Reducing Energy Use
American Water proactively seeks to implement measures that increase efficiency, conserve energy and water, and reduce waste. In addition to maintaining a regular schedule of assessments and audits to ensure our facilities are compliant, we are taking steps to ensure we use resources more sustainably.
To support this, there are four key areas where we focus our efforts, specifically to:
Water Pumping Efficiency
The vast majority of energy utilized by water companies is consumed to pump water. At American Water, we estimate that approximately 97% of our electricity consumption and 90% of our greenhouse gas emissions are the products of the water delivery process, which includes pumping water from its source (ground or surface water systems) to treatment and storage facilities and on to customers. In 2008, we utilized 1,218 gigawatts of electricity at a cost of $96.8 million dollars, of which 97% can be attributed to pumping.
Research has shown that the average “wire-to-water” efficiency of existing “in-field” water utility pumps is about 55%. New installations are designed to achieve efficiency ratings of between 76% and 82%. American Water sees this as a major opportunity for the water industry to decrease its carbon footprint, and has submitted a Climate Leaders Partners Goal Proposal to lower our greenhouse gas emissions per the volume of water produced by 7.5%.
The Goal proposes to increase our pumping efficiency by 8.4%, thereby decreasing our corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5%. Improvements will begin in 2011, which is the first fiscal year following the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of our goal, and end seven years later in 2017.
American Water is currently conducting a pilot project to evaluate the potential savings of incorporating high efficiency lighting technology at our facilities. The two lighting audits conducted to date have found opportunities for improvement, including the use of motion activated light switches and high efficiency lighting fixtures. These opportunities will be pursued, although lighting accounts for less than one-half of one percent of American Water’s electricity use.
Demand response is a program where electricity customers agree to reduce their electric consumption during peak events or times of energy usage. This commitment by energy customers helps avoid blackouts on the electric grid, and ensures that fewer new generation plants will need to be built to cope with spiking energy demand during peak times. American Water participates in this program through its subsidiaries in New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Long Island.
American Water is evaluating options for expanding the use of renewable energy within its operations, especially where state and federal incentive programs make it cost-effective to do so.
In 2005, New Jersey American Water installed the state's largest ground-mounted solar electric system at its Canal Road Water Treatment Plant (link here) in Somerset, New Jersey, as part of the company's energy savings initiative. The system, which can produce up to 730,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year, supplements 20 percent of the peak usage power needed to run the plant.
The project also translates into environmental benefits. Reducing energy usage by 585,000 kilowatt-hours a year prevents 1,577 pounds of nitrogen oxide, 4,875 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 699,856 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Climate Technology Cooperation, this savings in carbon dioxide pollution is equivalent to planting 94 acres of tree seedlings or preserving 2.6 acres of land from deforestation.
American Water also purchases “green” wind power for its Yardley, Pennsylvania (see below) water treatment facility. Over the past twelve months, the company purchased 1,400,000 kilowatt-hours of wind power saving approximately 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted to the air.
Yardley Water Treatment Plant Operates with “Green Power”
More than four years ago, Pennsylvania American Water committed to operate its Yardley Water Treatment Plant with 100 percent pollution-free, wind-generated electricity.
The 6 million gallon a day (MGD) facility, which serves more than 12,100 customers, enrolled in PECO WIND in June 2005. This environmentally-friendly wind power option generates electricity utilizing state-of-the art windmills. As a result, each year, the company purchases 1,603,200 kWh of green power. This is the environmental equivalent of planting more than 119 thousand trees or not driving 1.5 million miles each year.
Benefits to the Environment
In November 2005, Pennsylvania American Water received a “Green Power” Award from the Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) for converting to wind power.
“We have found that we are able to effectively run our treatment plant and maintain customer demands while saving precious resources,” said Jeff Chamberlain, production superintendent, Pennsylvania American Water. “This benefits our customers, the environment and the company.
In addition to using wind power, the company also took a closer look at how and when it uses electricity. From this, adjustments were made in plant operations and certain activities were scheduled during off-peak times. This resulted in a cost savings for Pennsylvania American Water, which ultimately benefits our customers through cost avoidance, and it helped to balance out the load demands for the power company.