it was all about saying what is a common language and a framework for different value chain members in infrastructure.
To manage whole life carbon when they’re delivering infrastructure projects and programs of work. So, you know, so what do you do? You need to set targets. You need to have the right leadership and governance models. You need to quantify carbon. You need to integrate into decision-making to make sure the lowest carbon solution is there.
And this year we are updating the specifications and it’s quite a major update. Because we, they say a year, the Paz recognizes the why that the built environment is not only infrastructure and the importance of net zero at the system level, which is requires more and more collaboration across the value chain and the different sector space key.
So it’s a management specification.
Antoine Walter: that was the zoomed out view. I’m going to look at my belly as the water industry and zoom in and zoom back in. You mentioned that you have to look not only at your own emissions, but nevertheless, in those own emissions, they are parts of our processes, which are pretty intensive in terms of emissions.
And usually we talk about the pumps on the network. Energy-intensive we talk about the Iration in the wastewater treatment, which is pretty energy intensive, but you highlighted another area. I mean, on top of those, which is the emissions of the processes and you hinted a bit with NOx emissions, you just alluded to, but what are those emissions?
And could you quantify.
Maria Manidaki: Yeah, of course. So the process of missions, when we refer to the presentations, we’re talking about the mainly nitric oxide, then me thing from wastewater treatment and sludge treatment. When it comes to methane, I will start with. Easy, relatively easier methane. That isn’t for the easy bit is because we understand them better.
Those emissions is that we know that wastewater is, have done quite a lot of things to capture the methane and use it as a resource. Yeah. For biogas or by me, Fein that has a better Arbonne balance. So essentially a renewable. Okay, but that are, see leaks in the pipe, work in tanks where you have slots. So how do you capture those when it comes to night or sock size?
These are emissions from the wastewater treatment process. You mentioned a secondary treatment duration, and these are missions where the science is not very clear because they’re very location specific. For example, they are affected by seasonality, by temperature where the treatment plant is, which country in the world.
There is some guidance on the, their missions factor. If you like from a VAT PCC where the UK, what that industry has been using. And now they have started monitoring in specific plants in the UK, learning from Europe, especially Denmark and other parts of the world we’re doing , in New Zealand, Singapore as well.
They’re starting to look at those things to see how we monitor in a plant with sensors. What those emissions are, where they are, how they vary based on the load, the season, the location. And when you say, when you asked me how big those are early site and early results could mean that those emissions by 2030 could be for a water company.
60% of their whole emissions as their electricity grid is the carbonizing and they adopt other renewable energy. So this could be more than half of their emissions in 2030 and going forward. So these are, this is one of the biggest challenge when it comes to direct emissions for a wastewater utility.
Antoine Walter: So, what do we do about it?
Maria Manidaki: there are many things you can do about it. that mean, obviously you need to measure it to understand exactly how big they are. But if we put that on the side, that are things, very normative things that also were involved in this space and along with others An easy thing to do. So when it comes to monitoring and modeling, understanding the scale and magnitude location that are digital tools and digital models that are being developed, understand how you can do it in a more digital way, rather than spending money to put sensors in the hub, the entire country, when it comes to.
Avoiding or reducing or capturing those. There is a thing one could say, is that okay? So yeah, just cover all the wastewater tanks in the country and just capture those Knox’s and do something with them. But then this would be, this would cost billions and billions of miles. And if you did it for the entire country, yeah.
It wouldn’t be the most cost-effective thing for the consumer. I would say that. The author bill, but there are solutions you can do to optimize operationally optimize the plant by looking at the dissolve oxygen, looking at the energy consumption, looking at the impact on process emissions.
There are some small tweaks you can make. The deductions are smaller that are technology swaps. You can switch to anaerobic waste water treatment? Or can you look at other technologies in your secondary treatment process, et cetera, et cetera. So there are ways, obviously we haven’t found a way yet to.
Reduce them by a hundred percent. So we recognize this is a big challenge and a massive innovation challenge for the sector. And the supply chain will be key to helping find the right solution going forward.
Antoine Walter: So that means that the new realm of net zero and the good net zero might be the end of the road for our good old workhorse of the water industry of the waste water treatment industry, which is the activity sludge?
Maria Manidaki: Absolutely. And you know what, then it’s very interesting because all the process engineers I’ve met and worked with big firm McDonald or other partners and companies, you know, because it’s all about working together and it’s about, oh, wow. We need to really rethink how we design and operate our plants because.
Traditionally, it was all about compliance and minimum energy consumption. Now we need to add another layer without of the Knox’s. Absolutely. And it’s very interesting and technically challenging. So that’s why we really need to look at this problem in a more systemic way and make the most of any digital tools, sound science we have and solve this problem together.
Antoine Walter: We’ve been exploring so far, the framework, the way you go to the problem from a country perspective, from standards perspective, how you work with the value chain. But that’s not everything you do. You’re also involved with the practical side of the story and you’re helping utilities actually decarbonizing.
I’m wondering, did you identify so far best practices that you can share and pitfalls that everybody’s shall avoid?
Maria Manidaki: Yeah. I mean, there are so many practices because apologies if I repeating myself, but yeah, when it comes to Praxis for the carbonization, it’s not only just tell you, oh, just look at this technology to produce hydrogen or eh, a meeting, you know, by aggressive, by methane or renewable energy.
Use this treatment process because it’s better for emissions. It’s not only about that. That are very good practices where, what this have tried to understand the carbon footprint of their operations and how they use this data to. Integrate this into the investment planning approach to meet the targets.
This for me are some very good practices that we have seen in the UK, from water companies, where in a more systematic way, following the principles of PAS 2080, you say, this is my target for emissions and that zero operational emissions. Some other companies also have some very challenging scope 3.
Targets the capital carbon, you know, the construction carbon associated with assets. Then having the tools in place to quantify this as part of the delivery process, where they’re refurbishing infrastructure or planning for new infrastructure. And how do you make the right decisions when you choose between option a and B.
From a carbon perspective. This, I know it sounds very basic, but it can be very hard to apply across the board in an organization on top of the technical and technology solutions.
Antoine Walter: I wouldn’t say it sounds basic. I would say it’s really interesting because what you’re highlighting is that the first good practice is leadership and managing practice.
Maria Manidaki: That’s it. That’s it!
Antoine Walter: And it’s going to be tempting. You know, we are an industry full of engineers. You’re an engineer, I’m an engineer. We could be jumping to conclusion that the, Hey let’s look at the technical solution and it’s the opposite.
Let’s zoom out. And so that’s.
Maria Manidaki: Exactly. Exactly. That’s why I, you know, but I would love to talk to you for the next hour or two about renewables, about desalination, about alternative fuels, about all these technical things, demand side solutions, electrified vehicles, but I’m trying to resist doing that because I feel the culture, the leadership that decision-making are key.
And if you were to ask me what you have seen. As the biggest challenge to all this I would say is how do you integrate this consistently across your entire organization and your supply chain through procurement? Because procurement is going to be one of the most important enablers, right? Going forward.
And I feel as an industry, not only in the UK, but across the world, we are lacking innovative procurement models that incentivize the right behaviors for decarbonization.
Antoine Walter: So you mean procurement going beyond cost reduction and looking bit broader at what’s the challenge we have.
Maria Manidaki: Absolutely. And I’ve seen some great pockets of excellence, like in New Zealand with water care, I’ve seen in the UK with Anglian water, with other water companies, some good procurement mechanisms where they have.
a pain gain share model. If you like. And Carbone is part of the decision-making process for procurement and selection, but not only the other sector, I’ve seen it elsewhere.
But if you ask me in terms of maturity of infrastructure, when it comes to decarbonisation good practices, I would say procurement would be one that we need to really improve in the past when data update, we’re touching on procurement as well.
Antoine Walter: If I take my devil’s advocate hotspot for a second, I have a hard time to imagine a procurement departments like, like, like looking at cost, which is one of their criteria, maybe delivery time, which is one of the criteria and carbon, like exactly the same level. Those are the three criteria. I really doubt that’s the case today.
Maria Manidaki: Of course, and this is why it’s so important to have the right procurement model. First of all, you know, when a lot of what I’ve seen in not only in water, transport owners as well, when they say, oh, I want low carbon, but they never asked for low carbon in the contract. So how do you expect your designers, your contract.
Deliver low-carbon but for you. Yeah. So you have to start with the basics. Even before you go into complex commercial models where you put the weighting in carbon versus cost versus financial penalties or rewards, before you even do that you need to ask, you need to fully articulate your challenge as an organization and not ask for low-carbon that you have to meet this target.
You need to get on board, your supply chain and select your partners that will help you with this challenge. That’s the starting point. And what’s you’re describing and on you’re absolutely right, but this is a level down when it comes to. Okay. What is more important? Capital costs, whole life costs, capital, carbon, operational carbon, you know, other factors, but this is about developing a framework to see how to live with as open and flexible as possible, the procurement model.
So it incentivizes the right behaviors for me. This is the thing that we need to move towards still, rather than. The majority of transactional procurement relationships with currently have in the supply chain industry.
Antoine Walter: that means that this leadership and management and where you look at it is both a best practice and a
Maria Manidaki: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s it. And again, I know you would love, and maybe they’ll dance would love me to go through more details on technologies and cool things on decarbonization. I would love to do that, but I really feel, I want to take a step back and put that as one of the biggest challenges. The culture and the leadership.
Antoine Walter: framework, is it part of PAS 2080?
Maria Manidaki: Yeah. So PAS 2080 day to this time, because we recognized we did an industry review. So I also sit in the green construction board in the UK, which is essentially a government and industry body for construction and the built environment and carbonization basically. And one of the things we did that an industry review of progress of the carbonization you can for structure.
And one of the things we found out. Procurement had the lowest maturity. So this time around this year, we are including a new clause on procurement that provides more guidance and in the guidance document for people to start thinking, okay, how can I start with integrating carbon into procurement?
Antoine Walter: If I look at all the pillars we’ve explored so far, there’s the last one, which we didn’t cover so far, which is education. And actually there as well. You’re lecturing at the Cranfield university.
Maria Manidaki: Yeah.
Antoine Walter: Education is something which is somehow a bridge between multiple member of the panel. We will have at the global water summits.
So it’s something which sounds like being a recurring theme. How would you rank it in terms of importance across all those factors?
Maria Manidaki: First of all, my heart has always been close to young people and education for me, education, not only the capitalization, but in everything is the most important pillar for a well-functioning society. If you think about it from kids at school to university, To throughout the life. So yeah, I have been very fortunate to be visiting lecture every year in Cranfield.
And also I’ve done other lectures in other universities and work collaborating with students. One of the things that I’m very passionate about is, cause I remember when I was a student in university where the carbonization didn’t even exist as a word or maybe sustainable development. Closest thing to climate change back then it was called global warming.
If you remember, anyway, I’m very passionate about education on young people and what I’ve tried to do when I work with these people and you know, doing a lecture or a talk or whatever it may be is to show what their role could be. In solving this challenge in a practical sense, because you know how in universities, we have some amazing academic institutions globally.
And sometimes we go into too much theory. Of course, you need to understand the basics. You need to understand the mathematics physics. These are absolutely important things on the science. They were a huge important of science, but then what does this mean in practice in society? How could the water engineer or a chemical engineer or another civil engineer, what would be the role they could play to solving those challenges with other engineers and non-engineers social scientists, you know, other scientists and ecologists, et cetera.
And. One of the most important things that I feel passionate about, and I will keep doing that because I feel we need to give people a little bit of an inspiration of what does this mean based on the modules that are learning in a university in the real world.
Antoine Walter: So that’s a huge brick in the wall with a university. But you mentioned also education throughout life. And I’m wondering, you know, if we want to achieve our targets by 2030, we will need to have the actual workforce today out there in all the companies to be aligned and educated to everything.
You just explained this for the past 40 minutes. So I’m wondering how do we reach.
Maria Manidaki: Yeah. And Dawn. So one of the things in the front of my mind, I would say I, in general about climate change also decarbonization, but the resilience as well is the skills gap. And we need to make sure we need to understand and when to make sure we acknowledge that we need new and different and evolve skills for everyone, all of us, including me, including You including everyone in the summit, that will be there.
And to do that, we need to recognize that every day is a school day. Yeah. This landscape is changing so fast. I mean, I can see, as I mentioned earlier, when we were. Alternating them. What did he gave? 2030 plan back in 2020. Things have changed dramatically in a couple of years time, and we need to make sure we keep on top of agendas.
We need to make sure we keep talking to each other. Being competitors, being partners, being universities bank, you take this government. We need to make sure we embark jointly. Solid research projects in order to make sure that by 2030, we will have a different way of looking at the industry and infrastructure.
How do we, for example, now we tend to think of projects at projects in silos, or have to deliver this wastewater treatment plant or this pipeline or this reservoir, you know, as an example in the water sector, this hydrogen facility, but, by 2030, I would like to think that. We’re thinking about outcomes, so I need to provide water to the users, or I need to protect the environment with a constraint of net zero resilience of other things.
How can I solve this problem more holistically with digital tools, with circular economy principles, with system level and. Challenges and dialogue. So when it comes to education, we really need to make sure we keep talking to each other and create together the next new thing. So we’re all up-skilled together.
Our clients, ourselves, our partners, our competitors, I’m sorry for the long-winded response. But for me, this is one of the things that is in the front of my mind, the skills shortage in this space.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned 20, 30 as the obvious horizon at which we have to check. If we achieved it. What’s your north star metric or your key performance indicator, which will tell you it is a success by 2030?
Maria Manidaki: Yeah. So one of the things, that’s a very good question. Actually. One of the things that we’re trying to do in the water sector, in the UK, especially the water companies in England, is that we need to recognize the 2050 national target because in the UK. In other parts of the world, they have a 2050 Paris aligned target for net 0 20 30 target.
As I said this for operational emissions. So we need to make sure that we achieve the level of reductions by 2030, then how many more reductions we can achieve by 2050 by including our scope three emissions. And what would the residuals look like? So the north star are some metrics that the water sector.
Has been developing. Yeah. And its company have their own, obviously because they have their own action plans. But the north star is never lose sight of the 2050 by trying to reach 2030, but 2030 is a great milestone to accelerate the action. Yeah. And there are metrics in place to meet those. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: What has been a fascinating exploration on the surface and all those topics. You went a bit deeper into it, but I feel like we can have like 10 hours and
Maria Manidaki: I know.
Antoine Walter: a lot of magic to share. So I’d say it’s a part one and we’ll have to make a sequel at some points to go a bit deeper in all those topics.
But it’s been a fascinating inspiration. Maria propose you to run that often to go to our rapid fire questions.
Maria Manidaki: Okay. Go for it.
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Rapid fire questions:
Antoine Walter: So in that last part, I tried to keep the questions short and your duties too, to keep the answers short. And I’m never cutting the microphone. Don’t worry.
Maria Manidaki: Okay. Go for it.
Antoine Walter: What is the most exciting project you’ve been working on?
Maria Manidaki: Oh, that’s a difficult one. I don’t like singling out my clients and partners, so. Okay. If there was one, I would S I would try to group a few into one category, which is in the UK. Story. And the line from the infrastructural carbon review in 2013, that led to the development of that also influenced them the collaborative behaviors for inspiring some other companies to take lead and have the sector level roadmap for 2030.
And the reason why. This line of projects, if you like is important is because it showed me as an engineer that it’s not only about the technical solutions is about having the great science and engineering to have a data-driven plan, but that leadership and collaboration.
Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you’ve learned?
Maria Manidaki: Oh I would think the hard way. Yeah. It’s just to make sure we adopt a flexible approach again in net zero in decarbonisation climate change things, nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future. So I have learned the hard way of trying to stick to a certain trajectory and things that will happen in five years time or 10 years time or 20 years time.
But it wasn’t really right. So it’s the importance of having flexible pathways to whatever you’re doing.
Antoine Walter: Is there something that you’re doing today in your job that you will not be doing in 10 years?
Maria Manidaki: well, if you had that, we felt was back in my engineering designer days. I would tell you, oh, digital is booming. So maybe the job when I’m designing something. An artificial intelligence kind of algorithm will do it for me. But as a technical advisor, I think I will be empowered by having lots of predictive analytics and data from machine learning to help him make better decisions rather than spending a lot of time analyzing and forecasting into the unknown, I think.
Antoine Walter: What is the trend to watch out for in the water sector?
Maria Manidaki: I think you’re building on what we’ve discussed previously. I think it’s a combination of digital circular economy and synergies at the system level. And co-benefits with society and nature. It’s not only just look at engineering as an asset to, you know, a concrete tank or a technology. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: If you were a world political leader. What would be your first action to influence the fate of the words? What a challenges.
Maria Manidaki: wow. Right. Okay. I would say this one, it’s a tricky one. I would say maybe two or three things. One is about people in education. You mentioned education. I would make sure that all of this. Issues and problems and challenges are embedded fully from in the educational system. From the age of four, I would say that perhaps I would try to influence the current economic system.
We have to become a little bit more circular because it’s all about linear did the big growth and we’re treating the environment that climate as an externality, which doesn’t really help much. And maybe as a last one, I would say. I will try and test any water policies or environmental policies against the net zero criteria or climate criteria.
Because at the moment I see a huge disconnect in different parts of the world, between policies that are there to protect the environment when it comes to river, for example, what they’re called or ground water, what the impact of those improvements into their missions by building new assets? I think I will do the very difficult things.
Yeah. Not one person could do these things, But yeah, these are my initial reactions.
Antoine Walter: But there is also opening doors of which I would love to sidetrack you into, to go deeper into, without I extend my points. That’s a part one. I’d love to get a deeper.
Maria Manidaki: Yeah.
Antoine Walter: Mary has been an awesome guest and I always like to have awesome guests on that microphone. So last question. Would you have someone to recommend me that they should definitely invite.
Maria Manidaki: Oh, I couldn’t single out one single person. I can immediately think like 10, 20, 30, 40 people that are amazing people from asset owners or. Partners consultants, contractors that, you know, I really feel that you need to speak to as many people as possible. I can give you a list separately if you want, if you can invite some very inspiring people I’ve been working with, maybe if you were to be brave enough, if you were to have one single person, it would be maybe a prime minister or.
Top political leader to really test their understanding of these things in a practical level. I’m not, I avoided your question,
Antoine Walter: I’ll try it.
Maria Manidaki: but yeah, more than happy to give you actually a list of many people that are amazing and have been very fortunate to work with in the industry. What are they.
Antoine Walter: If people want to follow up with you after that very meaningful conversation, where shall I redirect them?
Maria Manidaki: Well, they can first of all, they, you can find Manara on our website as well, but you can always find me on LinkedIn, Maria Manidaki I’m there. You can drop me a line Maria dot com and yeah, more than happy to get contacted and have a chat. Of course.
Antoine Walter: I’ll put all the links in the show notes, because I was personally surprised to see that Mo McDonald has a website called like, you’re the cool. Shop, you know, even the name is
Maria Manidaki: of course.
Antoine Walter: really cool. Yeah. Something I didn’t ask you in between the PAS 2080 years is something we can find online.
Maria Manidaki: Yeah, actually, it’s a very good point. You mentioned. So the past 20, 80, we’ll go out for public consultation at the end of this month. So. In any part of the world will have the opportunity to provide feedback. And we’re aiming to publish in the autumn in this year together with a more practical guidance document, but it has good stories from different parts of the industry.
Yeah. So it’s not the UK thing. It’s, you know, it can be accessed and used by other people. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: Okay, then I follow that one. And as soon as it’s out and have a very interested read on my
Maria Manidaki: Oh, God. Yeah. Great.
Antoine Walter: Mary it’s been a pleasure. I think we’ll meet physically very soon in, in Madrid for the global water summit. So I’m looking forward and thanks a lot for sharing all those insights.
Maria Manidaki: no, that’s great. Thank you so much for the invitation. I really enjoyed it!