TDEC Works with Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants on Energy Efficiency

Drinking water and wastewater treatment systems account for roughly 4 percent of energy use in the United States.[1] At the local level, almost 35% of municipal energy use occurs at these facilities, given that the pumps, motors and other equipment used to treat water often operate around the clock.[2]

Given the high energy intensity of these facilities (25-50 percent of the operating budget for wastewater utilities and 80 percent of the processing/distribution costs for drinking water treatment plants is spent on electricity),[3] the opportunity for saving energy and money through energy efficiency and conservation of energy is extremely large.

In 2011, TDEC’s Office of Sustainable Practices and Division of Water Resources, in cooperation with EPA, TVA, the University of Memphis, and the UT Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) created the Tennessee Water and Wastewater Energy Efficiency Partnership.  This Partnership provides free technical assistance to drinking water and wastewater treatment plants through energy assessments and no-to-low cost recommendations.  Once implemented, these recommendations have saved participating treatment plants an average of 19 percent in annual energy costs. Realized savings have motivated personnel to find additional energy efficiency projects, which can be funded with such savings. Ultimately, these savings help to postpone the raising of rates, allowing consumers to also benefit.

In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs (OEP) would receive a 2015 State Energy Program Competitive Award to work alongside the State of Alabama in furthering energy efficiency at Tennessee’s and Alabama’s water and wastewater treatment plants. The award will serve to expand the work of the Tennessee Water and Wastewater Energy Efficiency Partnership and will advance the adoption of energy efficiency improvements at wastewater and water treatment plants in at least 24 municipalities in Tennessee and Alabama through onsite energy assessments and energy management implementation support. The project team, which consists of experts from TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, EPA Region 4, TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs, TDEC’s Office of Sustainable Practices, the University of Memphis, Clean Energy Solutions, Inc., the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, combines a wealth of technical experience and compliance knowledge. By harnessing the expertise of the project team and fostering the exchange of best practices between states, the DOE-funded project will support water and wastewater treatment plants in identifying and overcoming barriers to implementing energy efficiency, ultimately resulting in significant energy savings.

The initial kickoff workshop under the 2015 SEP Competitive Award is likely to take place in June of 2016. For more information, contact Ben Bolton at or (615) 532-8798.