A Technology Approach to Manage CA’s Electrical Supply and Demand at Water Districts

$3.1M to UC Davis for pilot project that could reduce strain on grid during peak hours.

In a contract awarded by the California Energy Commission (CEC), UC Davis' Center for Water and Energy Efficiency will be running a project with Helio Energy solutions at the Moulton Niguel Water District to better understand how water utilities can become a key tool to helping California manage its roller coaster electricity supply-and-demand issues.


Over the next three and a half years, researchers at UC Davis will utilize Helio Energy Solution's PredictEnergy software platform to develop technologies and processes to integrate California's water infrastructure with the electrical grid. The Moulton Niguel Water District in Laguna Niguel, has volunteered as the proving ground for a cutting-edge approach to respond to the daily ebb and flow of the State's energy as weather patterns place big demands at times on available energy.

Moulton Niguel Water District spends approximately $2 million per year to power its water services for 170,000 customers in South Orange County. CWEE researchers will combine water system hydraulic modeling with Helio Energy Solution's software platform to create a demand management system that supports grid health and simultaneously reduces Moulton Niguel's energy costs.

"If adopted widely by urban water systems in California, the strain on the grid during peak hours could be reduced significantly, leading to more reliable electricity at lower costs to consumers," said Frank Loge, faculty director of CWEE, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and principal investigator on the grant.

The project will use PredictEnergy's software analytics module, leveraging real-time energy analytics to develop an energy management approach that adapts to changing energy demands throughout the day. Changing energy rate structures for Moulton Niguel's potable and recycled water systems create challenges and opportunities to support the grid and simultaneously reduce energy costs for rate payers. PredictEnergyTM analytics enables Moulton Niguel to visualize its operations from an energy cost perspective. It will apply complex and dynamic utility rates and visualization so plant operators can "see" current efficiency and production.

While the system is complex, the plan is simple: When energy is in high demand, plant operators shift processes to minimize power requirements, when energy is in surplus, operators adjust to bolster storage in anticipation of the next demand.

"We want to develop a strategy that meets the needs of the grid and pays off for water utilities at the same time." Said Mike Murray, President of Helio Energy Solutions, "By partnering with UC Davis and the Moulton Niguel Water District, we will be able to provide our State with a solution that reliably and safely delivers results while incentivizing water districts to participate. We look forward to working together on this exciting new project."

In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Water utilities, which require large amounts of power at every step of the water cycle, could be instrumental in reaching those emissions reduction goals. Roughly 20% of California's electricity and more than 30% of its natural gas goes to the water system, from pumping it for delivery to disposing of wastewater.

"At Moulton Niguel, we're constantly identifying new ways to save our ratepayers money and reduce our carbon footprint," said Joone Lopez, general manager at Moulton Niguel Water District. "The energy experts at CWEE are brilliant at finding new ways to be more efficient. With their help, we hope to be the model for the entire state."

The California Energy Commission awarded the CWEE and Helio Energy Solutions $3.1 million to pilot a system to help water utilities manage demand and reduce operational costs while continuing to meet customers' water needs. If successful, the pilot program could help balance the electrical grid's intermittent distribution of renewable energy, while providing substantial savings to rate payers.

About PredictEnergy and Helio Energy Solutions:

PredictEnergy is a cloud-based energy management system, from Helio Energy Solutions, an energy analytics company serving the customer-side of the meter. PredictEnergy is an energy analytics software platform that serves the water utility, manufacturing, distribution and waste management sectors to reduce the cost of energy in everything an enterprise makes, moves or stores. Helio Energy Solutions is committed to helping its clients understand their unique energy challenges to deliver customized, cost-effective services to reduce energy costs.

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