The Road To Energy Sustainability
Sometimes the hardest part of a journey is taking the first step, especially when the road ahead seems long and difficult to navigate. When it comes to sustainable energy management, many municipalities want to get there, but are afraid to get lost along the way. The landscape is fraught with twists, turns, and uncertainties, prompting many to simply stay put. But what if they had a guide to see them through the organizational and technical roadblocks? Such a guide exists — it’s called the Energy Roadmap.
In March of last year, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) gathered a contingent of nearly 40 experts from the water community to create a “how to” for producing renewable energy while reducing consumption — the lofty upside being energy neutrality, or even net-positive energy. The resulting document, the Energy Roadmap, was unveiled at the Water Environment Federation Technical Conference & Exposition (WEFTEC) in October.
The specific steps it outlines are broad but universal, accounting for the tremendous variation that exists among individual utilities and communities. While it purports application for both clean water and wastewater facilities, the Roadmap puts clear focus on the latter. That stands to reason, as wastewater contains the nutrients and minerals that are essential to energy production and sustainability.
In fact, the paper states that the energy content of wastewater — chemical, hydraulic, and thermal — is, on average, greater than the energy required to treat it. Successful utilization of those resources, however, is complicated — hence the creation of the Energy Roadmap. In addition to charting a course of action, the document provides an understanding of energy sustainability by defining terms, presenting case studies, and laying out the barriers and challenges inherent in the journey.
The pièce de résistance is the Roadmap Matrix, which gives specific, granular direction on how to a) Enable your organization; b) Integrate energy efficiency and generation into your organization’s structure, culture, and technology; and c) Optimize your current processes and procedures. These directives are applied to six categories of sustainable energy implementation:
- Strategic Management (establishing foundational policies and practices)
- Organizational Culture (creating and supporting an energy “vision”)
- Communication and Outreach (bringing together key stakeholders)
- Demand Side Management (reducing energy use)
- Energy Generation (producing renewable energy)
- Innovating for the Future (leveraging new research and technology)
A screenshot representing one of the six layers of the Roadmap Matrix
If you’re not quite there yet, perhaps in the investigative stage of energy sustainability, the Energy Roadmap provides a great preview of the challenges and opportunities that lie on the horizon. The energy and water landscape — the realities of supply, demand, scarcity, and cost — dictates that sooner or later, nearly every utility will be embarking on this journey.