You are here

RP2017u1: Operationalising Australian energy benchmarking for efficient, low-carbon wastewater treatment nationally via a new Benchmarking Energy and Carbon (BEC) tool

Project leader name: 
Dr Michael Short , UniSA
Project status: 
Project period: 
01/2018 to 12/2018

Australians generate around 250 litres produce around wastewater daily, so have a responsibility for its proper management.This wastewater contains a range of pollutants (chemical and microbiological) and needs to be properly treated before it can be discharged to the receiving environment, or safely recycled. This treatment cycle uses a great deal of energy and therefore greenhouse gas. This research will use a new suite of wastewater treatment energy benchmarks and KPIs being produced by project RP2017 and integrate them into a ready-to-go, fully-functional Benchmarking Energy and Carbon (BEC) tool.

Energy benchmarking is an approach whereby energy use key performance indicators (KPIs) are developed for a range of wastewater treatment operations and then used by industry to ‘benchmark’ their treatment process performance and inform subsequent process optimisation requirements for future energy efficiency savings.

The approach was first developed in Europe in the 1990s and while it has been used very successfully there for decades to save energy during wastewater treatment operations in a number of countries, it was only very recently (circa 2012) that it began being applied by Australian water utilities, with this pioneering work led by SA Water. Since then, the value of energy benchmarking has gained increasing awareness by industry and has begun being adopted by a number of major water utilities in several states (including SA, VIC and NSW). While this uptake of European energy benchmarking methods is a good first step for the Australian water industry to begin reducing its wastewater treatment energy and carbon footprint, such ‘off-the-shelf’ application of European energy benchmarks and associated wastewater treatment process performance KPIs is not ideal, as there are many important differences between how wastewater is treated, recycled and regulated in Europe vs. Australia which affect the validity and utility of this direct benchmarking approach application.

As mentioned above, the existing CRC project RP2017 (partnered with SA Water and Sydney Water) is currently developing a new suite of Australian energy benchmarks for the water industry to use wastewater treatment (and water recycling) process benchmarking and performance optimisation. While this research will deliver new important results in the form of these new locally-relevant KPIs, it risks falling short of delivering the desired nation-wide impact, as it relies on the national water sector taking the outputs of RP2017 and individually developing their own in-house benchmarking tools/methods for wastewater energy and carbon optimisations.

This project will ensure the benchmarks and KPIs produced will be fully integrated for the national water industry to use in optimising their wastewater treatment systems for energy and carbon savings. This new BEC tool will greatly increase the utility and accuracy of Australian water industry benchmarking activities, as well as facilitate the accelerated roll-out and uptake of energy benchmarking among smaller water utilities for more rapid realisation of potential energy and carbon savings across the industry.

Publications related to this project

CRCLCL Project Reports

This project used a national wastewater treatment plant energy use dataset for some 244 treatment plants across Australia to develop a Benchmarking Energy and Carbon (BEC) tool. 

Peer Reviewed Research Publications

This project used a national wastewater treatment plant energy use dataset for some 244 treatment plants across Australia to develop a Benchmarking Energy and Carbon (BEC) tool, or data visualization dashboard for the Australian water industry to use in future energy efficiency assessments with...

Fact sheet

Wastewater treatment plays an essential role in safeguarding public and environmental health within the built environment. However, wastewater treatment operations are among the most energy intensive activities carried out in our cities, with high levels of associated greenhouse gas (GHG)...

CRCLCL Project Posters
CRCLCL Project Posters
Student poster - Participants Annual Forum 2016 - Benjamin Thwaites Aerobic granular sludge for energy efficient wastewater treatment and reuse
CRCLCL Project Posters
Student poster - Participants Annual Forum 2016 - Ilda Clos Energy benchmarking for efficient, low-carbon water recycling operations
CRCLCL Project Posters

Research Snapshot A3 size poster from Participants Annual Forum 2014