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Research project to explore potential for water sector in energy market

Posted: Monday 28 June 2021

A new research project will help the water sector take advantage of opportunities in the Australian energy market as it undergoes rapid change.  

The Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET), with support from Gippsland Water and Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water (GWMWater), is funding the project, titled INdustrial and commercial demand FLEXing to Increase Overall beNefit (INFLEXION), and involves researchers from Federation University and RMIT University.  

Researchers will work with the Victorian water corporations to collate and map data to enhance the integration of water and electricity networks; forecast and optimise energy consumption at water and wastewater treatment plants; and identify opportunities to provide ancillary services to the energy market.  

Federation University researcher Rakibuzzaman Shah said the project would not only provide energy savings and a clearer pathway to engaging energy businesses for the water corporations involved, but would also lay the groundwork for others in the water sector to learn from the study and leverage their own energy management and renewables projects to provide reliable services and better value to their customers. 

The project will also help water corporations to reduce their carbon emissions, as part of their commitment to the Victorian Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. The research project is expected to take about 18 months and will be delivered in four distinct phases.  

GWMWater and Gippsland Water will each provide energy use, water demand, flow rate, reservoir level, infiltration and evaporation data in its various forms and using different software environments. Researchers will map the characteristics to better understand the most appropriate artificial intelligence techniques to use to build an intelligent water network.   

Phase one will use the data to develop a clustering algorithm which will automatically group and rank water and wastewater treatment sites with similar behaviour in the water network which are influencing energy consumption.  

The second phase will use this information to forecast energy demands and identify opportunities to optimise the energy use within the water utilities.                     

Dr Shah said making changes such as operating a pump station when electricity rates are lower during off-peak hours would save energy use and cost to water corporations. 
 
 “The sites can also be scheduled to operate only when renewable energies, such as solar photovoltaic systems, are powering the site,” he said. 

The third and fourth phases focus on understanding opportunities for water corporations to feed their surplus renewable energy back into the grid with an appropriate tariff structure, including a report on the regulatory issues associated with the water industry’s participation in wholesale, emergency, network and ancillary services demand response.     

Dr Shah said the project would assist water corporations to improve their decision making in relation to data management and evolve their practices to reduce carbon emissions and provide good value to its customers.  

“It is the leadership of innovative entities such as Gippsland Water and GWMWater to engage in such research that will help deliver benefits for consumers, asset managers and the environment through the energy transition upon us,” added James Seymour, CEO of C4NET. 
 

Contact Stephanie Charalambous
Media and Communications Advisor
0429 360 727
s.charalambous@federation.edu.au