"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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PG&E Helps Customers Save Energy By Saving Water

By Jonathan Marshall

Here’s a statistic that amazed me—and that should be mandatory for all students to memorize: Running your hot water for just five minutes uses as much energy as leaving a 60-watt light bulb burning for 14 hours.

PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center annually hosts an event where water-saving technologies are displayed. (Currents Archive Photo.)

Because they take so much energy to purify, pump and heat, water-related processes accounts for about 19 percent of California’s electricity consumption, 32 percent of all natural gas use, and 88 million gallons of diesel fuel consumption, according to estimates published by the California Energy Commission.

Figures like those have prompted a host of public agencies and environmental groups to focus attention on the “energy-water nexus” and “water-energy synergies.” The concept is simple: Conserving water, which is smart policy in a drought-prone state, is also one of the best ways to save energy. Fortunately, California’s long-standing leadership in energy efficiency programs offers strong synergies with critical water management efforts.

In 2010, the Oakland-based Pacific Institute calculated that saving 320,000 acre-feet of water through conservation and efficiency programs would also save 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough to meet the annual needs of 300,000 California households — and 87 million therms of natural gas. I think that could safely be termed a win-win.

A new report by the Pacific Institute — and another by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy — both highlight programs by PG&E as examples of how energy and water utilities can collaborate to help the environment and save customers money by making more efficient use of water.

One prime example is a program that PG&E and several San Francisco Bay Area water utilities launched in 2006 to combine customer rebates for purchases of high-efficiency clothes washers, which use a third less water than conventional models—and thus less energy for heating. Customers had to fill out only one form and received one check, simplifying the process.

The program, which still operates today, provides $125 rebates on selected models in areas with participating water districts. On its own, PG&E offers $50 rebates for such models.

Many of PG&E’s other energy efficiency programs also save customers water. In 2012, PG&E’s water-saving programs for residential and business customers ranged from offering free low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to promoting low-energy drip irrigation, ozone laundry equipment, and efficient clothes washers.

In all, the technology installed last year by this sample of programs will save more than 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, 12 million kWh of electricity, and 3.3 million therms of natural gas — about half from residential and half from business customers.

PG&E continues to explore new ways to promote the water-energy synergy through customer education and research on improved practices related to irrigation, food processing, water leak control, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, and other special projects.

And, last but not least, PG&E takes its own water conservation seriously. The utility is headed to meet its aggressive five-year goal of reducing water usage in offices and service yards by 20 percent by the end of 2014.

Email Jonathan Marshall at jonathan.marshall@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.