The Energy iCAP team met on Monday 3/27/23 to discuss recommendations on energy standards for newly constructed buildings and improving communication of energy research on campus between labs and the broader campus community.
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Key Objective: 2.4 Engage and incentivize the campus community
The 2015 iCAP, chapter 2, objective 4, is "Engage and incentivize the campus community in energy conservation, including a comprehensive energy conservation campaign, with at least 50% of units participating by FY20".
To date, our progress on energy conservation has been accomplished largely through centrally funded programs led by facilities staff. Meanwhile, there are myriad opportunities for the 50,000 or more people in the campus community to assist with these conservation efforts. To meet our energy conservation goals, the entire campus community needs to be informed and engaged. This could be accomplished in many different ways, including a comprehensive energy conservation campaign, engagement exercises with campus units and individuals, and unit-level climate action plans, such as the Allerton Climate Action Plan.
Comprehensive Energy Conservation Campaign
The campus could initiate a comprehensive energy conservation campaign, engaging colleges, departments, administration, and individuals throughout campus. The energy use intensity for buildings, departments, and colleges could be communicated to campus, individualized reduction goals could be set, and conservation strategies could be identified and prioritized by simple payback period.
This campaign could incorporate behavior change incentives, educational programs about energy conservation options, and strong communication about the successes and failures across campus. By developing this comprehensive energy conservation campaign in a highly visible and engaging way to reach the thousands of people on campus who are unaware of our Climate Commitment and the urgent need to conserve energy, we can begin to see major changes in behavior of the campus community.
This campaign could expand upon and integrate two existing efforts: the Energy Conservation Incentive Program (ECIP) launched by F&S in FY13 and the Certified Green Office (CGO) program launched by iSEE in FY15. ECIP is a building-level program designed to reward occupants of buildings that achieve significant energy savings (with or without centrally managed conservation efforts like RCx) by sharing the savings. In contrast, CGO focuses on encouraging members of the campus community to incorporate sustainability into their everyday decisions about lighting levels, thermostat settings, and powering off unused equipment.
The development of this comprehensive campaign would be most effective if it included both F&S and iSEE personnel, faculty experts in social marketing, and representatives from different target audiences (office staff, researchers, students, etc.).
Improve and Expand the Illini Energy Dashboard Project
The Illini Energy Dashboard project, which connects real-time energy meters for buildings to an open-access internet site, went live in December 2011. There are now 41 buildings with meters displaying some form of building energy information. The value in dashboard information to help engagement and improve awareness is well known, and is considered an important component in an awareness campaign. However, the current dashboards could be improved to display relevant information in a way that is most understandable to building users and operators. The system could also be extended to every campus building to maximize its impact, and real-time energy information could be integrated into electronic building displays throughout campus, so the building occupants are aware of the energy usage in their space and how that utilization compares with an average day and other campus facilities.
Inform Success (and Failure)
Peer to peer competition can be an effective approach to behavioral modification. Success by one group can encourage another to strive to match – or do better. This is especially true in an institution with highly competitive faculty and administrators. By notifying students and faculty of our university, as well as those of peer institutions, of ongoing conservation projects and project successes, the University of Illinois can increase awareness (and competition) both on and off campus.
Campus should institute a structured approach for delivering information on both the successes and failures of campus energy conservation efforts to encourage peer to peer learning and competition. Additionally, new competitions could be formed, with leaders in various roles throughout campus. For example, a competition about reducing research lab energy demand (primarily associated with fume hood requirements) could be developed and communicated by the campus administration. Likewise, a competition for reducing energy demand by departments could be developed and communicated by the participating colleges.
Revisit Stewarding Excellence Recommendations
The FY11 Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois initiative included a project team review of campus utility management practices, which included a consideration of implementing decentralized energy billing. The final report from this team stated “The campus utility budget will continue to be held centrally, with annual budget adjustments and the utilities billing data used to report out on usage and distribute the incentives.” Given that the utility budget would continue to be held centrally, the report made a series of recommendations to ensure that colleges and departments would be encouraged to reduce energy usage, despite the fact that the burden of annual energy costs (or the direct benefit of reducing annual energy costs) would not be reflected directly in their budgets.
Key recommendations from the Stewarding Excellence report in this regard include the establishment of a campus utilities fiscal oversight committee (which would include representatives from the colleges, the faculty, and students), the formation of an incentive pool system wherein colleges that conserve energy would receive a non-recurring budget increase and those that increase energy usage would be assessed a charge, an improved energy information program (elements of which are discussed above), and inclusion of energy use data in unit annual reports and the Division of Management Information’s Campus Profile to raise the visibility and importance of energy conservation.
These recommendations could be revisited by the Energy Conservation and Building Standards SWATeam, and as appropriate that team could make specific recommendations through the sustainability process. In the event that the campus is unable to implement these programs to provide unit-level encouragement for energy conservation, it may be appropriate to reconsider the idea of implementing decentralized energy billing. If that became necessary, the first step could be a study of the pros and cons of Responsibility Based Budgeting (RBB) allocation process, by a task force with key campus representatives including academics, staff, and students, to determine whether and how decentralized billing could be implemented on our campus. This would include, at a minimum, an analysis of the energy and monetary savings potential for such a program, recommendations for RBB maintenance funding, identification of other issues, and recommendations for next steps.