Media Contact: Lori Harrison, (703) 684-2480
August 9, 2011

WEF Explores the Future of Renewable Energy from Wastewater
Nexus between energy, water, & wastewater sectors was the key focus at last week's energy conference in Chicago


ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Representatives from the energy, water and wastewater sectors met in Chicago last week to discuss the future of renewable energy during the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) conference, Energy and Water 2011: Efficiency, Generation, Management, and Climate Impacts. Avenues for increasing energy efficiency in the water and wastewater sectors, including the broader implications for climate change and adaptation for the water environment, were explored during the well-attended event.

“On the surface, energy and water may seem to be separate entities, but are actually deeply connected,” said WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. “Municipal water and wastewater treatment systems are among the most energy-intensive facilities but have excellent potential to be net energy producers. In fact, it is through its use of energy that the water sector has its greatest opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate a major source of climate change.”

In support of this effort, representatives from several utilities shared their plans for using self-generated energy for their operations as well as the potential for returning surplus back to the grid. Case studies were presented from the East Bay Municipal Utility District in California, the Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Plant in New York, and the Strauss Wastewater Treatment Plant in Austria.

Attendees were also inspired by the opening keynote address from Patrick Lucey, Senior Aquatic Ecologist at Aqua-Tex Scientific Consulting Ltd. Lucey shared his insights about the financial self-funding capability of Integrated Resource Management (IRM) for the twenty-first century. IRM focuses on the challenges of integrating water, wastewater, energy, and solid waste into a holistic resource management system for a range of municipal, residential, and industrial operations.

“This conference offered a unique demonstration of the commitment of two crucial municipal sectors [water and energy] to address the urgent need for a new design framework for strategic municipal infrastructure and its asset management, “ said Lucey. “There was broad agreement that this new framework must be based upon a ‘design with nature’ approach that will lead to a closed loop, resource recovery, and revenue generating system that will provide significant tax payer relief, enhanced energy and water security, whilst yielding significant GHG emission reductions.”

Other highlights of the conference included focused discussions on related topics such as the need for collaborative efforts to meet water demands by electric power industry; the latest research in generating biofuels from algae; advances in the implementation of biogas production from wastewater solids; micro-hydropower; widespread adoption of best practices in energy conservation at treatment plants; and the pursuit of a multi-organization approach to integrate water and energy policy initiatives.  

Conference sponsor ImagineH20—a national non-profit that aims to inspire and empower people to turn water challenges into opportunities—also used the conference to present its second annual Water-Energy Nexus Prize, which recognizes efforts to advance the field of alternative energy in the water industry. This year’s winners were Hydrovolt for its new hydropower technology that taps renewable energy from water currents in canals and channels around the world and Black Gold Biofuels whose patented system converts sewer clogging fats, oils and greases into biodiesel. The 2011 Imagine H2O water startup prize will focus on innovations that use wastewater as a resource.
"The WEF conference was a great opportunity to present the winners of our 2010 prize to industry players that are looking to advance the water and energy sectors, “ said Prize Manager & Imagine H2O Fellow Kate Gasner. “This community puts a premium on implementation of innovative solutions so highlighting water innovation at this event held great significance for our winning companies."

As a leading organization in the water quality field, energy efficiency has emerged as a key focus area for WEF. In addition to this conference, WEF is currently developing a position statement that will call for energy generated from water/wastewater treatment plants to be recognized as green energy for future policy discussions. Several energy-related technical sessions and workshops will also be featured at WEFTEC—the Federation’s 84th annual technical exhibition and conference—this October in Los Angeles.

About WEF
Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization with 36,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. WEF members, Member Associations and staff proudly work to our mission to provide bold leadership, champion innovation, connect water professionals, and leverage knowledge to support clean and safe water worldwide. To learn more, visit www.wef.org.