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Using the Energy-Water Nexus to Build Better Programs


October 2, 2013 - 4:32pm
By Rachel Young, National Policy Research Analyst

In the pursuit of new and more significant energy efficiency savings, ACEEE has published several reports outlining some of the innovative ways utilities can help their customers reduce energy waste through program design and new technologies. We have also started looking at the relationship between energy consumption and other natural resources such as air pollution and water use. Demonstrating that energy efficiency can help us achieve other objectives, such as emission reductions and water conservation, not only helps make the case for energy efficiency but it also allows us to partner with a greater breadth of organizations and companies. Both of these strategies are the focus of a new ACEEE and Alliance for Water Efficiency report, Saving Water and Energy Together: Helping Utilities Build Better Programs. The report outlines areas where water utilities and energy utilities can design and administer programs together to achieve greater water and energy savings.

Water and energy are inherently linked, intersecting on both the supply side (electric generation and water/wastewater facilities) and the end use side (residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors). This intersection is commonly called the “energy-water nexus.” Efficiency programs that save water will also save energy and vice versa. If utilities recognize this intersection and work together on joint programs they can achieve greater savings and take advantage of a host of additional benefits:

  • Joint water- and energy utility programs can help make efficiency measures more cost-effective through sharing expenses and staff time.
  • Water utilities and energy utilities have relationships with different manufacturers and retailers. These relationships can be leveraged to increase market penetration of programs and technology.
  • Energy utilities and water utilities can work together to ensure that savings opportunities are not missed.
  • Dual water and energy audits, rebate programs, and education and outreach efforts reduce the number of times utilities knock on doors, increasing convenience for customers and lowering costs to utilities.
  • Joint programs can help increase knowledge of the relationship between water and energy through advanced tracking, metering, and evaluating.

Though experience with jointly run water and energy utility programs has been somewhat limited, there are several program areas where collaboration would be mutually beneficial. This new report profiles programs in the residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and municipal (water/wastewater) sectors that would be good candidates for water utility and energy utility joint programs. Utilities can take advantage of the benefits of joint programs by “just adding water” to current programs and expanding their objectives, as well as developing and implementing some of the program approaches recommended in this report. Across all of the sectors there are ample opportunities for water- and energy utilities to design and administer water and energy saving programs together.