Category Archives: energy

Community-Based Social Marketing

I just finished reading this quick-reference guide to Community-Based Social Marketing by Doug McKenzie-Mohr. This is a condensed version of the concepts from the online book, which appears to be an updated version of the book Fostering Sustainable Behavior from 1999.

With an eye towards the dorm energy competition we are planning at UH, I found the concepts very useful and it seems like our initial requirements for the website are headed in the right direction. For example, we plan to have participants make public commitments online through the site, in particular commitments that should be visible to other residents on the participant’s floor. We also plan to make the commitments very public via large-screen displays in the lobbies of the dorm(s). This is in keeping with McKenzie-Mohr’s recommendations on the use of commitments.

One member of the design team (Shanah) suggested that we have a weekly individual winner for each floor, so that each floor would have someone to look for assistance and encouragement. This is a great example of using the concept of “norms” to encourage people to alter their behavior.

The current design calls for extensive incentives in the form of coupons, pizza parties, and maybe iPods. McKenzie-Mohr cautions that removing incentives (which will happen at the end of the competition) can actually reduce internal motivation that existed before the provision of incentives. It will be interesting to see what happens to electricity usage after the competition is over.

The other lesson we need to take heed of us the use of focus groups and possibly surveys while we are designing the competition. We need to know what our target audience thinks about the competition, and the design of the website.

The Community-Based Social Marketing website has more information and lots of links to articles and case studies.

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WattDepot logging

This is the final blog post of the summer, as the Fall semester starts today. Didn’t get to spend as much time on implementation last week as I had planned. I now have unit tests for the authenticated placeholder User resources, and refactored the client to support accessing resources that require authentication. I’ve also adopted the HackystatLogger code (unable to use as library due to hard coded Hackystat-specific paths) so that I can do logging properly, so I fixed my code that was logging to System.out to use a logger.

The other task from last week was researching whole home electricity meters. The situation has improved from last December, and the TED 5000 appears to meet all of WattDepot’s needs. In particular, it now has a Gateway component that records data from the measurement component and makes it available over TCP/IP via an XML API. For $240, including a wireless handheld display, it looks like a really good deal. You can check out the web interface on a live demo unit they have set up. BrulTech makes a meter that looks like the only other real option, but it lacks the Gateway component, so you have to provide your own device to monitor the data and distribute it via TCP/IP.

Plans from last week:

  • Get logging working in WattDepot
    • done
  • Implement UserManager for concurrency control
    • not done, after discussion with Philip we’re thinking we should push this down into the DB layer
  • Implement memory storage of data
    • not done
  • Work on User resource
    • not done
  • Look for home meter solutions that could work with WattDepot
    • done

Other accomplishments from last week:

  • Provided feedback to Pavel on his dissertation proposal defense. He passed! Congrats!
  • Got tests working for authenticated resources, tracked down JUnit problem with Philip’s assistance (needed fork=yes)
  • Found and fixed a couple of minor problems in the hackystat-developer-example Ant build scripts

Pointers to work products:

Plans for this week:

  • Write DB abstraction layer
  • Implement simple memory storage of data
  • Work on User resource
  • Attend first REIS seminar this Thursday 4:30-5:30 PM

Cool links:

End of spring semester

This is my final blog post for this semester. Made some good progress: literature review completed, research portfolio approved, clearer focus on electricity conservation, a sketch of an experimental design for Saunders Hall, and interesting possible directions with REIS. I’m planning to develop my proposal during the summer and hopefully defend before the fall semester begins.

I started work on creating a graph of renewable energy production in Hawaii based on the figures from DBEDT. The idea is to produce a chart that can be updated monthly showing how the state (and Oahu) are doing compared to the renewable energy portfolio standards, and more recent renewable production targets. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single spreadsheet cell that captures renewable energy: there is one for wind and hydro, but that doesn’t account for solar or geothermal energy. It looks like energy purchased by the utility from other providers (like the geothermal on the Big Island) is lumped together. I was hoping it would be trivial to produce such a chart, but it looks like it will require some additional work.

Planned items from last week:

  • Get Plone set up for REIS website
    • done
  • Finish revisions on 09-12
    • done
  • Send 09-12 to Dave Nixon
    • done
  • Make graph of Hawaii state energy usage
    • made some progress

Other accomplishments this week:

Hours worked: 30 (target: 30 hr)

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

  • Stack Overflow, an interesting site for programmers to ask questions to other programmers. Has wiki, forum, and social news (voting) aspects.

Macro-level electricity feedback displays

Last week was Earth Day and the UHM Sustainability Fest. I spent some time working in the Sustainable Saunders Energy team booth, helping to answer questions about renewable energy and what we’re doing at Saunders.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about feedback about energy use for the upcoming Saunders studies, and it got me to thinking about feedback on the macro level. UH Manoa has made some pretty aggressive goals for electricity reduction: 30% reduction by 2012, 50% reduction by 2015 (based on 2003 baseline). As I understand it, the campus now has electricity meters monitoring the connection to HECO, so we should have good data about how much electricity UHM is using. With data on how much electricity UH used in 2003, it should be easy to have a graph that shows how much UH has to reduce energy usage by to meet the two goals. I’d be happy to create such a graph and keep it updated at least monthly, if I had access to the data. Unfortunately, it’s not publically available right now. I think a graphical representation of how far UHM is from these goals (2012 isn’t that far away!) would be helpful in motivating the entire institution to action.

I also realized that the same thing could be done for Oahu and the state of Hawaii as a whole. Hawaii has set goals for the percentage of electricity generated by renewables, and DBEDT is publishing monthly reports on the state’s energy usage. It should be easy to create a graph that shows how we are progressing towards those goals.

I’m still working on my draft intervention comparison tech report. It’s not complete, but will be shortly. I’m also thinking about what my end of semester report should consist of. The intervention tech report could be part of it, perhaps also a trimmed version of my literature review appropriate to the Saunders metering research.

Planned items from last week:

  • Finish draft of intervention comparison chapter
    • not quite done
  • Finish dorm energy competition paper
    • done, a very interesting read
  • Read next paper from revised reading list
    • done, read about Kuckuck. Not as illuminating has I had hoped.

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Worked Saunders booth at Sustainability Fest
  • Provided feedback on CPATH NSF proposal
  • Put intervention document into it’s own tech report (09-12)

Hours worked: 25 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Finish draft of intervention comparison tech report
  • Revise draft based on Philip’s comments
  • Send 09-12 to Dave Nixon
  • Make graph of Hawaii state energy usage

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

Intervention chapter and Oberlin dorm energy competition

Finally got back on the wagon last week. I started the list of experimental interventions with their literature justifications as a chapter in my proposal, and I’m halfway through the Oberlin dorm energy paper (which is good stuff, very relevant to my research). I’m hoping to finish the first draft of the chapter by next Monday, and move on to the next paper.

Planned items from last week:

  • Start justification document
    • done, outline and introduction written
  • Read a paper from revised reading list
    • in progress

Other accomplishments this week:

Hours worked: 20 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Finish draft of intervention comparison chapter
  • Finish dorm energy competition paper
  • Read next paper from revised reading list

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

State of the College of Natural Sciences

Just got back from a presentation by Chancellor Hinshaw and Dean Teramura on the State of the College (of Natural Sciences).

The big issue is obviously budget cuts in UHM’s general funds. The legislature is pushing for a $33M cut, which is 13% of our general funds. There are still 2 more weeks of maneuvering at the capitol, but if the cut stays at that level, there will be no choice but to have layoffs for lecturers, temporary faculty, and some administrative staff. Chancellor Hinshaw has been lobbying the legislature to reduce the cuts, and her arguments sound convincing to me: UHM is more important to Hawaii than any university in any other state, and UHM can be a big part of the solution to the economic crisis if it gets sufficient funding.

Interesting point about the graduate assistant salaries: based on some discussions among the Dean’s advisory council, GA stipends have been increased by one step across the University, and GAs in the college are getting 2 steps to stay competitive.

The major theme for dealing with the cuts is to do whatever is possible to minimize the impact on the student learning experience. This means that faculty and staff will have to take on a lot of the burden, such as teaching larger classes less frequently. With layoffs of temporary faculty (and positions vacated by retirement that will go unfilled), faculty may be teaching classes that they are less familiar with.

One interesting point that Chancellor Hinshaw brought up is that when Facilities fixes a leaky roof (apparently there are 37 on campus!!), they are trying to put photovoltaic panels on to get some ongoing fiscal benefit from the work. Interesting to hear, but I haven’t heard of any PV installations on campus that have happened that way.

All in all, it sounded to me like the administration is doing a pretty good job handling a difficult situation.

Portfolio submitted, Saunders submetering

Last week I finally finished my research portfolio and submitted it to the graduate chair. It will probably be a while before I hear back about it (the faculty is supposed to get the portfolio 2 weeks before the meeting wherein it is discussed). I also spent some time thinking about a research plan for my dissertation using the electrical submetering system installed at Saunders Hall. I’m organizing a meeting this week with Philip and Sustainable Saunders folks to discuss my ideas and find out what people had planned.

Based on the feedback from the meeting, I’ll start work on the experimental portions of my proposal.

Planned items from last week:

  • Finish final pass through lit review
    • done
  • Backport lit review changes to 09-05 tech report
    • done
  • Submit research portfolio to grad chair
    • done!
  • Develop hypothesis and research questions for Saunders metering idea
    • done

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Made PowerPoint presentation on ideas for Saunders submetering research
  • Called meeting on submetering research for this week
  • Volunteered at Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC) 2009 conference
  • Read Software ICU paper, provided comments
  • Wrote up requirements for Saunders meter data collation project
  • Wrote script to download meter data from Building Manager Online

Hours worked: 25 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Revise presentation on submetering research
  • Hold meeting on submetering research ideas
  • Start writing proposal around submetering research
  • Review reading list, looking for items relevant to new research focus
  • Finish meter download script
  • Download historical meter data

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

  • Google Voice, Google product du jour. Combine all your phone numbers under one master number, have your voicemail transcribed to text, manage text messages like email messages, conference calling, low cost international calling.