Utilities search for answers to repair aging energy and water infrastructure

August 8, 2023 | 5 minute read
Rick Bell
Senior Content Marketing Manager
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Most consumers don’t think twice about the electricity that keeps the lights on or the water flowing from the tap—at least, not until there’s a problem.

That’s not to say we take power and water for granted. It’s just that delivery of both mostly is out of sight, out of mind. Water pipes are buried beneath the ground, and our knowledge of the power grid largely is limited to seeing the towers that transmit electricity to our homes.

Our aging infrastructure, however, is changing our “ignorance is bliss” perception as the utilities responsible for its maintenance and operations struggle to keep up. The soaring number of power outages, water main breaks, and boil-water orders issued in response to the presence of a public health hazard are eroding customers’ trust and faith in their utilities.

The high cost of maintaining a steady stream of water and power

It’s been estimated that 2.1 trillion gallons of treated water are lost annually in the US due to leaky infrastructure. And according to the American Water Works Association, 5.9 billion gallons of treated water is lost each day across the nation as a result of old and leaky pipes, faulty meters, unauthorized consumption, and broken water mains. The price tag to make the necessary repairs is tapped at $129 billion.

While the weather has commonly been the top threat to the energy sector’s reliability, climate change has only exacerbated the frequency and intensity of these events and associated costs. The US Department of Energy reported that power outages are costing the U.S. economy $28 billion to $169 billion annually. 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” in the coming years, additional transmission and distribution infrastructure, smart planning, and improved reliability are crucial to accommodate the changing energy landscape shaped by climate change and the proliferation of renewable energy sources.

Many countries finally are allotting government funds to upgrade aging infrastructure. Water storage and electric grids are bundled into those efforts. For instance, with much of the Netherlands being below sea level and climate change an ever-pressing concern, rehabilitating crucial water-delivery infrastructure projects including dike-reinforcement projects is critical. Much of the Dutch government’s infrastructure work involves repairing post-World War II construction—meaning it’s 80 years old and in desperate need of renovation.

In the US, investments toward the modernization and expansion of electric grids are already underway. Last November the US Department of Energy announced $13 billion in new financing opportunities for the expansion and modernization of the nation’s electric grid.

Sorting out utility project priorities

As utilities prioritize water or electricity infrastructure projects, they must evaluate the overall merits of each project with the goal of selecting ones that help them maximize benefits with a defined budget. Organizations including utilities now are connecting with artificial intelligence to shore up water leaks, cut carbon emissions, improve efficiency, and limit costs. Through the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a broad swath of utilities is investigating the use of drones and AI to improve the inspection of transmission and distribution assets.

When projects are publicly funded, utilities also must implement the right governance to ensure accountability, so the funds are spent efficiently with requisite reporting built in to ensure transparency to regulators as well as the public. Picking the right projects and using the right tools to better manage the projects ultimately helps these utilities serve their customers and maintain good standing in the community.

Devising a plan to repair aging energy and water infrastructure

A new ebook available now for download details the importance of mending old, ailing public infrastructure. Titled “Aging Infrastructure: How Electric and Water Utilities Can Revamp and Re-energize,” explores how agencies can successfully upgrade infrastructure to keep ample, safe supplies of water flowing and energy humming.

utilities ebook

Executing projects efficiently is key to reliably delivering water and energy to customers. For this to be a reality, utility project owners need the relevant project data accessible to maintain and retrofit infrastructure as needed.

Utilities have reputations to uphold and depend on public support, so it’s crucial for utilities to ensure they adhere to industry regulations, maintain compliance, and meet specific sustainability goals as they continue to upgrade infrastructure to be more resilient.

For optimal utilities project execution, readers of the ebook will learn that Oracle solutions offer complete cost, contract, risk, and approval flow management. Funding from multiple sources can be managed, allocated, and tracked appropriately, and project deliverables are accurately tracked so project managers can take proactive action before schedules are impacted.

As project owners tackle new utility projects, integrated capital planning and project execution provides better portfolio-wide visibility and allows owners to use lessons learned to improve from project to project.

Download the new ebook, which helps utilities build a healthy, efficient, and more reliable infrastructure that effectively delivers power and water for generations to come.

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Rick Bell

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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