As cash-strapped utilities look for ways to save money, some savvy water executives are hoping to streamline the inefficiencies in their energy bills as a way to rein in costs.
That’s the strategy underway at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which supplies water to about 1 million people. “An energy savings project being done by the [the utility] is expected to create 129 jobs, $42.7 million in household income and $3.4 million in state tax revenue during the next two decades, the water board said [this month]. During the 20-year period, the measures are expected to generate $56 million in energy savings,” Pacific Business News reported.
The utility, the largest in the state, is also looking to conserve energy by changing certain protocols. That includes replacing lights with energy efficient options, using photovoltaic systems at 30 sites, and upgrading to energy-efficient air conditioning at three facilities. The utility said it is also installing energy-efficient pumps in four major production wells and installing power factor correction equipment at pumping sites.
The utility reached a $33 million deal with Noresco LLC in March focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. The deal guaranteed enough savings over two decades to pay for the contract. The goal is to reduce the utility’s electrical usage by nearly 10 percent.
“The project is being financed by a loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund that’s managed by the state Department of Health. The loan will be paid back by the $3.3 million annual savings in energy costs during 17 years after the implementation of various measures,” Pacific Business News reported.
A report on the state of the water-utility industry by the consulting firm Black & Veatch called energy efficiency a "bright spot of innovation" in the water industry as utilities learn to do more with less. Still, it is not always easy for utilities to find pathways to save energy.
“Many utilities have high aspirations to move towards energy neutral operations, but barriers are plentiful. Costs to overcome legacy technology limitations, changing customer behaviors and variances from demographic calculations are among the key factors that impact the flexibility of existing water infrastructure systems,” the report said.
Image credit: "electricity," Stanislav Sedov © 2016, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/