Utilities can generate significant savings with energy efficiency offerings for wastewater facilities
Most wastewater facilities in North America were built decades ago with little or no consideration given to energy use or energy efficiency. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these facilities can be among the largest consumers of energy in a community, and account for approximately three percent of the nation’s total energy consumption. For wastewater facilities, energy usage represents as much as 30% of the total operating and maintenance costs – meaning that rising energy costs increase overall operating costs. Utilities are recognizing the substantial opportunity for energy savings within this industry segment as well as the cost benefits of both maintenance and materials that energy efficiency programs can deliver for these customers.
For example, a wastewater facility may be looking to upgrade its treatment equipment – a project most facilities will undertake in the next several years due to the industry’s aging infrastructure. Many energy codes now require that new equipment operate at projected 20-year peak conditions. This new requirement means that equipment purchased in 2021 will need to be able to handle 2041 projected peak conditions – even if the current peak level is only 25% of that amount.
To satisfy this requirement, a wastewater facility may choose to purchase one large piece of equipment to handle the full 2041 peak and operate this unit at full capacity for its useful life. However, if the facility purchases four smaller units, it can run one piece of equipment at full capacity to meet the current peak and ramp up the additional units as load increases. The latter scenario still meets the code requirements, and also generates energy and cost savings by only running at the capacity it needs. Through proactive capital project planning, wastewater facilities can consistently decrease energy and operating costs over the long term.
So how can utilities support the energy-saving actions of wastewater facility managers and assist them in getting started with projects? While utilities have been implementing energy efficiency programs for many years, they have an opportunity to offer targeted programs for wastewater facilities. In addition to directly addressing challenges that are unique to this industry segment, targeted programs can assist customers with identifying the most cost-effective improvements and provide technical support for projects.
Important considerations for utilities
To assist wastewater facility managers with energy efficiency improvements – including assessing current operations, identifying equipment or operational upgrades, analyzing energy savings, estimating payback periods, and moving projects forward – utilities should consider incorporating the following elements into their wastewater energy efficiency offering:
- Comprehensive facility assessments – A comprehensive assessment will identify where and how much energy is used in various processes and operations. The findings will help the wastewater facility build a customized project plan for both short-term and long-term projects.
- Energy baseline – The baseline will establish the amount of energy currently used by the facility or system and help to better estimate future energy savings and operational impacts.
- Energy efficiency opportunity analysis – This analysis will use data from energy bills, demand consumption, equipment specifications, water quality requirements, and other sources to thoroughly evaluate project opportunities. The opportunities can then be prioritized by savings impact, operational benefits, and capital investment, and incorporated into the project plan.
- Benchmarking – Facility benchmarking calculates the amount of energy the facility or system would use to meet its water quality requirements if all of the energy efficiency measures were implemented. The benchmarking process provides decision makers with additional data points to support project implementation.
- Internal energy advocates – Energy advocates within the wastewater facility can help to ensure project implementation success and establish a culture of energy awareness. This advocacy can also assist in securing management support and project capital.
- Incentive levels – In order to move wastewater projects from the opportunity stage to execution, utilities need to set incentives at a level that motivates action and offsets a significant portion of the project costs.
When designing a wastewater program offering, utilities need to factor in the specialized equipment utilized, specific wastewater codes and regulations, and the wide variety of energy improvements and solutions that are available to wastewater facilities. As a trusted partner for more than 30 years, Leidos works with utilities across the country to tailor energy efficiency programs to specific customer segments – including water and wastewater facilities. Our team of wastewater energy advisors help utility clients and their wastewater customers realize the maximum benefits of energy efficiency solutions. For more information on Leidos and our energy efficiency services, contact our team.