In over 20 years, BECC has assisted 32 water utilities along the Northern Mexico Border States to improve their infrastructure through implementation of 80 projects with a cost of $1,509 Million USD. The impact has been significant, but most utilities are in financial hardship, unable to maintain a sustainable operation due in part to the high cost of electricity which is also a major contributor to GHG emissions.
Consequently, BECC established an Energy Audit program in 2013. Its purpose is to identify measures that water utilities can implement to reduce energy consumption. Audits have been carried out by the program in over a dozen cities. The efficiency measures identified have major impacts in the utilities’ energy costs, a major component of its overall operational costs. Most measures identified have payback periods ranging from a few months to 2 years. The measures consistently found can be grouped into three categories: Cost of Energy, Specific Equipment Efficiency, and Operational Efficiency.
The first energy audit conducted in 2013 for SIMAS Piedras Negras has now demonstrated results and exemplifies the use of the Energy Audits as a means to improve the utility’s management practices and overall financial results. During 2014-15, SIMAS invested approximately $500K to implement some of the measures identified. The measures immediately showed savings to SIMAS, with a yearly projection of over $850K, approximately 45% of its annual overall energy cost. The pending measures identified will require additional investments of approximately $300K and would increase total yearly savings to an estimated $1 million. The key elements that made this case successful include: 1) BECC’s Energy Audit program; 2) political will by SIMAS to implement identified measures, including a substantial financial commitment; and 3) good relationship and alignment of priorities between SIMAS and the Municipality.
As a second phase to the Energy Efficiency program, during 2015, BECC partnered with the German Cooperation for Sustainable Development (GIZ) to develop a Network for Energy Efficiency Learning for Water Utilities in Coahuila, including 14 small to medium size cities. The concept of these networks allows the program to substantially expand the benefits of the Energy Audits at a fraction of the cost, includes follow up during implementation of recommendations, supplements technical support from experts, and information sharing among peers.
The framework of the Network included initial diagnosis to identify potential energy efficiency measures for all participants, their potential investment and savings. Over 100 potential measures were identified, with combined savings of over 30% of the total energy consumption of the group. Each participant committed to implement certain measures with their available resources. The participants also identified a second group of high savings’ measures, which could be implemented using economies of scale and outside financial support. These measures would allow quick overall energy savings of over 20% of the group’s energy bills. The experience gained through this effort will allow BECC to enhance and replicate the concept in all Border States as an Institutional Development Program to improve operations and long term financial viability of water utilities.