Clean Energy Partnership for Wastewater and Drinking Water Facilities, an Innovations in American Government Awards finalist, presented before the National Selection Committee in 2015.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Partnership for Wastewater and Drinking Water Facilities addresses energy use, costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and air and water quality trade-offs in wastewater and drinking water operations.
Massachusetts municipalities spend $150 million per year in energy treating 662 billion gallons of wastewater and drinking water. Nationally, wastewater treatment and conveyance uses 30.2.billion kilowatt-hours per year (0.8 percent of total national electricity) while drinking water supply and treatment uses 39.2 billion kilowatt-hours per year (1 percent of total national electricity).
The partnership evolved from parallel efforts that merged and expanded to achieve greater reach and impact. The first, begun in December 2007, was a partnership of the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, focused on energy performance in the water sector. Partners in a pilot program included: the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 1 New England (EPA), the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts Renewable Trust, Consortium for Energy Efficiency, and major energy utilities.
Through this partnership, fourteen facilities received energy audits from energy utilities, on-site energy feasibility assessments from UMass Amherst and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Trust, energy performance benchmarking from the EPA, and technical assistance and guidance regarding funding. Designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and energy use by 20 percent, the pilot identified potential energy savings for an average of 33 percent across the fourteen facilities and potential on-site renewable energy generation of over 7 megawatts.
The second initial effort was an initiative of the federal government begun in 1997 at the EPA headquarters’ Office of Wastewater Management, which began testing whether Environmental Management Systems (EMSs), typically used in the private sector, could be used in public operations to improve environmental performance, compliance, and pollution prevention.
In the spring of 2007, the EPA's Office of Wastewater Management and EPA-New England discussed potential areas for continued collaboration around EMSs in local government. Interested in the water-energy nexus, EPA-New England requested assistance in applying the “plan-do-check-act” iterative four-step management method to energy use in drinking water and wastewater facilities. As a result, EPA developed an Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities and supported two initial workshops to gauge interest.
Recognizing the need to increase awareness of energy conservation and the potential for the EPA-New England’s new management method to create long-lasting energy improvements, these parallel innovations merged towards the end of 2007. The agencies’ collaboration was supported by the Global Environment and Technology Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
This innovative partnership focused on concepts, goals, and practices not traditionally recognized in the water sector: the water-energy nexus, goals for “zero net energy,” and application of EPA-New England’s management method to energy. The partnership also looked for and created new ways to leverage the resources of three levels of government, energy utilities, nonprofits, and academia to advance energy projects while also making regulatory and policy changes.
This collaboration (1) reduced energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions; (2) increased the on-site generation of renewable energy; and (3) supported a shift in the water sector’s identity from treatment/disposal to “water resource recovery” facilities that produce clean water and recover nutrients while efficiently managing and generating their own energy. What started as an experiment to gauge the potential for significant energy improvements in the water sector has been successfully used in all six New England states and 15 other states and US territories.