CSU, Chico News

Chico Carbon Challenge: Students Test Energy-Reduction Strategies

Date: 02-26-2010

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Scott McNall
Institute for Sustainable Development

Students at California State University, Chico are going to help test a set of hypotheses about what it will take to get people to use less energy. The Chico Carbon Challenge, funded by SAP and overseen by Scott McNall, the Institute for Sustainable Development, will use meters provided by Dot UI and software provided by SAP to monitor real-time energy use.

The project will examine what happens when people have second-by-second data on their energy use provided to their Facebook accounts. The study will explore what is most likely to get people to change their behavior: (1) a commitment to the planet; (2) competition with friends resulting in a reward; (3) wanting to be like others; or simply (4) cost savings.

Real-time energy use meters have been installed in two sorority houses, two fraternity houses and several housing units at University Village. The sororities will compete with each other, and the fraternities will do the same thing to see who can cut their energy use the most. The winner of the challenge will receive a free energy audit of their house that will allow them to work with their parent organizations to make improvements that will lower future energy costs.

The students in the housing units at University Village have chosen to compete for food.

Two students will work with McNall in helping students read and interpret the data and to gather their suggestions and ideas for changing the way in which the data is provided and illustrated. “The focus,” said McNall, “is on energy savings and the kind of information that will be useful to people across the country to better manage energy use.”

The project, said McNall, is the first of its kind at any university in the country. “The students will be pioneers in solving what will be a national problem—rising energy costs,” said McNall. “They will help answer the question about how information can become knowledge on which people can act.”

SAP has funded the six-month project (January through June 2010) with $35,000, which will pay for the student assistants, the writing of a white paper on the project by McNall, installation of the real-time meters and, of course, the prizes.

The project represents a partnership among SAP, the world’s largest provider of business software, Dot UI, a new San Francisco company providing real-time meters, CSU, Chico students and the Institute for Sustainable Development.