Wastewater facilities are moving toward creating energy efficient facilities for several reasons. Whether you are rebranding your plant as a water resource recovery facility, or becoming aligned with sustainability - energy efficiency is a key concern with municipalities. We all know energy efficiency isn't just limited to turning on the lights at a facility. Energy efficiency is equally as important in equipment choices, processes, and daily operations. According to the Department of Energy, "Individual wastewater facilities currently consume about five times more energy than is needed to treat their water flow. That energy use is expected to increase by up to 20% in the future due to more stringent water quality standards and growing water demand based on population growth. Reducing energy usage in these facilities can offer significant environmental, economic, and social benefits for local communities."
Wastewater engineers, operators, and public works directors hold the power to establish energy savings through selecting energy efficient equipment, installing green energy solutions, or setting energy goals. Communities who look forward to the future are dedicated to establishing energy resiliency and security, while reducing energy costs have several resources right at their fingertips.
As communities grow and wastewater facilities require upgrades for aging equipment, the federal government, as well as individual states, have developed unique programs aimed at helping our public utilities tap into leveraging renewable energy and rewarding facilities for using energy efficient equipment. The overarching message to communities from federal and state government is "the funding and resources are available; you just need to go out and find it."
Our team at the ICS Group specializes in providing innovative and proven technologies for process wastewater operations. As wastewater technology evolves, we are mindful of the energy consumption of our preferred equipment. Why is this important? Our business wants to promote equipment that will benefit the wastewater facility, as well as the community, by keeping costs down at the treatment plant. It is important that we help communities make the best choice for the community's future regarding their wastewater upgrade. Keeping this in mind, we researched several federal and state resources and programs which are meant to advance energy efficiency and green energy at wastewater treatment plants.
Where do you begin?
The first website to visit is the Office of State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP). "SCEP works with state and local organizations to significantly accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, catalyze local economic development and create jobs, reduce energy costs, and avoid pollution through place-based strategies involving a wide range of government, community, businesses." Office of State and Community Energy Programs | Department of Energy. This program leads us to the U.S. Department of Energy's State Energy Program (SEP), which focuses on funding that is available in individual states.
The State Energy Program (SEP) is a part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). What does SEP do for communities? "SEP provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and increase energy affordability." - About the State Energy Program | Department of Energy. The SEP is a good resource for identifying funding opportunities in your state.
According to the SEP website, "Since 2010, SEP has provided states and territories with more than $540 million in financial assistance."
On the SEP website, you can find program goals, program activities and outcomes, as well as SEP in action. Download a copy of the SEP Fact Sheet to learn more about examples of SEP-funded projects. It is important to note the project from Illinois which focuses on funds used for wastewater and public utilities:
"Illinois is using SEP formula funds to conduct comprehensive energy audits at wastewater treatment facilities. The audits identify the energy, cost, and emissions savings associated with recommended process or equipment modifications. Formula dollars are also used to fund energy efficiency upgrades identified by the energy audits. Fifty-seven audits have been conducted, and four projects totaling over $2,000,000 have been funded." - The State Energy Program Fact Sheet
Bi-partisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)
Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Competitive Program
The funding opportunity for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program Competitive grant is offered by the US Department of Energy and State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) which was mentioned previously. "This funding opportunity provides $8.8 million for small-to-medium sized local governments and state-recognized Tribes to:"
Reduce fossil fuel emissions in ways that are environmentally sustainable and maximize benefits for local and regional communities.
Reduce the total energy use of the eligible entities.
Improve energy efficiency in the transportation, building and other sectors.
Build a clean and equitable energy economy that prioritizes disadvantaged communities and promotes equity and inclusion in workforce opportunities and deployment activities, consistent with the Justice40 Initiative.
A number of projects are eligible to receive funding through the EECBG program. We want to highlight the areas where your community can use the funds, which includes solar installations, municipal building retrofits, developing energy efficiency and conservation strategies. It is important to note that this is competitive program, so not all applicants will receive funding. The ultimate benefit of the EECBG program is the technical assistance provided to communities.
If your community is interested in filling out an application, the Department of Energy will be reviewing submissions for the following information:
Impact on near term and long-term greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and/or energy use; and/or increase in the use of clean energy.
Community engagement and benefits, consistent with the Justice40 Initiative, including a planned or completed community engagement strategy and additional benefits to the community(ies), such as economic opportunities, job creation/retention, energy cost reduction, improved energy reliability, and/or positive health outcomes.
Viability of the plan and strength of team, including the technical feasibility, financial viability, and support from the local government or tribal leadership.
It is important to note the EECGB pre-application information sheet is due by July 31, 2023.
Better Buildings Initiative
Better Buildings is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) which is "designed to improve the lives of the American people by driving leadership in energy innovation. Through Better Buildings, DOE partners with leaders in the public and private sectors to make the nation’s homes, commercial buildings, and industrial plants more energy-efficient by accelerating investment and sharing successful best practices." Better Buildings Initiative | U.S. Department of Energy
Infrastructure is the foundation of many projects and upgrades. Whether you must build a new structure or expand an existing building, the construction that shelters your equipment is very important. The Better Buildings initiative provides multiple energy efficiency solutions for public buildings.
Wastewater Energy Management Toolkit
A great resource provided by the Better Buildings Initiative is the Wastewater Energy Management Toolkit. "This toolkit helps water resource recovery facilities establish and implement energy management and planning." Wastewater Energy Management Toolkit | Better Buildings Initiative
What is included in the toolkit? If you are looking to improve your everyday practices at your water resource facility, this kit includes:
Energy Data Management: this toolkit includes tips on managing wastewater facility energy data, how to develop an energy management program and how to determine which facilities you will measure and track for energy performance. This toolkit helps you make decisions about infrastructure improvements in relation to energy management.
Measure Evaluation: this toolkit helps your team evaluate, plan for, and implement measures that meet its needs and goals.
Project Funding: this section provides teams with limited budgets to utilize common funding and financing options, which can result in more timely infrastructure improvements.
Improvement Planning: this toolkit provides a template with tips on best-practice structure and content for strategic facility improvement plans.
Sustainable Wastewater of the Future (SWIFt) Accelerator
The SWIFt Accelerator started as a three-year program where water resource recovery facilities partnered with the Department of Energy to accelerate a pathway toward sustainable infrastructure. "SWIFt aims to catalyze the adoption of innovative and best-practice approaches in data management, advanced technologies, and financing for infrastructure improvement. Partners sought to improve the energy efficiency of their participating water resource recovery facilities by at least 25% and integrate at least one resource recovery measure." - Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure Accelerator - Completed | Better Buildings Initiative (energy.gov)
Currently the program is in the second phase; focusing efforts in "energy data management, energy efficiency improvements, advanced technology integration, and project financing." - Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure Accelerator 2.0 | Better Buildings Initiative (energy.gov).
If your water facility is interested in participating by monitoring energy data, lowering your energy use through operations and new technology, the program is open to all state, regional, local agencies, and facility partners. If you would like more information, please contact email@example.com.
DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®
Since 1995, DSIRE® has been a valuable source of information on renewables and energy efficiency incentives and policies in the United States. DSIRE® is managed by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University and they provide information on program and incentives by state, as well as informative presentations and publications.
DSIRE® has thoughtfully separated out various biomass, fuel-cells, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, storage, and energy-efficiency programs that are provided by each state. Select your state below and find out what programs are available:
Wisconsin: DSIRE (dsireusa.org)
Illinois: DSIRE (dsireusa.org)
Michigan (upper and lower): DSIRE (dsireusa.org)
There are numerous programs and resources available from federal and state governments to improve your facilities energy efficiency. Please visit each of these sites to discover how your community can take advantage of trainings and funding opportunities.