Reducing energy use is widely seen by Water utility firms as being good for the bottom line, as well as good for the environment. Water and energy are deeply intertwined. Meeting energy needs requires water, often in large quantities, for mining, hydropower, and power plant cooling, and energy is needed for pumping, treatment, and distribution of water and for collection, treatment, and discharge of wastewater.
The Water industry is energy-hungry. Over 10 billion litres of sewage are produced every day in England and Wales. It takes approximately 6.34 Gigawatt hours of energy to treat this volume of sewage – to put this into context that’s almost 1% of the average daily electricity consumption of England and Wales.
It is clear that if companies want to minimise their energy costs and seriously reduce their carbon footprint, then first they have to reduce their energy consumption.
So we need to ask why it is so challenging in this digital age for Utilities companies to reduce their energy burden. For example, we know that higher prices and higher levels of volatility are standard features of today’s energy markets, as both world news events and speculator driven activity increasingly influence future prices. Should we not have the ability to protect against the inevitable price increases through smart purchasing? At water treatment plants, the largest energy use (about 80%) is to operate motors for pumping. Energy efficient organisations have an overarching energy framework that helps identify and quantify energy optimisation opportunities to reduce consumption and cost.
In addition to energy conservation there is a major drive towards renewables. European Union climate change legislation is now a UK reality, requiring 20% of energy production to come from renewables by 2020. Water companies are looking at what scope they have for investing in renewable energy, either through using their own landbanks for generation or through capturing energy as part of the treatment or pumping process through solar, wind generation or alternately hydro turbines.
Beyond savings, energy efficiency delivers benefits around corporate social responsibility, employee motivation, improved sustainability and a secure base of economic activity. Depending on the respective products and value chain position, energy-efficiency products and energy-efficiency services can also make for improved offers and even new business models.
Energy efficiency is an option today, but it’s likely to be a necessity very soon.
The relationship of water and energy is ageless and continues to evolve. With increasing energy demand from growth and service enhancement, it is increasingly important for Water Utilities companies to manage increasing energy prices and maximise value from its water and waste water assets. At one time, corporate executives considered energy and environmental concerns secondary to – or even a deterrent to – running a profitable business. Not anymore! Most firms recognise that economic success is intertwined with environmental responsibility, and nowhere is this more evident than in energy use.