Energy: A Stakeholder-centric Approach
UCI has a strong record in energy and water efficiency, reducing waste streams and utilizing renewable energy sources. CALIT2 is integrating the advances made by the facilities operators and planners with faculty, staff and student research. In addition, the institute is exploring the use of novel materials, new technologies and data-driven control systems to lower energy costs and reduce unnecessary use of other constrained resources.
In particular, under the leadership of Director G.P. Li, CALIT2 has focused on plug load devices, including appliances, electronics and tools – anything that plugs into an electrical outlet. Currently, these devices are responsible for as much as 20 percent of the electrical consumption in buildings, with 30 percent projected by 2030. To exacerbate the situation, a majority of these devices consume power even when not in use – the much-dreaded “phantom power,” which accounts for over 15 gigawatts of power consumption, worldwide, 24/7. The plug loads, if not well managed, could derail California’s plans for Zero Net Energy in new homes by 2020.
CALIT2 established the California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) to improve energy efficiency in the use and design of appliances and consumer electronic devices. With an initial $1M in research funding support from the California Energy Commission, CalPlug focuses on energy-efficiency solutions, efficiency evaluations of consumer electronics, standards development, education and public outreach, and user-behavior studies. CalPlug addresses challenges in plug-load efficiency for both residential and commercial buildings by receiving support from and collaborating closely with a variety of stakeholders: utilities, manufacturers, advocacy groups, research institutions and energy policymakers. CalPlug focus areas include: studies of plug-load appliances and devices in use (set-top-boxes, digital entertainment, personal computing, medical devices, etc.); micro-grid power-management systems; electronic engineering and computer science breakthroughs for device efficiency; consumer behavior studies; energy conservation in server rooms and small-business data centers; and benchmarking energy-efficient prototypes and products. By bridging industry and organizational boundaries, CalPlug serves as neutral ground for multilateral conversations and negotiations, and assists in developing future efficiency standards and incentives.
In 2014, Southern California Edison provided $250,000 in funding to develop technology that brings on-demand energy data to consumers’ home entertainment systems. Called the Energy Channel, the user-friendly application relays instant power usage – detailed energy information from a home’s SmartConnect meter – to a TV display in 5-second increments. The goal is to provide easy access to real-time information because research shows that instantaneous feedback to consumers can reduce energy consumption by 5-15 percent. In addition to its smart-meter connection, the Energy Channel uses Wi-Fi to draw data from a number of sources: Zillow, SCE’s Twitter feed and the Weather Channel. These help the app compare similar houses in comparable neighborhoods, forecast weather-driven spikes in usage and offer SCE updates and energy-saving tips. “This particular research includes a TV channel and an app that helps residential customers be aware of their energy usage and how much money they can save if they change their energy-usage patterns,” says Shamahrukh Marghoob, SCE product development project manager. “It also shows other relevant factors that are useful from the consumers’ point of view.”
how much time their computers are idle, in the hope it encourages them to enable their computer’s sleep settings. The PMUI app is based on behavioral theory and intervention research. The app was created after two initial large-scale studies of computer user’s behaviors sponsored by the California Energy Commission. In an initial survey, more than 2,000 people were asked about their home and work desktop and laptop computers. In a second study, the research team monitored more than 100 of the survey subjects’ office desktops. Comparing the results of the first two studies held a surprise: in the first study, 78 percent of the survey takers said the sleep settings were enabled; but the second observation study determined that only 20 percent actually had sleep settings enabled. The PMUI study focused on the two-thirds of users whose sleep settings were disabled but who thought the settings were enabled or didn’t know. Results from the PMUI study provided strong evidence that feedback on computer idle time can convince users to change their sleep settings, saving a substantial amount of energy.
The Wall of Power demonstration is designed to provide interactive consumer education on plug load devices and systems energy consumption. The concept of personal energy footprint is proposed to influence users of consumer electronics to purchase and use more energy efficient technologies. To encompass the rapidly evolving consumer electronic products, an open database has been constructed for Wall of Power users to retrieve information on products, energy consumption data, incentive programs as well as user submitted data. The Wall of Power consists of three components: a scalable physical front-end system, a web server system and an open database.