Monthly Archives: October 2012

Unlocking Energy Efficiency in Office Buildings

Energy consumption can vary widely among similar office buildings, and most could save 10-20% from low and no cost measures alone. Through her applied research with the Smart Energy Now® pilot program, Elena Alschuler (MCP ’12) analyzed stakeholder dynamics and tested solutions to encourage operational efficiency in office buildings.

Duke Energy’s Smart Energy Now® pilot in Charlotte NC is the first advanced metering and community engagement program to focus exclusively on operational efficiency in office buildings across an entire downtown. During the program design phase in 2011, Elena identified the ways in which building owners, facility staff, occupant organizations and office workers shape energy consumption. She recommended program activities to deliver information feedback, process assistance, and social
endorsement tailored to each stakeholder group.

In 2012, Elena conducted a preliminary evaluation and found that the pilot has been successful in many of its activities, gaining almost 100% owner participating and training over 500 Energy Champions. She also identified important lessons for implementing operational efficiency programs. For example, pledge-and-tracking frameworks establish a clear goal and process, but allow stakeholders to select the energy-saving activities that make sense for them. In addition, support from organizational leaders is essential for efficiency to become part of office worker culture and facility staff activities. Finally, local non-profit and professional organizations can help provide credibility, conduct outreach and deliver program activities.

Check out a recent report Elena wrote for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which builds on the work she did for her thesis as a DUSP student. Share your thoughts on this topic in the EPP Facebook Group.

Taking a Second Look at Environmental Justice

This week we highlight Isabelle Anguelovski’s 2011 PhD dissertation, which seeks to make a unique contribution to the field of environmental justice by presenting the holistic environmental revitalization of three marginalized neighborhoods across contexts of urbanization and political systems in Boston, Barcelona, and Havana. Isabelle develops a new framework for understanding urban environmental justice and for planning just and resilient cities.

Callejón de Hamel, Cayo Hueso, Havana.

As local activists repair community spaces, build new parks and playgrounds, and develop urban farms and gardens, they address grief, fear of erasure, and suffering in a neighborhood that they may have previously considered as a war zone and destroyed place. Environmental projects are a means for nurturing the community and building a sense of rootedness and home. They create safe havens and refuges for residents. They also offer a strong cathartic and soothing effect away from the pressures of city relations and processes of urban change, while bolstering residents’ ability to deal with negative dynamics. Eventually, local EJ activism reshapes place and community and constitutes the occasion to question, realign, and recreate (positive) local identities. In other words, Isabelle argues that both physical and psychological dimensions of environmental health must be taken into consideration to rebuild historically distressed and degraded urban communities.

Check out the full dissertation and share your thoughts on this topic in the EPP Facebook Group!

Go Local! Energy Costs and Environmental Benefits of Microgrids

As our infrastructure ages, demand for power increases and climate disasters loom. Cities are facing rising costs and security risks around their energy supply, all while seeking ways to decrease their carbon impact. Unfortunately, the existing regime for supplying and distributing energy in the United States is a regional enterprise, with the majority of energy produced far from the main areas of demand. In order to take control of their energy consumption, many cities are attempting to establish localized energy infrastructure. By producing energy at the location of its consumption, cities can significantly lower the cost of energy, increase the use of low-carbon energy technologies, and improve energy reliability and security.

Photo credit: National Grid

In 2012, Genevieve Sherman (MCP ’12) evaluated two U.S. cities’ attempts to create a microgrid and a district energy system in the heart of their downtown commercial districts. Since these areas are comprised of multiple stakeholders, she assessed the organizational structure they developed in order to delegate core roles in implementing new infrastructure: ownership, management, operations, rate setting and financing. Genevieve argues that in order to successfully implement these technologies, commercial district organizations must pursue a carefully crafted engagement, educational, and fact-finding process that will prepare all stakeholders to interconnect into a shared energy system. Read more in her thesis.

Share your opinions on this topic in the EPP Facebook Group!