DOE News
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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2017-09-27 16:55:22
    • Article ID: 681901

    New Study Finds Expected Savings from School Energy Efficiency Upgrade Outpace Actual Returns

    Innovative study finds energy efficiency investments made at California public schools may not provide as much benefit as officials expected

    Students returning to school this Fall may not think much about the significant amount of energy it takes to keep the lights on and their classroom smartboards operating, but principals, superintendents, and building managers are taking note. According to the EPA, schools nationwide spend $8 billion a year on energy – second only to personnel in K-12 operating budgets. 

    Using a novel, machine learning approach that allows researchers to compare a school’s electricity costs before and after an upgrade, a new study released today shows that energy efficiency improvements lowered electricity consumption on average by 3 percent, reducing power bills and freeing up money for textbooks and other priorities. 

    However, researchers also found that these schools received on average only 24 percent of the energy savings that were projected before officials invested in the upgrades. Lighting and heating and cooling upgrades delivered the greatest savings—49 and 42 percent of expected savings on a school-by-school basis, respectively. 

    Beyond the potential for greenhouse gas reductions, many energy efficiency investments are projected to pay for themselves by lowering energy bills. While school districts across the country invest in energy efficiency upgrades, it’s important to note that estimates on the cost savings are overwhelmingly based on imperfect projections, rather than real-world data. 

    “Accurately measuring energy savings in the field can be challenging,” says Mar Reguant, associate professor of economics at Northwestern University. “But getting these measurements right is important for cash-strapped school districts who need to optimize their investments so that they get the most benefit from their energy efficiency upgrades.” 

    Additionally, most states have policies that rely heavily on energy efficiency investments to address climate change.  

    “If society’s dependence on energy efficiency is to result in a real impact on climate change, it is essential that energy efficiency projections live up to their expectations, cost effectively creating actual energy savings, and in turn carbon emission reductions,” says Christopher Knittel, the George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research. 

    Using energy consumption data in fifteen minute increments at all the K-12 schools in the Pacific Gas and Electric service territory in California coupled with the newly devised machine learning approach, researchers could disentangle the impacts of energy efficiency improvements from other factors that may impact electric use. 

    “Simply comparing a school that invests in a new air conditioner to one that didn’t may mask important differences between schools,” says Fiona Burlig, a postdoctoral scholar at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). “For example, maybe one school is in a major urban center, while the other is in a rural setting.

    "Co-author David Rapson, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis, and co-director of the Davis Energy Economics Program (DEEP), adds, "With the help of our new machine learning method, researchers elsewhere will be able to more easily and cost effectively study the actual energy savings delivered by energy efficiency investments." 

    “By providing a better understanding of how precise predictions can be, this study is a step in the right direction to assisting officials in being better prepared to optimize investments in energy efficiency upgrades,” says Catherine Wolfram, the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business and faculty director at the Energy Institute at Haas. 

    This study was a joint effort between The E2e Project and EPIC. It was made possible thanks to generous support from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the California Public Utilities Commission.

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    Splitting Water Fast! Catalyst Works Faster than Mother Nature

    Splitting Water Fast! Catalyst Works Faster than Mother Nature

    Design principles lead to a catalyst that splits water in a low pH environment, vital for generating solar fuels.

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    Electric Skyrmions Charge Ahead for Next-Generation Data Storage

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    CEBAF Turns on the Charm

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    The world's most advanced particle accelerator for investigating the quark structure of the atom's nucleus has just charmed physicists with a new capability. The production of charm quarks in J/ψ (J/psi) particles by CEBAF at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility confirms that the facility has expanded the realm of precision nuclear physics research with electron beams to higher energies.

    Fast-Moving Pairs May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery

    Fast-Moving Pairs May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery

    Physicists develop a universal mathematical description that suggests that proton-neutron pairs in a nucleus may explain why their associated quarks have lower average momenta than predicted.

    Artificial intelligence accelerates efforts to develop clean, virtually limitless fusion energy

    Artificial intelligence accelerates efforts to develop clean, virtually limitless fusion energy

    Feature describes Nature paper on opening a new chapter in fusion research with artificial intelligence.

    Team Takes Fluoride from Taps and Toothpaste to Batteries

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    With user facilities, researchers devise novel battery chemistries to help make fluoride batteries a reality.

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    Physicists Improve Understanding of Heat and Particle Flow in the Edge of a Fusion Device

    Physicists Improve Understanding of Heat and Particle Flow in the Edge of a Fusion Device

    PPPL physicists have discovered valuable information about how plasma flows at the edge inside doughnut-shaped fusion devices. The findings mark an encouraging sign for the development of machines to produce fusion energy for generating electricity without creating long-term hazardous waste.


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    Department of Energy Announces $20 Million for Artificial Intelligence Research

    Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a total of $20 million in funding for innovative research and development in artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning.

    Tim Knewitz named Argonne National Laboratory's Chief Financial Officer

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    The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory has named Tim Knewitz at its Chief Financial Officer.

    Department of Energy Announces $95 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

    U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry today announced that the Department of Energy will award 86 grants totaling $95 million to 74 small businesses in 21 states.

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories

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    Brookhaven Joins the IBM Q Network Hub at Oak Ridge National Lab

    Brookhaven Joins the IBM Q Network Hub at Oak Ridge National Lab

    Brookhaven National Lab has joined the IBM Q Network Hub at Oak Ridge National Lab. This hub is part of an international community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, universities, and research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore its practical applications.

    David Reis named head of PULSE Institute for ultrafast science

    David Reis named head of PULSE Institute for ultrafast science

    Long before David Reis joined the faculty of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, he was helping lay the groundwork for the lab's first-of-a-kind X-ray free-electron laser, or XFEL, and the revolutionary science that followed its opening in 2009. Now he's director of the PULSE Institute, which was founded by SLAC and Stanford with the express purpose of exploiting the possibilities for ultrafast science at that X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS).

    Head of NSTX-U research is appointed deputy director for research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Head of NSTX-U research is appointed deputy director for research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Jon Menard, the head of research on the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory's National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade, has been named deputy director for research. Michael Zarnstorff, who held the position for 10 years, will become the chief chief scientist at PPPL, a position that will oversee strategic scientific planning.

    Argonne scientist advances energy sciences through professional leadership

    Argonne scientist advances energy sciences through professional leadership

    Ralph Muehleisen of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently re-elected to the Board of Directors of IBPSA-USA, the U.S. affiliate of the International Building Performance Simulation Association. IBPSA is a global leader in the promotion of building simulation science and one of the largest professional organizations in the world for building scientists and engineers.

    Brookhaven Lab Publishes Second Edition of Nuclear Nonproliferation Textbook

    Brookhaven Lab Publishes Second Edition of Nuclear Nonproliferation Textbook

    Brookhaven Lab has published the second edition of Deterring Nuclear Proliferation: The Importance of IAEA Safeguards, a textbook that provides a history of the origins of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and introduces the ways in which IAEA verifies nation states' nuclear nonproliferation commitments.

    PPPL's Young Women's Conference Offers Girls Fun and Inspiration in STEM Fields

    PPPL's Young Women's Conference Offers Girls Fun and Inspiration in STEM Fields

    PPPL's Young Women's Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics on Friday, March 22, at Princeton University, seeks to change the statistics that show women still lag far behind men in the STEM fields. The conference offers 7th to 10th-grade girls hands-on science activities, exciting experiments, and talks and a keynote speech by early-career female scientists.


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    Splitting Water Fast! Catalyst Works Faster than Mother Nature

    Splitting Water Fast! Catalyst Works Faster than Mother Nature

    Design principles lead to a catalyst that splits water in a low pH environment, vital for generating solar fuels.

    Sea Quark Spin Surprise!

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    Antiquark spin contribution to proton spin depends on flavor, which could help unlock secrets about the nuclear structure of atoms that make up nearly all visible matter in our universe.

    The Weak Side of the Proton

    The Weak Side of the Proton

    A precision measurement of the proton's weak charge narrows the search for new physics.

    Fast-Moving Pairs May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery

    Fast-Moving Pairs May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery

    Physicists develop a universal mathematical description that suggests that proton-neutron pairs in a nucleus may explain why their associated quarks have lower average momenta than predicted.

    Team Takes Fluoride from Taps and Toothpaste to Batteries

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    With user facilities, researchers devise novel battery chemistries to help make fluoride batteries a reality.

    Quarks Under Pressure in the Proton

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    Magnetic Levitation of Ultracold Neutrons Yields New Measurement of the Neutron Lifetime

    Magnetic Levitation of Ultracold Neutrons Yields New Measurement of the Neutron Lifetime

    Storing extremely slow neutrons in a novel trap enables precise measurement of a basic property of particle physics.

    New Molecular Blueprint Aids Study of Photosynthesis

    New Molecular Blueprint Aids Study of Photosynthesis

    Insights into how nature converts carbon dioxide into sugar could help scientists develop crops that produce fuels and other products.

    Catching Fast Changes in Excited Molecules

    Catching Fast Changes in Excited Molecules

    Scientists observe and control molecular and atomic dynamics at the fastest timescales to date.

    Atomic Maps Reveal How Iron Rusts

    Atomic Maps Reveal How Iron Rusts

    Scientists discovered how iron atoms continually re-arrange on surfaces, offering insights into metal corrosion and soil remediation.


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