The interdependence of water and energy

Have you ever thought that by leaving a light on, you’re wasting water, or that a leaky faucet wastes energy? It’s odd, but accurate.

That’s because water and energy are interrelated. Water is used in all phases of energy production, and energy is required to extract, pump, and move water for human consumption. Energy is also needed to treat wastewater so it can be safely returned to the environment.

C2ES recently hosted a series of webinars (video and slides here) on the intersection between water and energy (sometimes referred to as the “nexus”). The series was co-sponsored by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Participants discussed how the water and energy sectors depend on each other and how they can work together to conserve resources.

How much energy does it take to provide people with safe drinking water and safely treat wastewater? Kristen Averyt, director of the University of Colorado’s Western Water Assessment, says the water sector uses about 13 percent of the nation’s electricity. In some areas, like the Mountain West and Southwest, it’s even higher.

In California, the East Bay Municipal Utility District reports that water-related energy use consumes 19 percent of the state’s electricity – enough to power 4.8 million homes. It also accounts for 30 percent of the state’s natural gas use, and consumption of 88 million gallons of diesel fuel.

On the other side of the equation, large amounts of water are needed to produce electricity. Averyt says a nuclear power plant with a once-through cooling cycle can withdraw up to 60,000 gallons of water from its cooling water source for every megawatt hour, the amount of electricity used by about 330 homes for one hour. A coal-fired power plant with a cooling pond consumes about 35,000 gallons per megawatt hour.

The production of natural gas, an important fuel for generating electricity, also requires a lot of water. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s report The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities, it takes 2 million to 9 million gallons of water to fracture one horizontal well in a shale formation.

So what are energy producers and water utilities doing to conserve?

In some cases, they’re forming partnerships to save resources. The Orange Water and Sewer Authority in North Carolina is working with Duke Energy to review use, rates, and service contracts. Together, they have saved money on energy use by a wastewater treatment plant and on standby power generation.

In San Antonio, Texas, CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System, which are both city-owned but independently managed, are also working together. Each utility is largest customer of the other. Since the 1960s, they have cooled the city’s power plants using wastewater, rather than drinking water. CPS Energy’s Doris Cooksey says as a result, the city has had enough water for power generation even in times of drought.

Other companies are also taking steps to cut water and energy use. American Water, which provides drinking water and wastewater treatment to about 14 million people in 30 states and parts of Canada, is cutting its energy use by replacing aging motors and pipes. The company is also installing solar panels, which likely use less water to generate electricity. American Water’s Suzanne Chiavari says the solar applications produce about 3.7 million kilowatt hours per year, avoiding 2,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually in the process.

Learning about the relationship between energy and water helps us to understand how our own daily activities affect these important resources. By using water wisely, we can save energy – and vice versa.

CCS projects see progress

Three recent announcements signal important progress toward greater deployment of technology to capture and store carbon emissions that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere. CCS technology can capture up to 90 percent of emissions from power plants and industrial facilities and is critical to reducing climate-changing emissions while fossil fuels remain part of our energy mix.

One piece of good news came when NRG Energy announced it has begun construction on the Petra Nova Project in Texas, where an existing coal-fired power plant will be retrofitted with carbon capture equipment. The Petra Nova Project will be the world’s third commercial-scale CCS power project, following the nearly-completed SaskPower Boundary Dam project in Saskatchewan, Canada, and Southern Company’s Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi opening in 2015.

Once it starts operations in 2016, Petra Nova will capture up to 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, 90 percent of its total emissions. The CO2 will be sold for use in enhanced oil recovery. Revenue from using captured CO2 to coax additional production from declining oil fields provides an important financial incentive for carbon capture, and results in the eventual permanent storage of the CO2 underground.

Petra Nova’s investors include JX Nippon, a Japanese oil and gas company; the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and Mizuho Bank. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the project a $167 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

It was also encouraging news when the United States and China announced this month that partners from both countries have agreed to collaborate on several CCS projects. Under one agreement, Seattle-based Summit Power and Huaneng Group, China’s largest power generator, will share lessons learned from developing two commercial-scale CCS power projects. These include Summit’s Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP), a proposed coal-fired CCS power plant in West Texas that DOE also selected for Recovery Act funding, and a similar project Huaneng is building in China.

Coal currently provides 39 percent of electricity in the United States and 78 percent in China, where its use is expected to grow. U.S. and Chinese leaders hope these partnerships will help both nations further CCS deployment.

Finally, the White Rose CCS Project, a coal-fired CCS power plant in the United Kingdom, is set to begin construction after receiving a €300 million grant (approximately $400 million) from the European Commission’s New Entrants’ Reserve (NER) 300 program. NER 300 funds clean energy projects, and White Rose is the first CCS project recipient.

White Rose’s project partners, including National Grid, Alstom, BOC, and Drax, envision the facility laying the groundwork for a much larger effort. White Rose will capture up to 2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, but pipelines and storage infrastructure will be designed to accommodate 17 million tons of carbon dioxide per year from other capture projects in the region.

These projects are important milestones, and will be instructive to future projects. The involvement of multiple nations, private companies and investors in these projects underscores the importance of CCS in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Cost remains one of the major barriers to deployment, but as more commercial-scale CCS projects are completed, costs will fall, allowing the technology to become more widely adopted.


Applying the Energy Service Company Model to Advance Deployment of Fleet Natural Gas Vehicles and Fueling Infrastructure

Applying the Energy Service Company Model to Advance Deployment of Fleet Natural Gas Vehicles and Fueling Infrastructure

June 2014

by Matt Frades

Download the full paper (PDF)

This paper explores the opportunity for using ESCO-style service contracts to advance investment in natural gas vehicles by fleets. Starting with a brief overview of the ESCO market, this paper explains how ESCOs reduce barriers faced by energy efficiency and cost savings projects, presents case studies that demonstrate how some of the features of ESCOs are being employed in cutting-edge NGV fleet projects, and explores how these features could be incorporated into innovative business models that reduce the barriers to NGV fleet project investment. 


Matt Frades

Webinar - Water for Energy and Energy for Water: Innovation and Effective Stakeholder Engagement

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. EDTView slides here.See video here.


Webinar 3: Innovation and effective stakeholder engagement on water and energy issues

July 24, 2014
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. EDT

Involving other stakeholders or partners for a water-energy project often leads to insights, innovations, and/or greater efficiency. In this third and final webinar, speakers from American Water and East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD; California) discuss how they leveraged stakeholder involvement to address water-energy challenges and implement innovations. 

Suzanne Chiavari, Engineering Practice Leader from American Water, will describe some of her organization’s recent work in using renewable energy technologies, and how they’ve engaged community partners to establish greater integration across their resource management activities. Clifford Chan, Manager of Water Treatment and Distribution at EBMUD, will talk about two projects with multiple stakeholders that have helped the utility to implement its energy management strategy.

View slides here.
See video here.

Risky Business report shows need to act on climate change

You expect a business leader to keep a close eye on the bottom line and to act when a threat is clear. As C2ES and others have noted, it is increasingly clear to many business leaders that climate change is a here-and-now threat that we all -- businesses, government and individuals -- must address.

Today’s “Risky Business” report lays out in stark numerical terms the likely economic impact of climate change on U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy. The initiative – co-chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer – brings high-profile attention to this issue in the hopes that highlighting the risks and potential costs will help spur action to manage the impacts and curb climate-altering emissions.

The report’s outline of the many costs of climate impacts is likely an underestimate. For example, the impacts of diminishing groundwater are difficult to calculate and are not included.

Climate Solutions: The Role of Nuclear Power

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m, National Press ClubNuclear power supplies more than 60 percent of zero-carbon electricity in the United States. The unexpected retirement of five nuclear reactors is prompting concerns that additional closures could make it tougher to meet U.S. climate goals. C2ES releases a new brief examining this emerging dilemma and hosts a discussion with government, industry, and policy leaders.

Nuclear power supplies more than 60 percent of zero-carbon electricity in the United States. The unexpected retirement of five nuclear reactors is prompting concerns that additional closures could make it tougher to meet U.S. climate goals.

C2ES releases a new brief examining this emerging dilemma and hosts a discussion with government, industry, and policy leaders.

Monday, April 28
9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m

National Press Club
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor
Washington, DC 20045


Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
and Former EPA Administrator

President, Entergy Wholesale Commodities

Senior Vice President, Federal Government Affairs, Exelon Corporation

Chief Commercial Officer, North America, AREVA, Inc.

Senior Adviser, Analysis Group

President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions


Water for Energy and Energy for Water: Challenges and Opportunities for Utilities

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.Webinar 1: An overview of water/energy issues from national and federal perspectivesSee video here. View slides here.

Webinar 1: An overview of water/energy issues from national and federal perspectives

May 8, 2014

2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET

Dr. Craig Zamuda from the Department of Energy (DOE) will present key findings from DOE’s recently released water/energy nexus report, attempting to distill some of the key issues and risks of which water and electric utilities should be aware. Dr. Kristen Averyt, Associate Director for Science for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Director of the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado, will present her research regarding water-energy challenges that exist currently and are on the horizon.

See video here. View slides here.

States look to “green banks” to leverage private investment in clean tech

Clean energy and energy efficiency can save wear and tear on the environment and climate, but sometimes it takes money to take action. And in a time of tight government budgets, where will that money come from?

A new and growing solution to this energy finance problem is called the “green bank” or “clean energy bank” -- government-created institutions that help facilitate private sector financing for clean technology projects. States have used a variety of tools and incentives over the years to promote technology deployment. Green banks put many of the tools used to encourage private investment in one place.

Connecticut was the first state to open a green bank in 2011, and the idea is catching. New York opened a green bank in February. California state Sen. Kevin De Leon has proposed creating a green bank in his state. And U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) plans to introduce legislation to establish a federal green bank.

Green or clean energy banks can leverage a small amount of public money to significantly increase private investment in clean technologies. This leads to accelerated deployment of solar power, energy efficiency upgrades, and other clean technologies without creating a large burden on public budgets.

Three lessons from climate leaders

Charting a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be a challenge. Changing the perceptions and habits of employees, customers, and stockholders isn’t easy. But if done effectively, it can bring award-winning results.

Fifteen organizations and two individuals received Climate Leadership Awards for driving climate action and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The awards are given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), the Association of Climate Change Officers and The Climate Registry.

Awardees came from a wide array of sectors, including finance, manufacturing, retail, technology, higher education and local government. They included C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council members IBM and Johnson Controls, who were honored for achieving aggressive corporate greenhouse gas reduction goals.

At the Climate Leadership Conference in San Diego, three award winners shared key strategies that could help others take action.

Accounting for scientific uncertainty in a dangerously warming world

Most people at some point develop a “Plan B” – in case their first choice of college doesn’t accept them, or it rains on the day of their planned outdoor party, or the deal for the house they wanted falls apart. The same principle applies for more dire situations, such as a city having plans in hand for an orderly evacuation in case of a large-scale disaster. We hope such an event will never happen, but the mayor had better be prepared in case it does.

In a commentary today in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, three colleagues and I discuss the need for a “Plan B” for climate change: How will we cope with increasingly severe climate impacts if we are unsuccessful in limiting global warming to a chosen target?

In the 2009 Copenhagen climate accord, countries set a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above the average global temperature of pre-industrial times. However, given that the planet has already warmed by 0.8 °C, additional warming is already locked into the system, and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, this “Plan A” has become increasingly difficult and may become impossible to achieve if widespread emissions reductions do not begin within this decade. A maximum warming target is a necessary goal of climate policy, but what if our efforts fall short?

Some voices in the environmental community will feel that asking this question is ceding failure, but I disagree. Instead, it means admitting that we can’t perfectly foresee the future and that we need to be prepared for surprises. This is called risk management and everyone from parents, to mayors, to companies, to the U.S. military uses risk management every day to cope with uncertainty.

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