SACRAMENTO, CA, April 11, 2013 -- Water Energy Innovations, Inc. today announced the release of a new white paper, "The Role of Natural Gas in California’s Water-Energy Nexus." California has been considering the intriguing possibilities presented by its water-energy nexus since 2005. Prior studies about energy use by the state's water and wastewater agencies focused on electricity. This is the first paper to address the role of natural gas.
California is presently facing a critical shortage of electricity. Up to 12,000 megawatts of power generation capacity -- about 20 percent of California's historical peak electric demand -- are scheduled to be retired or repowered over the next eight years. This is occurring at a time when the state's grid operator has identified a need for large quantities of "flexible" power -- electric generation assets that can start up quickly and ramp up/down hundreds of megawatts at a time, within minutes. Flexible power is needed to reliably integrate the large quantities of solar and wind resources that are expected to come on-line by 2020 to meet the state's goal for 33 percent renewable energy. More electric capacity is being built to meet these needs; but less would be needed if California could reduce its electric requirements.
Presently, water and wastewater agencies use several thousand megawatts of electricity to pump water during hot summer months, when demand for both water and electricity is at its highest. Using natural gas to offset water-related electric demand during these periods could substantially reduce the number of power plants and new or upgraded high voltage transmission lines needed to keep the lights on in California.
The amount of energy used for water pumping varies significantly from one year to the next, with changes in hydrology. Natural gas engines are better suited than large central power plants to serve this type of variability, and they are quicker to develop and much less expensive to install. Using natural gas powered engines for water pumping:
- Increases fuel diversity, reducing energy supply and price risks for both the water sector and the state;
- Increases operational flexibility and reliable delivery of essential water supplies; and
- Reduces the high costs and adverse environmental impacts of large power plants and high voltage electric infrastructure that would no longer be needed.
Many water and wastewater agencies already contribute significantly to California’s long-term electric reliability through energy efficiency, demand response, renewable energy production, and distributed generation. Some agencies also use natural gas for water pumping during periods of high electric demand. Reducing statewide electric demand helps to accelerate the shutdown of old, inefficient power plants. Replacing old polluting power plants with new, efficient natural gas engines would also reduce greenhouse gases. It is a path well worth exploring.