Although rain falls freely from the sky (except in California, but that is a subject for another post), water utilities consume a lot of energy doing things like pumping water into water towers.
According to the Alliance to Save Energy, energy is among the top three costs borne by water utilities, often coming second to labor. In developing countries where labor costs are low, energy is usually the highest utility cost.
Energy consumption related to water production, distribution and consumption include
- Pumping from wells, streams, lakes and oceans
- Desalinating salt water
- Operating treatment plants
- Pumping to and from water towers and across elevation zones
- Maintaining proper pressure in pipes
- Heating and chilling water for end use
Driving down energy consumption lowers costs for water utilities and their customers, plus provides the related energy utilities with additional kilowatt hours to meet other growing demands.
You can reduce costs by optimizing production and distribution according to the forecasted supplies of water and energy. Because energy prices are dynamic, varying the time that you treat and pump water makes a difference. The fact that water is much easier to store than energy also creates opportunity. You can produce, pump and store water while rates are low, and then distribute it later.
This sort of optimizing requires analysis of current and forecasted supply, demand and cost of both water and energy. Other relevant factors include the weather and the relative elevation of water production, storage and consumption sites. Pulling all these data sources together into a predictive solution that provides actionable insight requires analysis across time, territory and network, a substantial analytical task at which situational intelligence excels.
The Alliance to Save Energy presents several case studies of energy efficiency for water. One example comes from Pune, a city of more than 3.5 million people in India. By focusing on energy efficiency, the Pune Municipal Corporation reduced their energy consumption by 3.8 million kWh per year. That produced annual savings of $336,000.
Capital is often in short supply for water utilities, especially in the US, so the annual savings are certainly welcome. As a bonus, energy efficiency measures also allowed Pune to deliver 10 percent more water without adding any new water production capacity, saving further capital. For a utility, that’s almost like cash falling from the sky.