NTMWD Member Cities and Customers determine the amount of power we need to operate our three regional services. The higher the demand for water, the more our high-service pump stations must run. The more wastewater flowing from homes and businesses through our lift stations and into our treatment plants, the longer our facilities have to work at higher capacities to pump and treat the water. The greater the amounts of solid waste generated by our communities, the more our transfer stations must process and deliver to the landfill.
It takes an enormous amount of power for the District to operate these services around-the-clock, 365 days a year. On average, we use 400 million-kilowatt hours annually which is about equal to powering 9,200 homes during high energy use periods. Like most Texans, our peak energy use happens during the hottest part of the summer. And, much like Texas weather, our energy needs and consumption can change dramatically from day-to-day, or hour-by-hour.
Our Energy Program has three core objectives in order to maintain control over our energy usage and costs:
1. Maximize predictability
2. Minimize fluctuations within a volatile energy market
3. Achieve best practical rates available
A key strategy to providing reliable water, wastewater and solid waste services in a cost-effective manner is through our Energy Program. Through analyzing data, NTMWD can predict future consumption during peak hours to lock-in the lowest available rate from energy providers. By using a combination of rate adjustment programs based on supply and energy conservation practices for demand, we can better manage our overall energy costs.
The Texas power grid (Energy Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT) experiences similar challenges in providing service when temperatures are high and rainfall is limited. When summers are hotter and drier, the demand for water goes way up. The same is true for electricity, and NTMWD uses that knowledge to save money and conserve power.
Energy Supply Management
In coordination with our deregulated energy providers, NTMWD monitors and tracks historical consumption and peak usage times at an extremely detailed level. Some of our larger, more complex equipment has its power usage reported every 15 minutes. Then, we take the digital equivalent to a mountain of data, use it to forecast how much future energy we’ll need, and lock-in wholesale blocks of power at a set rate, often years in advance. We review these rates each year against actual usage and adjust our strategies as needed.
The District staff works consistently to control power usage so that our equipment is operating effectively and with energy efficiency. During the summer months, the goal is to reduce peak load (or use) to lower transmission costs for the following year. During the months of June, July, August and September, when demand is highest on the energy grid, we scale back where possible on electricity usage. By doing this, we relieve our system when it is at its most constrained, as well as provide relief overall to the power grid.
Since power is a variable expense associated with operating our large, regional system, finding innovative ways to save energy costs and consumption helps us better manage our overall rates. This comprehensive, value-driven and energy-conscious approach helps the District realize millions of dollars in savings now and looking forward into the future.
The success of our Energy Program demonstrates the complexity behind providing so much more than water, wastewater and solid waste services for the communities we serve. It’s a true example of our vision in action.