We live in a society that is increasingly more aware of the impact we have on the environment, particularly the younger generations: they are expected to continue to modify their behaviour accordingly.
Industry companies, and specifically the water and wastewater sector, have a fundamental role when it comes to addressing the growing demand. In this regard, reinventing sustainability in water cycle management entails optimising energy efficiency, increasing circularity through connections with other sectors and providing incentives for decarbonisation, as well as being deeply involved with the community where one operates.
In this framework, let us not forget that producing, pumping, treating and transporting water consumes 8% of the global energy. Therefore, helping water stakeholders to manage their energy needs efficiently is a big step towards sustainability. To this effect, energy management, reducing consumption, and improved visibility of operations are essential. Likewise, reducing water losses, ensuring water quality and optimising the use of hydraulic and treatment infrastructure are crucial to sustaining efficient resource use throughout the water cycle.
Reinventing sustainability in water management entails energy efficiency, increasing circularity and incentives for decarbonisation
How can this be achieved? The pillars that drive efficiency and sustainability in the water sector are the energy transition and the digital transition. Distributed energy generation through renewable sources, microgrids and storage increases the flexibility and resilience of facilities and reduces CO2 emissions. Furthermore, it contributes to the emergence of the prosumer (producer and consumer) and, with them, new ways to get and manage energy, new stakeholders and business models.
On the other hand, the digital transition in the sector is driving the capacity to achieve sustainability targets through optimised supply chains and processes, mobility solutions, remote asset and equipment management, electrification — and thereby, the decarbonisation of the energy supply in generation, transport and production —, circular operations and traceability.
Sustainability is at the core of Schneider Electric's strategy and mission. As an example of our commitment, we have adopted a collaborative approach to environmental solutions, developing products, solutions and services that can be used by sector companies in any of the phases of their journey towards sustainability. Moreover, we have created EcoStruxure, the best solution to encourage energy and operational efficiency in the water industry, and Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) help our clients track their progress by quantifying CO2 emissions. We cannot forget Schneider Electric Exchange, which provides a crowdsourcing platform to generate innovative ideas and readily address business challenges.
The pillars that drive efficiency and sustainability in the water sector are the energy transition and the digital transition
The digitalisation of the water and wastewater sector is a vehicle to tackle the UN Sustainable Development Objectives: ensure access to water and sanitation for all, preserve resources, protect public health and enable more sustainable development. At Schneider Electric we contribute to achieving:
- SDG 6, helping to provide clean water and sanitation and supporting our clients with water and wastewater treatment, desalination, water networks and resources, water and energy resource conservation, etc., so that they can build, operate and maintain sustainable and efficient infrastructure.
There are many examples of the contribution of the company to achieve this objective. In the field of desalination, our automation and energy management technology, powered by digital services, is used by the main construction companies and operators: 50% of the major plants in the world have been automated with this type of solution. Hence, in the Middle East and Africa, they have been used to provide clean water to communities that were experiencing water stress or to help restore water resources that were overexploited or depleted. For example, the Shuqaiq 3 plant in Saudi Arabia, being built by Acciona, is the first of the company's project references with the Foxboro distributed control system (DCS) for reverse osmosis desalination. Also, in Egypt, in the El Alamein plant, constructed by Aqualia, and the El Galalah plant, built by Metito — the largest reverse osmosis plants in the country — our solutions deliver significant CapEx and OpEx savings and 20% improvements in production efficiency.
Concerning treatment plants, our technology will help to restore the quality of the Bogota river with the expansion of the Salitre II wastewater treatment plant, the largest in Colombia, being built by Aqualia. It incorporates our new digital services including EcoStruxure Asset Advisor and EcoStruxure Power Advisor to improve operational efficiency.
Other recent success stories are the São Lourenço transposition and drinking water treatment project for Sabesp in Brazil, which guarantees water security in the São Paulo metropolitan area, the Las Sabanitas II drinking water treatment plant in Panama for Acciona, or the Goulburn wastewater treatment plants in Australia for Sydney Water and Ciudad David in Panama for Suez.
Our automation and energy management technology, powered by digital services, is used by the main construction companies and operators
In the services area, we have signed, among others, a contract to save energy in a wastewater treatment plant in California, United States, where we guarantee energy savings and a reduction in CO2 emissions as a result of the improvements to be implemented, which will be financed with the savings from the project itself.
In addition, we give visibility to real-time resource consumption at the company level with the EcoStruxure Resource Advisor platform. The result is water that is safe, reliable, sustainable and efficient.
- SDG 9, fostering innovation with more resilient and sustainable infrastructure, with our Smart Water offerings and our services, enabling the digitalisation of operations and assets.
For example, technologies such as augmented reality provided by EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor allow operators to improve their efficiency. This solution is being implemented in a desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, where we also incorporate energy management solutions to increase production efficiency.
Digital twins, such as AVEVA NET, by our technology partner AVEVA, contribute to the sustainability of the infrastructure or process, and thanks to digital solutions such as EcoStruxure Secure Connect Advisor it is possible to remotely manage and access assets while ensuring cybersecurity, something that has nowadays become crucial; this way, companies can continue with their operations without having to access their facilities.
We have expanded our offering of asset maintenance and management services, with plans that include, among others, consulting expert support, predictive analysis tools and remote assistance by experts using augmented reality to solve problems, with no need to visit the facilities.
Thanks to solutions such as EcoStruxure Secure Connect Advisor it is possible to remotely manage assets while ensuring cybersecurity
Our EcoStruxure Maintenance Advisor maintenance system enables optimising the maintenance of our system to control the water supply and distribution in Amman, in Jordan, a system based on EcoStruxure Geo SCADA Expert which provides drinking water to 4 million people.
- SDG 11, contributing to the development of smart cities and circularity through decarbonisation and Smart Water solutions.
Schneider Electric also contributes to increasing circularity and the green economy. Smart water is part of smart cities and the efforts to decarbonise, manage water resources and increase circularity.
We may note the Smart Cities projects in Naya Raipur and Dholera, in India, as examples. In both cases, our technology is in charge of the centralised management of all the water supply and sanitation infrastructure, as well as leak management and the optimisation of operations in the drinking water network. Our solution also manages city traffic and lighting.
In Sabesp's Aquapolo water reclamation plant, the largest in Brazil and the fifth largest in the world, our solutions help to treat water to be reused for industrial purposes, thus freeing up resources to supply drinking water to more than 500,000 people. This project received the AMCHAM ECO 2018 award as an example of sustainability.
In times of crisis such as the current one, applying sustainability and efficiency measures can help compensate the loss of benefits
Thanks to the implementation of microgrids beside desalination or water treatment plants it is possible to have alternative renewable energy sources, and to manage them optimally to increase the energy autonomy and sustainability of the plants.
To sum up, Schneider Electric provides its clients with technologies and services that accelerate connection and digitalisation, so that they can improve their efficiency, adopt new processes, and reach strategic sustainability objectives.
In times of crisis such as the current one, applying sustainability and efficiency measures can help compensate the loss of benefits, and bring us closer to a positive impact on profitability when the economic situation gets back to normal. And in the long term, every investment in sustainability means a better future for all.