Energy optimisation has become a key focus within the water industry due to the fact that water utilities are a relatively large energy consumer, and energy costs continue to rise. Additionally, the Victorian Government has set renewable energy targets and in response to these Victorian water corporations have pledged to significantly reduce their carbon emissions by 2025. This program undertakes projects designed to reduce emissions and energy costs. The leaders of this program are Ben Spedding from South East Water and Steven Reddington from Barwon Water.

Key areas of interest:

·         Pumped Hydro

·         Floating Solar

·         Battery technologies

·         Waste Water Treatment Plant Aeration energy consumption optimisation

·         Large Scale Renewables

·         Gaps relating to renewable energy pledges

Recent Webinars

Current Projects

Large Scale Renewable Energy Project


Victoria’s water corporations have pledged to significantly reduce their carbon emissions by 2025. With the prices of wind and solar energy continuing to fall, renewable energy generation (REG) offers an economic way to meet these targets. However, for single corporations, on-site REG projects can be too expensive, complex or small to meet individual targets. By jointly investing in a Large Scale Renewable Energy Project (LSR) corporations can achieve long term price certainty around energy generation, reduce their operational risk and complexity and reduce emissions, in accordance with the requirements of the proposed Statement of Obligations (Emission Reductions). The Large Scale Renewable Energy Project is about a shared commitment to renewable energy generation.

Description of feasibility study

The feasibility of the LSR Project is underpinned by two key objectives:

·         Jointly securing a commercially attractive long-term power supply, at better than individually available prices, and the promotion of new              renewable electricity generation in Victoria;

·         Emissions reduction, in accordance with the requirements of the proposed Statement of Obligations (Emission Reductions).

In 2016, Seed Advisory investigated five renewable energy generation options on behalf of IWN:

1.       Business as Usual – no investment in REG

2.       Voluntary group purchase of Large Scale (renewable) Generation Certificates (LGCs) from the market

3.       Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a new REG facility

4.       Direct investment in a new REG

5.       Direct investment in behind-the-meter REG

Study outcomes

The feasibility study recommended further detailed analysis of options 3 and 4. IWN ultimately decided that it should proceed with the Power Purchase Agreement option, on the basis that implementation of this option would be capable of achieving the project's key objectives without the added risks and complications involved in direct investment.

Current status of Large Scale Renewable Energy project

13 water corporations agreed to participate in the joint Power Purchase Agreement process with more than 78 GWh of load committed after the Request for Proposal (RFP) phase identified a preferred candidate for the Kiamal site.

Tiburce Blanchy from Adour Energy Advisors provided technical advice and analysis of the responses along with a technical advisory group from various water corporations.

The final PPA has been signed, with a new renewable energy generation project being commissioned by October 2019, and the company Zero Emissions Water Ltd (ZEW established to manage the contract over the next 10 years on behalf of the Corporations involved.

Simon Prunster from YVW has been appointed the Project Lead for ZEW, which has been officially announced. Simon’s role is to ensure all water corps involved are prepared when the PPA commences in October 2019 with the aim for the PPA to be fully operational by 1 July 2019. This will include accounting software (XERO), financial modelling and reports, branding, document storage and website creation.

Launch is planned for 23 April 2019 at Science Works.

Small Scale Renewable Energy Project


Victoria’s water corporations have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions by 2025 compared to their 2011/12 level. Committed reductions range between 8% and 80%.

With the prices of batteries, wind and solar energy continuing to fall, on-site generation and storage may offer an economic way to meet emissions targets while securing energy supply.

Description of trial

North East Water (NEW) recently commissioned the Renewable Energy Alliance to install a 40kW solar array and 42kWh lithium ion battery bank at the Yackandandah water treatment plant.

Commencing operations in September 2017, this clean energy system should generate sufficient power and store enough energy to operate the plant independently of the mains power grid for most of the year.

Being grid-connected and driven by smart energy management software, the system can also export power to the grid when electricity prices peak, and draw power from the grid when prices fall, further reducing power bills.

The battery bank avoids the need for a back-up diesel generator to cover grid black-outs and brown-outs.

As a member of the community coalition Totally Renewable Yackandandah, NEW has pledged to power local operations with 100% renewable energy by 2022.

Next steps

Over the next 12 months, RMIT University will study the generation from the clean energy system and the consumption patterns of Yackandandah water treatment plant, to determine:

•             how to operate the system at lowest cost

•             the return on investment of the system

•             whether the system could have been configured differently to save more money

•             projected future costs of on-site generation, including the price tipping point for batteries (i.e. when on-site energy storage becomes                  cheaper than importing mains power)

•             applicability to other water treatment plants

IWN has now published the results of this study, which can be viewed below. A paper on this project will be presented by John Day at OzWater ‘19. You can read more about that by following this link.


Energy Procurement Project


In 2016, the Victorian Government required government organisations to set renewable energy and carbon neutrality targets.

In response, IWN began investigating alternatives to fixed-price contracts for electricity supply to manage water corporations’ escalating energy costs, while curbing greenhouse emissions.

New options include purchasing competitively priced electricity and GreenPower directly from the wholesale market. This allows corporations to tailor their purchases to match their demand - e.g. reflecting on-site renewable generation or daily and seasonal fluctuations in usage. However, financial or physical insurance products are needed to smooth out price spikes in the wholesale energy market.

Description of trial

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Goulburn Valley Water, North East Water, Western Water and Yarra Valley Water are trialling the direct purchase of electricity on the spot market through an intermediary.

Next steps

The results of this trial will be used to develop a wholesale procurement guide for all Victorian water authorities, detailing the risks and benefits of various direct purchase and insurance options, including:

•             Price caps – the customer pays no more than an agreed maximum rate

•             Block (Hedge) pricing – a fixed price is agreed for a specified volume of peak and off-peak electricity per month, quarter or year

•             Average rate – the customer pays no more than the forecast average price, and pays the actual price when lower than the forecast

•             Demand response – the customer sheds non-essential load during price spikes and / or runs back-up generation

•             The ability to incorporate alternative purchasing arrangements such as:

- Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) – competitive, fixed-price, renewable electricity supply over 10 to 25 years              

- Shared Generation Agreement – between several authorities, sourcing electricity from on- and off-site renewable facilities, with surplus              generation sold to the grid, and shortfalls purchased from the grid

Current Status of Trial

The project team are finalising work on a risk assessment policy for spot pricing and the lessons learnt component of the project for wider distribution to IWN members. A training program is being presented by WSAA and the next steps are being discussed.

Sub metering Project


The aim of this project is to assist water corporations with the implementation of sub metering programs at their waste water treatment plants (WWTPs). Energy consumption at waste water treatment plants represents a significant proportion of total water corporation energy spend with large individual plants using in excess of $600,000 p.a. in electricity. Currently, little is known about the actual energy consumption of the individual high energy use systems within WWTPs, and due to the process complexity and large number of sub-systems within the plants, the current standard of whole of site metering does not provide sufficient detail to be able to identify where energy inefficiencies exist.

It is hoped that by installing sub metering hardware at WWTPs, specific energy consumption data relating to key sub systems and industrial processes within WWTPs will be obtained, thus allowing water corporations to accurately assess energy performance and pinpoint inefficiencies and areas for improvement.

Description of trial

Three individual water corporation sites will participate in this project and collect data. Key site energy consumers within each of the participating WWTPs will be identified and electric sub meters will be installed. Data analytics platforms will also be installed to perform measurement and verification, baseline plant processes, measure energy performance and highlight areas of improvement or issues when they arise. The trial will be carried out over the course of 12 months, after which the success of the project will be assessed.

Project lead Simon Prunster - Yarra Valley Water.

Current status of trial

The IWN energy group have engaged the services of  OutPerformers to benchmark a standard approach to sub metering water and waste water treatment facilities. Yarra Valley Water, Coliban and North East Water are currently undertaking this pilot project in four phases:

1.       Conduct an energy audit to identify the best sub-metering solution.

2.       Install the sub metering.

3.       Generate ad-hoc reports to show the value of sub metering.

4.       Produce the standard template for other water corps to follow.

The project is currently at end of phase two and will begin to harness the data.

WSAA/IWN Energy Education

The WSAA/IWN energy education project is currently finalising a package addressing the training needs analysis survey conducted in August 2018. The project seeks to create an energy awareness package to build an energy management skills matrix

Future Projects

Aeration Benchmarking Phase 2


Aerators at Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTPs) are a significant source of energy consumption by water corporations. An aeration efficiency benchmarking trial was carried out across 17 Victorian and interstate Waste Water Treatment Plants in 2016 and 2017 to determine energy benchmarks for WWTPs in relation to their peers, to highlight plants that could potentially be improved and to allow the industry and utilities to track plant performance over time.

Next steps

Following this trial it was deemed that further detailed analysis of the Victorian WWTP benchmarking data was required. The IWN energy group will undertake this analysis in the near future and utilise the results to identify innovative energy efficiency measures that could be implemented across the industry. They will also develop best practice case studies on the high performing water treatment plants to guide the industry, and provide guidance on the use of sub-metering to improve energy management.

Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Feasibility Study

This project will investigate the feasibility of a Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) system on one of Goulburn Valley Water’s assets, Trawool reservoir.  The project is being led by a community group who have conducted a pre-feasibility study at the site, and would like to investigate a renewable energy supply as a source of power to their townships. IWN is supporting the feasibility study to inform its renewable energy program and to better understand the capabilities of the technology. 

Current status of project

This project is currently on hold.

Floating Solar Value Determination Project

Wannon Water, Western Water and GWM have identified a project that would look at the water quality benefits from floating solar. It has been requested a literature review is undertaken initially to determine what information is currently available, then to propose a project to endeavour to fill any information gaps.

Carbon Offsets

A project plan will be developed shortly to undertake a project looking at carbon offset opportunities and consideration for water corporations. The scope may include identifying if collaboration is a benefit for offset generation, forecast of pricing for offset development, and consideration of timing to develop offsets.

Completed Projects

Pump Checkr Pt 1


80% of the lifecycle cost of water pumping systems is from energy and maintenance. But 70% of wastewater and 40% of water pumping stations in Australia have inefficient pumps. This increases energy consumption, maintenance costs, downtime and the risk of premature failure.

Traditionally, qualified technicians check pump performance intermittently or manually interpret data collected by sensors. These methods can be costly, prone to human error and slow to detect problems.

Description of trial

The Pump CheckR™ algorithm is designed to compare real time data from sensors with performance benchmarks, and triggers alerts when pump, fan or blower performance becomes suboptimal. It can also determine the most cost-effective maintenance schedule.

In 2016, IWN, North East Water, GHD and Schneider Electric installed the Pump CheckR™ algorithm at pump stations in Wangaratta and Wodonga. These pump stations were monitored for several months using Pump CheckR™ to test the effectiveness of using a data analytics tool to monitor the performance of pump stations.

Trial outcomes:

The 2016 trial found that the Pump CheckR™ algorithm could identify:

• pump failures not otherwise detected

• ways to reduce energy costs by 10 to 15%

• opportunities to reduce scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and breakdowns

• financial costs of underperforming pumps

Next steps

Further testing is required before this product can become a business as usual tool for water corporations. IWN, with the support of GHD & Schneider, seeks expressions of interest from water corporations wishing to trial Pump CheckR™ at their water or wastewater sites.


Aeration Benchmarking Part 1


Aerators at Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTP) have been identified as the largest consumer of energy within a water corporation. Inefficient aerators and aeration systems increase operating costs and greenhouse emissions. In 2013/14, Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) commissioned GHD to benchmark the energy use of WWTPs owned and operated by 17 urban water utilities across the country. The purpose of this exercise was to determine energy benchmarks for Australian WWTPs in relation to their peers, to highlight plants that could potentially be improved and to allow the industry and utilities to track plant performance over time.

Description of trial

In conjunction with IWN, WSAA undertook a second round of aeration efficiency benchmarking in 2016 and 2017. 17 Victorian and 17 interstate water corporations participated in this co-badged project. By working together, the industry avoided duplication of effort, and ensured the results were broadly applicable and can be rapidly disseminated.

It is hoped that the findings will assist in identifying new aeration innovations that can be trialled in the poorest performing plants, with the aim to reduce energy consumption by 20% within 12 months of installation.

Current Status of trial

Further analysis of the Victorian plants is required. See Phase 2 of the Aeration Benchmarking Project above in ‘Future Projects’.