The water companies have the intention of reducing their CO2 footprint. But their own operations consume a limited amount of energy, and there are only modest levels of savings to be made by improving efficiency. Most energy in the drinking watercycle is consumed in hot water heating; and most energy is wasted in discharging this hot water – and its thermal heat – into the sewer. The water companies accept a societal responsibility by researching ways of rendering this energy use more sustainable.
Water companies vary in their aspirations when it comes to expanding their utility function – i.e., producing and supplying safe and reliable drinking water – and taking on a role in reducing household energy consumption and recovering energy from the water infrastructure. In this project, on the one hand, we collect information about inspiring water-related projects with an energy component and, on the other, we provide insight into the process involved in the realisation of these projects – for example, the barriers, pitfalls and key success factors. Lastly, we examine the returns from such activities: Do they perform as expected? Here we respond to the interests of the BTO Climate-Neutral Watercycle theme group, with a survey of broad initiatives in this field throughout the entire range of the watercycle. This survey offers the possible basis for a further expansion of existing activities in the field of water and energy.
From best practices to expanding in the water and/or energy cycles
The activities involved can be summarised as follows:
- Inventory of existing data (records and reports).
- Interviews with theme group members/colleagues.
- Brief written account of best practices (survey of initiatives) and lessons learned.
- Interviews with municipalities, waterboards and energy distribution companies.
- Brief written account of possibilities for water companies to expand in the water and/or energy cycles.
- Workshop with stakeholders.
- BTO presentation (information and deeper insight).
Strategic positioning of drinking water sector in energy and water
The project’s outcome will appeal to all water companies in the sense that it will inform them about what partner water companies are doing in the energy field, as well as offer them deeper insight into the success and failures in the process of realising such projects. The collected information gives them the opportunity to learn from each other’s experience. This information could also constitute the basis for a strategic positioning of the drinking water sector in the field of energy and water. This raises the question as to whether more weight should not be given to the clients’ perspective and the costs they incur for water in all its facets. For this reason, we explore the chances and possibilities that water companies have of expanding their playing field in the water and energy cycle.