By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News 1.16.22
When you might want to upgrade an appliance at your house, you hope that the long-term savings from decreased energy use might save you money while saving other resources like time. For Las Cruces Utilities (LCU), a multi-year project came with something called a performance contract that would show LCU how it saved money by investing in new infrastructure and technology. Between March 2018 and February 2021, LCU saved $2,010,162 by upgrading and retrofitting gas and water meters and implementing a leak detection program.
In 2016, the LCU Board approved a pilot project to implement, and evaluate Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) for approximately 2,500 water and gas meters in the city’s east mesa service area. The AMI technology allowed the City of Las Cruces (City) to obtain meter readings more rapidly and accurately to bill customers for water and gas usage.
In May 2017, the LCU Board approved an agreement with Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) to determine the feasibility of executing a “Guaranteed Utility Savings Contract” to evaluate the LCU AMI pilot project and quantify potential savings by implementing a more comprehensive implementation of AMI.
The JCI study identified several areas where potential savings could be achieved. First was adopting a systemwide water metering technology that retained accurate metering over many years of service life. The second savings area addressed was water conservation from the operations side by installing leak detecting and location technology that identified water leaks on LCU’s water distribution system before becoming major leaks. The third area was installing and implementing wireless communications to collect all the metering data to a central point. The fourth area identified was resulting efficiencies in operating procedures, which utilized the network data.
“JCI had guaranteed a savings of $192,201 – a set amount they would have paid LCU if savings in that order or above didn’t occur,” said LCU Deputy Director Business Service Jose Provencio. “It was exceeded by $1.8 million.”
Preliminary investigation and sampling of the existing condition of certain City water meters, JCI determined that a significant percentage of meters did not accurately measure billable consumption.
During the installation period, JCI retrofitted 18,324 existing gas meters, retrofitted 4,342 existing water meters, and exchanged 28,821 water meters. The project also included the permanent installation of 10,011 leak sensors in the distribution system to record vibrations on the LCU-owned pipes.
“The automated leak detection system provides LCU with an ability to effectively monitor and manage distribution leaks within the LCU water distribution network,” said Provencio.
Based on the 2020 American Water Works Association Water Audit for Las Cruces, total Annual Real Losses have decreased significantly since the base period and following the implementation of the leak detection program.
“Real losses of water decreased by 231.76 acre-feet or the equivalent of 75.52 million gallons,” said Provencio.
The JCI report also noted an additional benefit of reduced water losses is the savings in chemicals needed to treat the water. At the same time, the City’s Sustainability Office estimated an annual greenhouse gas emission reduction of 183 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
“This was only the savings for the installation period,” said Provencio. “We will be getting a yearly report that captures the qualified energy savings for the length of the contract which is 20 years.”
“LCU also worked toward the City Climate Action Plan by reducing emissions by 12 percent,” said LCU Director Delilah Walsh. “With the City’s goal of being at 19 percent by 2030, this reduction gives the City a great start.”
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: Replacing gas meters throughout Las Cruces saw an increase of savings for Las Cruces Utilities.