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Why It Is Important

Wastewater operations are typically the largest energy expense in a community, and reductions in energy usage can yield significant environmental, economic, and social benefits for these communities. Across the country, municipal wastewater treatment plants are estimated to consume more than 30 terawatt-hours per year of electricity, which equates to about $2 billion in annual electric costs. Electricity alone can constitute 25% to 40% of a wastewater treatment plant’s annual operating budget and make up 15% to 30% of a given municipality’s total energy bill. These energy needs are expected to grow over time, driven by population growth and increasingly stringent water quality requirements. Moreover, wastewater contains about five times more energy than is needed for its treatment in terms of untapped thermal energy, which can be captured and used to generate energy.

Wastewater facility retrofits can yield up to 50% in energy savings and 30% on average. In recent years a growing number of utilities responsible for clean water have been moving from strict wastewater treatment to water resource management, some formally renaming themselves water resource recovery facilities. As wastewater facilities undergo this transition in equipment, processes, and operations, there are abundant opportunities to make energy efficiency retrofits. Facilities can expand this energy-efficient foundation with resource recovery measures to move closer to a sustainable wastewater infrastructure.

Partnering with State and Local Governments

Learn More About SWIFt Phase 2
Features information on how to join the Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of the Future (SWIft) Initiative Phase 2.

Through the Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of the Future (SWIFt) Initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with water resource recovery facilities to accelerate a pathway toward sustainable infrastructure. SWIFt aims to catalyze the adoption of innovative and best practices in data management, advanced technologies, and financing for infrastructure improvement. SWIFt Phase 2 kicked off in summer 2020 and is currently welcoming interested state, regional, and local agency and facility partners. For more information, contact stateandlocal@ee.doe.gov.

SWIFt 2.0 (2020–2023)

SWIFt Phase 2 aims to continue the momentum of SWIFt Phase 1 by leveraging the tools, resources, and lessons of SWIFt beyond Accelerator partners to benefit the broader wastewater sector. Through SWIFt Phase 2, DOE will:

  • Engage 100 additional facilities in a voluntary partnership to achieve 5% short-term and 25% long-term facility-wide energy savings, and
  • Work with 25 facilities to implement at least one next-generation technology (e.g., renewable energy, resource recovery, and advanced data management).

SWIFt 1.0 (2016–2019)

SWIFt Phase 1 began as a three-year partnership (2016–2019) of 25 state, regional, and local agencies that engaged with more than 70 water resource recovery facilities in their jurisdictions, committing to short-term 5% energy savings goals and long-term 30% energy savings goals. During Phase 1, facility partners reduced their total energy consumption by more than 8% and adopted best-practice energy management approaches in their facilities. The tools and resources developed during this three-year initiative were compiled into an online Wastewater Energy Management Toolkit (coming soon) to help wastewater treatment facilities beyond the Accelerator adopt the approaches used by SWIFt partners.