Tennessee Leads with Wastewater Optimization Program

Source: Tennessee Office of Energy Programs
Brendan Held, P.E., EPA Region 4, takes water quality measurements at Elizabethton Wastewater Treatment Plant during the project team’s site visit.

Tennessee’s Office of Energy Programs’ work with state water and wastewater facilities over the past several years has resulted in the state becoming a regional leader in energy and water efficiency. The partnerships formed by the state with these facilities are a model to which other states now look to increase the energy efficiency of their own water and wastewater treatment systems.

The Office of Energy Programs (Office) has offered technical assistance to its wastewater treatment programs since 2016. Through its Water and Wastewater Energy Efficiency Partnership, the Office has worked with facility operators at 41 water and wastewater treatment facilities to identify low- to no-cost strategies for reducing energy usage, resulting in energy cost savings for the plants as well as a reduction in their nutrient discharges. The changes operators in this partnership have made to their plants’ operations have resulted in annual energy savings of over 17 million kilowatt-hours and reduced their costs by over $2 million. On average, wastewater treatment facilities that implement the program’s recommendations have reduced their energy use by 19 percent.

As a result of the partnership’s successes, in 2016 the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the Office a State Energy Program Competitive Award to further its efforts in Tennessee as well as implement a similar program with wastewater facilities in neighboring Alabama. Over the course of the award, the Office assessed an additional 24 facilities in both Tennessee and Alabama, and identified over $390,000 in annual cost savings and over 4.3 million in annual kWh savings. The Award concludes in 2018, but a similar program is now taking root in Alabama.  Kentucky and Illinois have followed suit with energy assessments and are forming partnerships. Tennessee’s experience shows that smart partnerships between the energy and water experts in a state can lead to more positive environmental and energy outcomes for water and wastewater treatment facilities while simultaneously reducing their costs and furthering improvements at facilities that are willing to test new ideas.

To learn more about the Tennessee Office’s program and view case studies, visit the program webpage here.