New tool helps United Utilities optimise energy management in water distribution


UK water company United Utilities has partnered with Open Energi to improve energy management at its water plants.

The water utility is adopting Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand 2.0, an artificial intelligence-based platform to manage electricity demand and generation at its eight water plants.

The platform will be integrated with water pumps, motors and biogas CHP engines over the next 12 months.

The utility’s wastewater treatment plants at Chorley and in Bolton will be the first to deploy the technology.

The platform will remotely shift the utility’s energy demand to meet supply.

The technology will reduce the energy requirements of assets during peak demands and switch back to normal energy consumption levels when supply is high, without negatively affecting water treatment and distribution.

The use of the solution across the utility’s eight sites will provide 8MW of flexible energy and cut electricity costs by 10% a year.

This will help United Utilities to respond to changes in grid frequency, peak-time network costs, wholesale and imbalanced prices and local constraints, whilst making the most efficient use of their energy.

The project is expected to help the UK water distribution firm expand its renewable energy generation portfolio. To date, United Utilities generates 21% of its energy from renewables (solar, biogas and hydro) and has plans to add 30MW of renewables by 2020.

The project is expected to keep consumer water bills affordable.

Andy Pennick, energy manager at United Utilities, said “We are committed to providing safe, cost efficient and sustainable water and wastewater services to our customers. Behind-the-scenes energy is a pivotal part of our service. By bringing all our energy disciplines together, we can focus on future proofing our energy strategy and providing low carbon, secure energy at least cost.

“As a responsible business we are always striving to reduce our environmental impact and provide a great service. Investing in innovative technology like this helps us tackle future challenges around climate change with no impact to the service we provide. It will also enable us to continue our drive to reduce costs, which has seen customer bills decline in real terms since 2010.”

Open Energi’s commercial director, David Hill, commented “The UK’s energy system is undergoing a quiet revolution. Renewable uptake has surpassed all expectations and coal is disappearing from our grid, but we are now faced with the perverse situation where wind is likely to be turned off during summer months so that gas-fired power stations can be kept online to balance the system.