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Udall Announces Measures to Promote Water and Energy Efficiency

Amendments to major energy efficiency bill would save taxpayers’ money, reduce water waste and set national renewable electricity standard.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced in a speech on the Senate floor that he will push for three measures designed to save energy and water and boost the market for clean energy production.

The common-sense measures will be introduced as amendments to a major energy efficiency bill being debated now in the Senate. All build on work he has done to promote water and energy efficiency as a way to save money, help create jobs and ensure a diverse energy portfolio. The Senate is expected to continue debating the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act through next week.

“In New Mexico, we know the value of conserving water and making smart use of our resources – and we know all too well that we don’t have water to waste. These amendments reflect those values,” Udall said. 

“For example, taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year and waste as much as 6 billion gallons of water because of inefficient water systems. To continue this practice while the Southwest and other regions are facing extreme drought is ridiculous, and in some of our communities it’s downright dangerous,” Udall continued. “We can do better. My amendments would make investments to help communities conserve energy, use less water – and save taxpayers’ money.”

Udall’s amendments would:

Create three to five smart water system pilot projects around the country jointly supported by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency and designed to support innovative energy-efficient water systems. The project would help water utilities, which devote as much as 60 percent of their operating costs to energy, and save customers money.

Promote water conservation to help communities and families reduce costs. The amendment would authorize an expansion of the federal government’s WaterSense program, the water conservation answer to EnergyStar. It also would support local and state rebate and incentive programs that encourage customers to buy water-efficient products and landscaping. And it would establish a “Blue Bank” to provide grants to help water and sewer utilities invest in water supply management, planning and water-efficiency and reuse. 

Create a nationwide Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring that 25 percent of our nation’s energy come from renewable sources – such as wind and solar – by 2025. Over half the states in the nation have an RES already. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Udall introduced and passed an RES. It was the first legislation he introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“A national RES will guarantee a market for solar, wind and other clean energy sources. And it would spur the creation of thousands of high-tech jobs that can’t be outsourced,” Udall said. “An RES is a key part of the kind of ‘Do It All, Do It Right’ energy policy that we need in New Mexico and nationwide. An RES goes hand-in-hand with energy efficiency to encourage smart energy use. I’ve long fought for a national RES, and the time is right to put this idea back on the table.”

The following are Udall’s remarks as delivered on the Senate floor:

Mr. President, I rise today to discuss several amendments to the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. First, I want to thank Senators Shaheen and Portman for working on this important legislation for so long. Energy efficiency is critical for our future, and this bill takes us in the right direction. 

There are a few areas where I think we need to take additional steps.

My first amendment connects energy and water efficiency. Many people do not realize that water efficiency IS energy efficiency.

Three to 4 percent of our national electricity consumption is for water and wastewater services each year. That’s about 5 to 6 billion kilowatts, and $4 billion dollars a year in costs. That is a lot of energy – and a lot of money. 

Talk to the water management professionals in your state. They will tell you that these costs add up. Quickly. The energy-water nexus is one that cannot be ignored.

The Energy Committee has been engaged in the water-energy nexus for some time, both under Senator Bingaman and continuing under Senator Wyden’s leadership.

Water and wastewater utilities are typically the largest consumers of energy in towns and cities, often accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed. As ratepayers, we all pay those bills.

And inefficient systems don’t just cost money. They waste huge amounts of water – as much as 6 billion gallons per year is lost. Let me repeat that: 6 billion gallons of water a year. Wasted. That is enough water to serve 10 of the largest cities in this country – or the entire state of California. 

To continue this practice while the Southwest and other regions are facing extreme drought is ridiculous, and in some of our communities it’s downright dangerous.

We can do better, and we have to. Efficiency of U.S. water and wastewater pumping facilities is about 55 percent. But for a new well-designed pumping facility it’s 80 percent. 

Consider this: If water and wastewater utilities could reduce energy use by just 10 percent, it would save about $400 million annually. 

My amendment calls for $15 million dollars to support smart water system pilot projects – supporting innovation and the kind of investments today that will pay off tomorrow.  

Our amendment is fully offset. This is not about adding costs. It is about reducing the costs for ratepayers.  

So I believe this amendment is worthy of bipartisan support. We have support from almost every major water utility association and from the technology industry. It should be included on any amendment list.

Putting innovation to work in three to five cities is a first step. The program will be jointly managed by the Department of Energy and the EPA to create incentives for public-private partnerships – lowering the cost of innovation, applying best practices to the public and private sectors, to eventually benefit communities across the entire country.

I also plan to introduce a second, more ambitious amendment to improve the water efficiency of our homes – to save water and to lower costs for American families. The average family of four in our country uses 400 gallons of water every day. My amendment will provide funds to states, local governments and utilities to implement incentives and rebates for consumers to purchase water-efficient products and landscaping. 

In addition, the amendment will authorize the EPA WaterSense program, similar to the Energy Star program, to enable WaterSense to improve and expand its labeling system for water efficient appliances, plumbing fixtures and landscaping and new homes. 

My amendment also establishes a grant program called “Blue Bank,” providing water and sewer utilities with grants for important investments in climate change adaptation, including advanced water supply management, modification of infrastructure, improved planning, and water efficiency and reuse.

Finally, I will offer an amendment for a Renewable Electricity Standard to get to 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025. The first legislation I introduced as a U.S. senator was to create a national RES. The time is right to put this idea back on the table.

Renewables are a crucial part of our energy mix. A national RES will create thousands of jobs that cannot be outsourced and will help revitalize rural America. It has worked in over half the states in the country by guaranteeing a market for wind and sun and other clean energy sources.

Renewable energy is a key partner of energy efficiency in a modern energy system.  They are often installed side-by-side, increasing the payback in energy savings and reducing emissions and fighting climate change.

Our nation needs a “Do It All, Do It Right” energy policy to address global climate change and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – those are big threats – but also a big opportunity. We can create a clean energy economy that leads the world in producing the jobs of the future. 

I again want to thank my colleagues, Senators Shaheen and Portman, for their work. And I look forward to continued bipartisan efforts as we address the energy needs of our country. 

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