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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Cash for carbon savings


Assuming that it gets the final go-ahead from the Government, the Lower Thames Crossing project will be an important one to watch. National Highways want it to be 'the greenest road ever built' and are incentivising those companies working on it to come up with new ways to cut carbon.


Conceived to relieve congestion on the Dartford Crossing - and eventually allow for maintenance of the tunnel at Dartford - the 14.3 mile route will connect the M25 and A13 in the North with the M2 in the South. It incorporates the UK's longest road tunnel at 2.6 miles.


The three main contractors Bouygues-Murphy, Skanska and Balfour Beatty - who have all now been awarded their contracts - have all agreed to achieve at least 30% construction carbon savings, based on a 2020 baseline. If they achieve more than that, they will be rewarded financially. If they don't make that saving, they will be penalised, although that is unlikely since the 30% saving is said to be very achievable.


All the shortlisted contractors were involved in lengthy dialogue with National Highways before preferred bidders were announced. It was during this time that improvements to the design were made - such as reducing earth works and materials quantities - and significant amounts of carbon saved.


National Highways has said that it believes, given the current designs, that the Lower Thames Crossing could cut 50% from the baseline carbon construction emissions. It could be possible to go further, but above a certan percentage, the cost of cutting carbon starts to rise very steeply.


Meanwhile the Danish Roads Directorate is going further to build carbon into its road contracts. It announced last week that it was to pilot a system developed in Norway which will give bidders who can deliver higher carbon savings at tender stage an advantage. So, every tonne of carbon produced is priced at DKK 1,500 (£170) with the total added onto the bidder's tender price.


Norway's system is slightly different. The bidder with the lowest carbon emissions receives no adjustment to its financial bid whereas the other bidders all have their financial prices adjusted, with 5NOK added on for every kilogram - that's 5000NOK (£360) for every tonne - that their carbon emissions come in above the lowest carbon bidder.


A big benefit for the supply chain of writing carbon saving into the contract, and attaching it to financial incentives, is that it provides them with the certainty they need to invest in new solutions.


Companies such as Thermal Road Repairs have to invest significant amounts to get their low-carbon technologies to market and, without certainty, some struggle to get funding. Without carbon baselines and targets, cutting carbon can be seen as a 'nice to have' rather than an imperative.


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