Danfoss, a leading manufacturer of high-efficiency electronic and mechanical components and controls for air-conditioning, heating, refrigeration and motion systems, co-hosted a workshop, Water-Energy Future, with the Alliance to Save Energy and the Water Environment Federation.
The event convened 40 thought leaders from government, manufacturing, consultancies, industry associations and advocacy groups in a collaborative setting to discuss policy, financing and technology barriers, opportunities, and solutions in the water and energy space.
To set the stage for the workshop’s discussion, Brian Castelli, executive vice president for programs and development at the Alliance to Save Energy, noted that energy consumption and water loss in most water and wastewater systems could be reduced by at least 25 percent through cost-effective efficiency actions.
Dr. Barry Liner, director of the Water Science and Engineering Center for Water Environment Federation, also underscored the importance of efficiency by highlighting the Federation’s objective to drive wastewater utilities toward resource recovery, stating, “Wastewater treatment plants are not waste disposal facilities but are water resource recovery facilities that produce clean water, recover nutrients (such as phosphorus and nitrogen), and have the potential to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels through the production and use of renewable energy and the implementation of energy conservation.”
Dr. Holmes Hummel, senior policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Policy & International Affairs, lauded WEF’s leadership and cited the importance of investment in infrastructure.
“Public utilities have unique challenges with access to funding. Two billion dollars of low cost capital are available to states and half have not been issued,” according to Dr. Hummel.
Funding upgrades are critical barriers for financially strapped municipalities
Funding upgrades for outdated infrastructure is a critical barrier for financially-strapped municipalities. Two financing opportunities were explored at the workshop: pension plan investments and performance contracts.
Some pension plans are looking at investments in water and wastewater agencies because they feel that energy efficiency projects in these agencies offer good long-term returns with low-risk investments that are higher than municipal bond interest rates. Performance contracts facilitate investment by having a third-party energy service company (ESCO) guarantee energy savings. Greg Miller, solutions development leader for the Eastern U.S. at Johnson Controls, pointed out that state legislation for performance contracting varies widely, and many states do not specifically identify water and wastewater treatment as an area of opportunity.
Technologies exist today to meet net zero
Advancing these net zero goals, however, is not a matter of accessible technology but rather motivation and incentive. According to Elena Bailey, director of business development for Ovivo Water, technologies exist today to achieve net-zero energy and meet existing water quality regulations, but there are currently no incentives for operators to achieve net zero – their primary objective is to meet water quality regulations.
And there is plenty of room for the improvement of energy use. John Masters, vice president of water for Danfoss, explained that, in the United States, the water and wastewater sector is the third largest consumer of energy. At the same time, municipal water and irrigation account for 90 percent of water usage and water and wastewater facilities use more than 35 percent of total municipal energy use.
Technologies – like variable frequency drives – do exist that can save a significant amount of energy and mitigate water leakage, Masters confirmed, but only about 4 percent of industrial motors use variable frequency drives compared to the potential of 18 percent. VFDs provide variable speed control, which can save up to 20 percent on electrical costs and 30 percent on water usage annually.
Issues and barriers present opportunities for improvement
Following brief presentations, the participants mapped out the issues, and defined solutions and proposals to overcome these obstacles to advance energy and water efficiency, including: standardizing legislations and codes, conducting policy outreach with a common voice among industry stakeholders, improving the permitting process, and defining and articulating both the economic value of efficiency and the value proposition.
The outcome of the workshop will be compiled into a comprehensive report and presented at the WEF Energy Conference in Nashville, Tenn., in May 2013.
For more information, visit the EnVisioneering website: www.envisioneering.danfoss.com