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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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Study Reveals New Insights into How Hybrid Perovskite Solar Cells Work

Scientists have gained new insights into a fundamental mystery about hybrid perovskites, low-cost materials that could enhance or even replace conventional solar cells made of silicon.

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Living Sensor Can Potentially Prevent Environmental Disasters From Fuel Spills

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In less than one month, over a hundred college students from across the United States will convene in one of the largest cyber defense competitions in the nation. The event, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, will take place on April 6-7, 2018. This event will be simultaneously hosted across three of the Department's national laboratories: Argonne, Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest. The completion challenges students to respond to a scenario based on a real-world challenge of vital importance: protecting the Nation's energy critical infrastructure from the cyber threat.

Diamonds From the Deep: Study Suggests Water May Exist in Earth's Lower Mantle

A new study, which included experiments at Berkeley Lab, suggests that water may be more common than expected at extreme depths approaching 400 miles and possibly beyond - within Earth's lower mantle. The study explored microscopic pockets of a trapped form of crystallized water molecules in a sampling of diamonds.

Data Dive: How Microbes Handle Poor Nutrition in Tropical Soil

High-performance computing reveals the relationship between DNA and phosphorous uptake.

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Jian Shi Receives Air Force Young Investigator Research Program Award

Jian Shi, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has won a Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). Shi will use the three-year, $450,000 grant to pursue fundamental research on nanoscale complex materials that could lead to the development of next-generation resilient and high-performance energy conversion and sensing technologies.

Kerstin Kleese van Dam Receives 32nd Town of Brookhaven Annual Women's Recognition Award for Science

The award recognizes the contributions Kleese van Dam--director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative since 2015--has made to scientific computing and data management over the past three decades.

Jefferson Lab Announces New Accelerator Science Leader

The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has announced that Andrei Seryi will become its new associate director for accelerator operations, research and development in June.

First Plasma for New Machine to Study Puzzling Process That Occurs Throughout the Universe

Announcement describes completion of construction of FLARE, a powerful new machine to study magnetic reconnection.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Jian Sun Receives Power Electronics Achievement Award

Jian Sun, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering and director the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received the 2017 R. David Middlebrook Outstanding Achievement Award from the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS). He was recognized for "contributions to modeling and control of power electronic converters and systems."

FGC Plasma Solutions Wins Top NASA Innovation Award

Argonne Chain Reaction Innovator Felipe Gomez del Campo has received the 2018 NASA iTech award for X-Factor Innovation.

Sandia Researcher Jacqueline Chen Elected to National Academy of Engineering

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Jacqueline Chen, a distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Chen is among the 99 new members from around the globe in the 2018 class.Election to the National Academy of Engineering is the highest professional distinction for an engineer in the United States.

PNNL Helps Form International Energy Storage Organization

News Release DALIAN, China -- Energy storage allows power operators across the nation to balance electricity supply and demand instantaneously, affording ratepayers a more resilient power supply.Now the focus on energy storage is global. In January, energy storage experts at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory joined forces with their counterparts around the world to forge the International Coalition for Energy Storage and Innovation, or ICESI.

University Partnership to Help Nevada Scientists Commercialize Discovery

UNLV's Office of Technology Transfer and the Desert Research are partnering to help faculty and students leverage each other's talent and resources to transform inventionsĀ into new products and services.

DOE Seeks Industry Partners for HPC Research on Materials in Applied Energy Technologies

The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced a funding opportunity totaling $3 million to support projects between U.S. industry and DOE national laboratories related to improving materials in severe or complex environments through the new High Performance Computing for Materials in Applied Energy Technologies (HPC4Mtls) Program.

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Unlocking On-Package Memory's Effects on High-Performance Computing's Scientific Kernels

Intuitive visual analytical model better explains complex architectural scenarios and offers general design principles.

Data Dive: How Microbes Handle Poor Nutrition in Tropical Soil

High-performance computing reveals the relationship between DNA and phosphorous uptake.

The Secret Lives of Cells

Supercomputer simulations predict how E. coli adapts to environmental stresses.

It's Not Part of the Problem, but Part of the Solution

Americium(III) is selectively and efficiently separated from europium(III) by an extractant in an ionic liquid.

Buckyball Marries Graphene

Electronic and structure richness arise from the merger of semiconducting molecules of carbon buckyballs and 2-D graphene.

Atomic Movies Explain Why Perovskite Solar Cells Are More Efficient

Tracking atoms is crucial to improving the efficiency of next-generation perovskite solar cells.

Catalysts: High Performance Lies on the Edge

Iron may be more valuable than platinum. Sometimes.

Discovery of a New Microbe that Produces Methane in Oxygenated Soils

Global models may be underestimating net wetland methane emissions.

Researchers Decipher the Structure of a Bacterial Microcompartment

The geometric complexities uncovered provide insights into how these mini-organs get assembled, potentially of interest for fuel production.

CUORE Constrains Neutrino Properties

The CUORE experiment set the tightest limits yet on the rare decay of tellurium-130, providing insights into the nature of neutrinos.


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