Achieving water security through a resilient energy network
Water utilities are very energy-intensive businesses. They require large amounts of power to move water around their networks and operate water and wastewater treatment plants to provide clean water to customers and process sewage safely back into the environment.
Energy usage makes up a large proportion of a water utility’s costs. It is imperative that these utilities understand their energy related costs – not just their consumption bills, but the sustainability costs, the infrastructure maintenance costs and the customer experience costs, as well as how these costs affect their operational and capital expenditure.
While focus is often on energy bills, the biggest costs and opportunities for water utilities lie in the efficient operation and maintenance of electricity infrastructure to ensure delivery of their regulatory obligations.
Electricity resilience is crucial to the delivery of water to customers and protecting the environment. The consequences of the failure of high voltage electrical equipment and power outages are far more significant than just losing power.
Power failures can result in untreated wastewater entering the environment, which can have a devastating effect on the local ecosystem and the local community. Serious pollution incidents in the UK were up 7.5% in 2018 (56 incidents). A number of recent incidents meant water utilities had to pay fines worth millions of pounds. Failures can also affect water pressure and interrupt supply throughout the water network, leaving residential and business customers without water supply for extended periods.
Active management of electricity infrastructure assets is the best way to build resilience and reduce costs. When working with our clients, we focus on increasing the productivity of their electricity assets, reducing their energy infrastructure costs, decarbonising their electricity infrastructure and enabling them to realise their electricity infrastructure as a strategic asset. One of the first things we do is support our clients to establish a comprehensive understanding of their assets. This information is crucial to developing an effective asset maintenance strategy.
An optimised asset maintenance strategy enables water utilities to pre-empt problems, and balance their asset replacement and maintenance cycles so they don’t have unexpected maintenance work and cost peaks. This advanced planning will also optimise their asset lifecycle which can prolong the life of their assets by years, reducing replacement costs, and wastage.
Remote and automated management of the network through SCADA can also minimise the contact time of teams, which will improve the safety and allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An optimised strategy also plans for the best use of system technology for early detection of faults and weaknesses. These are critical to identifying and preventing serious issues like partial discharge, which can lead to catastrophic system failure.
Smoothing the peak of energy consumption, and reducing network failures leads to better commercial outcomes. Additional benefits include a reduction of total expenditure, increased regulatory compliance, lower risk, improved customer satisfaction and of course, a more sustainable business with fewer environmental incidents.
We support our clients to take a long-term approach to optimise their electricity infrastructure and ultimately deliver their commercial and sustainability ambitions. Considering a strategic approach to managing their electricity assets now, ensures they can easily adapt their strategy as further innovation opportunities emerge and their business requirements change.