Transnet launches Carbon Calculator application for customers to calculate their carbon emission savings

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

<p>Transnet’s mobile application enables customers to calculate their carbon emission savings for commodities transported via rail instead of road (Source: Transnet)</p>

Transnet’s mobile application enables customers to calculate their carbon emission savings for commodities transported via rail instead of road (Source: Transnet)

South Africa’s state-owned freight transport company, Transnet, has launched a mobile application which enables its customers to calculate their carbon emission savings for commodities transported via rail instead of road. The Transnet Carbon Calculator application, launched on the 13th of August 2015, is the first of its kind in the South African goods transporting sector. The application provides all Transnet freight rail service users with instant rail versus road comparative carbon emissions data and their carbon savings percentage, when choosing to use rail transportation for long haul, heavy freight. Mr Sherman Indhul, Transnet’s Executive Manager of the Planning and Sustainability Unit explains that “the Transnet Carbon Calculator is a great tool which will bring about a shift in the transport sector, while giving customers a chance to see how they are making a difference and are impacted.”

Demand for an emissions savings calculating application

Indhul explains that in 2013 Transnet was approached by one of its major customers who expressed an interest in calculating their scope three carbon emissions savings from using rail rather than road transportation for their freight. Transnet realised that there was a growing demand from companies with an interest in gaining access to such data and information, and recognising their corporate responsibility role, initiated the application development process in 2013. The development of the application also aligns with Transnet’s Climate Change Strategy where one of the focus areas is supporting and promoting the use of rail services as a more energy efficient alternative to road transportation. Rail transport is considered to be more energy efficient, cleaner, safer, cheaper, and a more reliable freight transportation system which minimises road congestion, pollution, carbon emissions and business costs. “The application therefore aims to encourage a road-to-rail shift among long-distance freight transportation services users,” explains Indhul.

Development of the application

The Carbon Calculator was developed by Transnet in collaboration with the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) based at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). By combining the strong technical and Information Technology skills of the two institutions, an efficient and easy-to-use application was successfully developed, providing customers with a user friendly and mobile alternative to obtaining valuable carbon emissions data.

How the Carbon Calculator Works

The application allows users to select the type of commodity to be transported (eg. maize, chemicals, timber, coal etc.), the points of origin and destination, and the weight of the commodity. The application then calculates the average road and rail distances, the emissions per transport type over that distance in tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), and the emissions savings if rail is used over road (See screenshot of the application below). 

Transnet’s Carbon Calculator Application Interface (Source: Transnet Carbon Calculator Application)

Benefits of using the Carbon Calculator

Indhul explains that the Carbon Calculator is a useful tool to assist companies with reporting on their carbon emissions, “The Carbon Calculator was developed with the aim of adding value to the market and promoting forward thinking within the long haul freight transportation industry. Transnet customers can use this application to their advantage by using such data to showcase their actions in reducing their Scope three emissions,” explains Indhul. “Customers can use the data to assist with disclosing their emissions to voluntary reporting systems such as the Carbon Disclosure Project. With the South African carbon tax set to be introduced next year, it will be compulsory for certain companies to report on their emissions. This application will be a great asset when this comes into effect,” adds Indhul.

Public reception and way forward

Indhul stated that the application has been well received, “the general reception for the calculator has been favourable thus far, indicating great and progressive thinking in both the business and NGO space.” Regarding the way forward, Indhul explained that Transnet is excited to see how the application can be further developed to explore additional benefits for both their customers and the company. “The reception from our customers has indicated the great opportunities which exist for this application going forward, including the development of new and updated methodologies,” he adds.

The application is available for free downloading from the respective Android, Apple and Windows Application stores.

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