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Implementing A Sustainable Energy Efficiency Improvement Program at DC Water

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Operating pressures faced by utilities require both an increased focus on fiscal responsibility and cost reductions, combined with higher and ever increasing levels of environmental quality standards. This puts a greater pressure on utilities to improve their operational efficiencies and optimize the performance and operation of their facilities, saving energy and making the utility more environmentally sustainable.

Implementing a sustainable energy efficiency improvement program starts with an energy audit, conducted for DC Water, one of the largest municipal water/wastewater utilities in the US. An energy audit is a process typically used to evaluate a utility for efficiency improvements, and to identify savings opportunities. Savings can be significant and payback periods very attractive. In this project annual savings of over 3M with an average payback of approximately 5 years were identified. However, achieving the desired results starts with developing an existing baseline for current energy consumption.

Following the audit, the development of an implementable, prioritized energy management plan is critical. This plan must include “low to no” cost energy savings measures which can be implemented quickly. This will not only result in almost immediate decrease in the energy consumption, but will also generate positive publicity in the organization that can be capitalized upon to begin the cultural change process. Concurrently, more extensive energy savings opportunities are identified and developed. While these are more capital intensive and sometimes complex projects, the potential annual savings can be much greater.

Performing the audit and developing the energy savings plan are only the first steps in the journey of improving a utility's energy efficiency. A successful energy management program must go beyond implementation. Continuous improvement provides a utility with the ability to sustain the program moving forward.

The adoption of an energy savings mentality and the embracing a culture of continuous improvement begin with the technical findings. The technical finding must quantify the potential savings and outline a tactical plan on how to move these measures forward. However, the organizational change is also a cultural change, which starts with the message being clearly articulated at the top, as DC Water has done, and being embraced throughout the organization, particularly on the front lines where daily decisions can impact energy consumption. It also requires a passionate advocate for change, the individual that keeps the possibilities in front of the group and challenges them to improve. In the case of DC Water, this is the Energy Manager.
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Keywords: Energy audit; energy management plan; organizational change; project prioritization

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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