There are several ways to measure energy efficiency. Observing trends in the consumption of domestic and chilled water, electricity, steam and greenhouse gas emissions are among the various approaches. Imagine having the technology on campus that would allow anyone to access the energy statistics for a particular building on campus at any time of the day. Anyone would be able to see how many gallons of water were consumed within the past hour, the past day or even the past week. Or, you could find the kilowatt hours of electricity used earlier in the week, and then compare the data figure to the day prior. The University has installed a new form of green technology into Oak and Laurel Halls that will bring this idea to life. The new technology is called an energy dashboard. It is an interactive kiosk that allows anyone to interact with various widgets on the touch-screen display. By touching any of the widgets, students, staff and faculty will be able to explore real-time energy usage statistics, as well as information about the building’s sustainable features and a green campus tour.
Alone, the energy dashboards do not save energy. The system displays energy statistics that are in turn left to be interpreted and acted upon by the campus community. For instance, if Oak Hall were to experience a significant spike in water usage from one day to another, it would be the responsibility of the students and staff to be mindful of the amount of water they consume. Therefore, the University hopes to ultimately instill behavioral change. A crucial part of this process is education. The energy dashboards can be incorporated into the classroom environment as professors include them in their curriculum. They can be used as a classroom tool for a variety of courses ranging from Environmental Science, Ecology Agricultural and Resource Economics and Conservation Biology to Civil and Environmental Engineering and Natural Resources. By drawing from actual, real-time data, professors can supplement their lesson plans by having their students analyze certain energy statistics and create their own solutions. For example, if a building experienced an increase in electricity usage, students would be tasked with deducing a probable solution.
At UC Berkeley, the myPower program was launched as a comprehensive program to reduce the amount of energy the campus consumes. It is also a means to empower the entire campus community to take smart, simple energy saving measures that will shrink environmental footprint and save money. In return, the money saved is sent back as funds for teaching and research purposes. The myPower program also marked the beginning of an online energy dashboard that allows anyone to see how much electricity is being consumed in a particular building at that very moment. The energy dashboard extends to fifty-seven buildings and is a part of the university’s new initiative to reduce energy use. UC Berkeley, like UConn, aims to instill behavioral change in the campus community by launching the myPower program. In turn, case studies and energy surveys have been initiated to highlight how the energy dashboards complement existing sustainable initiatives. UC Berkeley, since the implementation of the myPower program, has experienced high annual savings, enhanced research opportunities and a considerable educational value.
Energy dashboards not only serve as an extraordinary educational tool, but they raise awareness about our environmental impact. By making real-time energy statistics available to the community, both students and staff will be able to apply conservation tips to their own lives and ultimately make a difference in reducing the size of the University’s carbon footprint.