By: Steve Bowman, David Navaratte, Corynne Umeda, Bo Baker, Clayton Thatch


1. Is our project focusing on efficiency or conservation measures?

2. To what degree do you think dynamic pricing will affect people's electricity use?

Overview of Entire Project

The idea for our project is to use funding from the CSU Campus as a Living Lab Grant to purchase smart-meters that will allow us to monitor the electricity and water use for two similar freshman dorm buildings. Then we will allow one dorm to live as they normally would, using electricity, water and heat as much as they like because they've already paid for it. For the other dorm however, we will put together a community of students who are interested in living more sustainably and reducing their carbon footprint. We will teach them ways to live more sustainably and reduce their electricity and water use through regular meetings with keynote speakers and other forms of media, perhaps such as Pete's video series for this class.

The highlight of these meetings though, will be that they actually get to see how much electricity they used during the last cycle, and will be able to reflect on how much they were using and during which parts of the day. We can then show the students that under a dynamic pricing system, they would actually pay much less for housing under a dynamic pricing system than they currently do. This will ideally do a couple of things: the fact that students can save money will create a ripple effect through the student body because all of the students at Poly will be interested in saving money. It will also demonstrate to Cal Poly that under a dynamic pricing style system, students, who will be looking to save money, will use less electricity and less water, thereby reducing Cal Poly's carbon footprint as a whole.

Our end goal then would be to get Cal Poly to allow its students the option to pay dynamic pricing for their electricity to save the students money, and to reduce Cal Poly's carbon footprint. However, all of this rides on the acceptance of our Living Lab proposal, because funding is needed for the meters and to organize activities for the learning community. Here is our pre-proposal for the grant (which was accepted and will now be developed into a full proposal).

Pre-Proposal for Grant:

The pre-proposal includes the following elements:

  1. Statement of Problem (5pts): Brief statement of the problem as it relates to sustainability, and how the project will utilize the physical campus to address the problem.
  2. General Methodology (5pts): This section should briefly describe the proposed course development, course redesign, or learning community and define how the proposal activities address a campus sustainability issue using the campus as a living lab. Proposals for courses incorporating one or more high impact practices, include partnership with California community colleges, and/or include interdisciplinary teams will be more highly rated. While proposals are being accepted from all disciplines, proposals from STEM disciplines are highly encouraged. If proposing a Learning Community, this section should describe the planned activities for the community, and anticipated products that will result from the work
  3. Partnerships (5pts): If known at the time of submittal, include any faculty, campus staff (facilities, sustainability, service learning, other), students/student groups, community, and/or industry partnerships. If specific individuals or entities are unknown, provide a general description of the type of collaboration intended.
  4. Outcomes (5pts): What are the anticipated benefits this project will have for the campus community? As appropriate to your proposed program, please also indicate any anticipated benefits to your partners (i.e., CA community college campus, surrounding community, etc.)

All pre-proposals are graded on this 20 point scale, if a proposal scores at least 15/20 they will be invited to submit a full proposal. Applicants will be notified of their pre-proposal score by 6/3/13.

Learn By Living

Carbon Footprint Reduction at Cal Poly SLO

David Navarette, Steve Bowman, Corynne Umeda, Bo Baker, Clayton Thatch

I - Statement of Problem

It has come to our attention that students are not environmentally conscious because they pay a flat rate for electricity. Oftentimes I hear a student say they consciously don’t conserve energy, by leaving lights on for instance, because according to them it’s “Already paid for.” Clearly, since our carbon emissions are increasing, ­this is the wrong attitude to have, and everyone will pay for it in the long run.

If smart meters were installed in one of the freshman dorm communities in order to measure the community’s power use, then we could reduce the carbon footprint of the community. The idea is that by implementing a system where students are aware of the real time cost of electricity and how much they are emitting, as opposed to paying a flat rate and remaining blissfully unaware of their contribution to carbon emissions, there would be more incentive to be environmentally conscious.


II - Learning Community Activities

We’d like to take community of students, who are committed to reducing their carbon footprint, and compare them to a community that isn’t. Each month this environmentally conscious group of students, from a variety of disciplines, will have a chance to meet and have dinner together. During this time the students will have the opportunity to discuss any specific successes or failures they have had in the previous month, and in addition to that a guest speaker will come in each month to discuss proven sustainability efforts and/or current events in sustainability and energy conservation.

A week before this meeting each student will be given a report of the communal energy consumption. Seeing a report of their consumption before the meeting will help spark conversation with each other. By making these reports available to members of the community, students will be held accountable for their energy use. Holding them accountable is likely to cause them to not only reflect on how much energy they have used, but also will cause them think harder about how they can reduce that number.

Making this direct connection between how much energy they’re actually using and how much energy they could do without, which has a direct correlation to the amount of money they’re wasting, will be an invaluable experience.

Students will be encouraged to take part in campus wide activities to show other current, potential, and former students and faculty, as well as the community how they make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. _

III - Partnerships

We currently have two undergraduate physics students who will take part in facilitating and planning the monthly activity and discussion. In addition to this they will also be comparing the data between the control group and the experimental group to see how much of an impact the heightened awareness will make.

Dennis Elliot, the assistant director of Energy, Utilities, and Sustainability at Cal Poly will likely be helping with the retrieval of data for the undergraduate research. He has also said that the meters will be about $3,000 each, including installation. This does not include integrating them into a system already in place. However, campus housing will likely do this if the meters were paid for because eventually Cal Poly housing would like for all of the residential buildings to be metered and feeding data into the analysis program. There are already meters in the buildings to measure heat, we’d like to add two meters to each building, one to measure water consumption, and one to measure electricity consumption.

Dennis Elliot.jpg

IV - Outcomes

The obvious direct effect is reduction of Cal Poly’s carbon footprint, but this community aims for much more than the obvious. When we can show students exactly how much energy they’re using and exactly when they use it we can teach them about dynamic pricing. Likely, after they see how much they could have saved in the year, students will become advocates for nation-wide dynamic pricing.

In addition, after we know how much the awareness really impacts consumption, similar programs could be started in CSU campuses across the state. This will be beneficial because we could lower the total CSU carbon footprint, as well as save our campuses some money by potentially lowering our peak demand charge.

While the conditions and energy usage habits in the freshman dorms at Cal Poly do not directly reflect those of the college, it provides a microcosm to understand human behaviors toward energy conservation when they can see a direct result of their efforts.

Since we are unable to implement these meters yet because we are still in the process of getting the proposal approved it was a challenge to determine numbers from which we could give an estimate of the differences we would see when students are conscious of their energy use. Our solution was to make changes in our personal households between months in order to be able to see a difference and compare our billed energy use at home.

Statistics in the month of April, before we were conscious of energy use: Before Stats.PNG

The amount of carbon and CO2 emissions are estimates from electricity assuming that half of the electric energy is produced by coal and the other half being produced by
natural gas. Using these estimates we converted the total energy usage into MJ and then used Pete's 15 g(C)/MJ for natural gas and 25 g(C)/MJ for coal to estimate the total output of carbon for our use. The carbon dioxide was then calculated using the 3.5 conversion factor from carbon output to CO2. The values of carbon and CO2 are measured in kilograms, and the cost was estimated using a flat rate charge of $0.15/kWh. Then we can compare these statistics with the usage and emission after we became aware of our use;

Statistics from the month of May when we were aware of our energy use:
After Stats.PNG

These estimates allow us to compare the differences simply from our behavioral changes and the usage can be summarized by;
Total Before: Total After:
Total Before.PNG Total After.PNG
All of these statistics are judged in amount per capita, with electricity being kWh, carbon and CO2 emissions measured in kg, respectively, and cost in dollars. These estimates give a rough example of the potential savings not only economically but also environmentally because the emission rates are drastically reduced per person. Especially on a large scale we see the opportunity here to save the university money and decrease the carbon footprint of on-campus living.

Benefit and Cost Analysis

As a result of implementing this project and making the assumptions about the behavioral change of the environmentally conscious group of people, we estimated that we would reduce carbon emissions by approximately 2.82 kg(C) / month or 9.88 kg (CO2) / month for the entire dorm. From this information and our estimation of the electricity cost reduction per month, we can calculate a time-dependent cost of abated carbon. Note that this is not the conventional CAC wherein the cost of paying back an original loan is distributed over a number of years; we are interested in calculating the cumulative cost of abated carbon each month. Since we made a one-time down payment of $12,000 to buy the meters (at t = 0), the relevant information is our total profit (or loss) at the end of each month as time progresses. After the down payment is made, there is a monthly profit of $588, which comes from the fact that each student will save approximately $5.88 per month and the dorm will house 100 students. Therefore, this cumulative, month-by-month cost of carbon abated is given by the equation: ($12,000 - $588/month *t) / (2.82 kg(C)/month * t). In the following plot, we plotted this function over 25 months, demonstrating that the cost of abated carbon becomes negative after month 20, which should be expected based on the fact that it takes 20 months to pay back a $12,000 payment with a monthly profit of $588 for every month subsequent to the payment.