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Here's to 2021: An Insider's Look at the Water & Energy Industry

2020 has tested our adherence to our company principles of #ingenuity, #growthmindset and #havingfun. And once we land on January 1st – and I usually jump in with my kids at the Save Our Springs Alliance’s Polar Bear Plunge in Austin (but likely won’t be this year) – we’ll still be in familiar territory. Protecting our public health and finding a way to restore our relationships as citizens will be as pressing needs as they ever have been.

Hot Time in the Old Town

In the National Weather Service’s “Experimental Unofficial Long-Lead Forecasts,” the projection for July/August/September 2021 is calling for almost certain above-average temperatures across the country, and in January/February/March 2021 the southern half of the U.S. will very likely see below-average rainfall. While John Kerry’s nomination as Climate Envoy by President-Elect Biden signals likely serious policy discussions next year at home and abroad, parts of the country will again need to prepare for drought and wildfire management.

Evolution in the Energy Sector

2021 will see a continued push on electrification, not just through the latest electric vehicle makes and models but also through building electrification. Even colder climate states such as Michigan are starting to focus on “net zero” homes and buildings, where on-site renewable energy production gets aligned with efficient electricity consumption and battery storage.

Next year we will also see many states start discussions on the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, which introduces significant energy efficiency savings in new construction. While it will be a few years before the 2021 IECC will go into effect (a number of states will just adopt the 2018 IECC next year), highlights of the 2021 IECC include 10% energy improvements, promotion of building and vehicle electrification, and zero carbon and zero energy paths.

Energy utilities could start driving portfolio savings by promoting the code and paying rebates to meet or exceed IECC 2021, in turn helping the market prepare for its adoption.

Waves in the Water Sector

Closer to home for AIQUEOUS, the Texas Water Conservation Design Standards developed by the State Energy Conservation Office will go into effect on January 1, 2021. While applicable to only state buildings and institutions of higher education, the document sets aggressive conservation standards for all water end uses in these facilities. Notably the document establishes requirements to report water consumption and to sub-meter specific end uses or systems, and analysis of those data will help facility managers stay on top of leaks and optimize water use.

Speaking of sub-metering and analytics, AIQUEOUS hopes to see great things from our friends at Flume in 2021.

Consumers can self-install the hardware and see real-time water use on their web browser and via a smartphone app. It’s a great device to understand where your water is going, how much you actually use on your lawn (!), and to know when you’ve got a leak.

Finally, AIQUEOUS expects to see continued investment and development in water reuse systems and technology. Microsoft, for example, has made a corporate commitment to be “water positive” by 2030, meaning that Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes on a global basis and adding what it calls a “fourth pillar” to its sustainability practice. Doing so will require the implementation of recommendations in the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s National Water Reuse Action Plan.

Justice Shall We Pursue

Finally, we already see signs that social equity and environmental justice will continue to be a focus in 2021. In addition to their “water positive” efforts, Microsoft has committed to develop a portfolio of 500 MW of solar energy projects in “under-resourced communities in the U.S.”

The Renewables Forward Initiative is dedicated to assess diversity and inclusion and create a more diverse and inclusive pipeline of both candidates and projects in minority communities.

We hope to see more efforts like Ameren Illinois’ Market Development Initiative, which increased participation by diverse program allies in its energy efficiency portfolio by 300% from 2017-2019.

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