Toronto Water develops 20-year energy optimization plan

Toronto's R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant can produce a maximum of 576 million litres of drinking water per day.
Toronto's R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant can produce a maximum of 576 million litres of drinking water per day.
Toronto’s R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant can produce a maximum of 950 million litres of drinking water per day.

By Abhay Tadwalkar, Toronto Water

As the City of Toronto’s largest energy user, Toronto Water has actively sought to implement capital projects and operational changes to improve energy efficiency, while still meeting its primary mandate to provide quality water services. It recently completed an energy optimization plan (EOP) that provides a long-term energy management strategy to optimize consumption and cost over the next 20 years.

Toronto Water is responsible for the treatment and distribution of drinking water, wastewater conveyance and treatment, as well as stormwater management. Each day, four drinking water plants treat more than one billion litres of potable water and distribute it through 22 major pumping stations and 6,000 km of water mains.

“For water and wastewater service providers, energy represents a large portion of the operating budget. It is a major concern that must be addressed in a timely manner, if we are to continue to deliver sustained levels of service to our customers,” said Lou Di Gironimo, general manager, Toronto Water. “This EOP provides an appropriate framework for us that can also be adapted by other utilities to develop their own energy plans.”

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The EOP was developed using an iterative and evolving process that allows for updating the plan as activities progress and goals are accomplished. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Energy optimization plan development framework. Click to enlarge.
Figure 1. Energy optimization plan development framework. Click to enlarge.
Key strategies and performance goals

A mission statement was developed for the EOP that states, “optimize energy utilization by leveraging innovative technologies and approaches in an environmentally sustainable, operationally reliable, and fiscally responsible manner.”

The EOP focuses on three strategic areas: energy optimization, revenue generation, and innovation in energy. The vision, mission, strategies and goals for the EOP align with Toronto Water’s strategic plan and support its long-term strategy for service excellence. To meet these goals, numerous initiatives have been established to support and augment Toronto Water’s existing programs.

Energy optimization

The first EOP strategy is energy optimization to reduce Toronto Water’s per capita energy footprint. In July 2017, Toronto City Council unanimously approved City’s long-term path to reduce city-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050. The TransformTO Pathway to a Low Carbon Future report recommended ambitious strategies and long-term goals to transform Toronto’s urban systems, specifically buildings, energy, transportation and waste.

For the EOP, a performance goal of 20% per capita GHG emissions reduction by 2035 from 2014 levels was established. This was based on analysis of feasible energy saving opportunities at each facility.

Key initiatives to achieve this performance goal include reducing energy consumption (electricity and natural gas) and the increased use of renewable energy.

The per capita GHG emission was used as a single metric for easy communication between different departments within the City, as well as to the public. It was selected because GHG emission includes both electricity and natural gas consumption, while the per capita basis would account for population increase and the associated need for increasing levels of service. The footprints from different departments can also be added.

Another benefit of the GHG emission-based metric is that it allows easy tracking of energy optimization progress that aligns with the municipal and provincial long-term energy targets.

Revenue generation

The second EOP strategy is revenue generation to minimize energy costs through grants, incentives, and on-site generation and operations optimization. The effectiveness of this strategy will be measured based on energy saving and incentives received. Toronto Water has already been taking advantage of various funding programs, and has received more than $3 million to date through various energy saving initiatives and programs.
Key initiatives to minimize energy costs include:

  • Demand side management (e.g., peak shaving, global adjustment curtailment).
  • Leverage grants and incentives to implement energy efficient upgrades.
  • Reduce energy purchases through on-site generation.
  • Optimize operations to minimize energy costs.

Performance indicators for revenue generation would be the development of energy management plans for relevant capital projects during the conceptual or preliminary design stage. These would identify opportunities, grants and incentives, along with the total energy cost offsets or savings per year.

Innovation in energy use

The third EOP strategy is to implement innovative technologies and approaches to make effective use of energy. The effectiveness of this strategy will be measured by demonstration of this and the overall success of the EOP. The key initiatives to demonstrate innovation include:

  • Regularly review new opportunities and implement, where feasible.
  • Reward innovative approaches and technologies in request for proposals (RFPs) and request for quotations (RFQs).
  • Engage staff in developing, evaluating, and implementing innovative approaches and technologies.
  • Continue to partner with universities and industry research organizations.


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