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Energy Conservation Strategies: What Can We Gain?

Energy conservation strategies can be a lot more sophisticated than just turning off the lights. This was the message of an afternoon workshop by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) Corporate Partners Program, with participation from the Clean Energy for Green Industry IGERT Fellowship Program, and the UCLA Center for Corporate Environmental Performance.

The Institute's Corporate Partner Program events bring together executives and academics to discuss research in corporate sustainability and feature talks by leading practitioners in the field.

The workshop addressed major themes in energy conservation: How should we deal with increased demand for electricity? What are the challenges of information? What is the market for conservation and energy efficiency? How can companies leverage investments in building efficiency and sustainability? What are the benefits of conservation and what can we gain?

From a corporate perspective, conservation can improve a company’s bottom line and produce several intangible benefits—but it also poses unique challenges because conservation implies behavioral change.

Leading practitioners from different industries gathered to address these questions and discuss best practices.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

delmasMagali Delmas, Professor of Management, affiliated with both the IoES and the Anderson School of Management, presented an update on large-scale behavioral experiments in energy conservation that are underway at UCLA’s University Village apartments.

Professor Delmas’ team of social scientists and engineers are using novel energy metering technology to provide real-time feedback on household energy use down to the appliance level.

The project, known as ENGAGE, tests various behavioral interventions including both financial and non-financial incentives. As it turns out, information alone via smart metering may not be sufficient to motivate conservation. 

feedbackPreliminary findings from this research suggest that non-financial incentives, such as social norms and reputation effects, can be powerful motivators to encourage conservation.

The next phase of these behavioral experiments will occur throughout the 2011-2012 academic year, with funding by the California Air Resources Board.

This stream of research provides a fresh perspective on conservation strategies and is especially relevant in light of mass installation of smart meters across national energy markets.

PANEL SPEAKERS

Dave Holly, Technical Specialist at Southern California Edison (SCE), gave an overview of the company's green initiatives. SCE is one of the nation’s largest utilities, serving more than 14 million regional customers.

dave hollySCE has already installed more than 3 million smart meters throughout its service region and plans to install more than 5 million smart meters by 2012.

bdBrian Dennison, Vice President and General Manager of North American Sales, discussed brand-building initiatives at iGo Corporation (NASDAQ: IGOI), a publicly-traded company offering a full line of eco-friendly consumer electronics accessories. iGo’s patented technology makes it easy for consumers to conserve energy by automatically shutting off charging power to devices. The company’s products eliminate standby or “vampire” power which has grown in recent years as a source of wasteful electricity.

 iGo is currently in talks with major retailers and brand owners to expand its offering across different consumer markets.

Richard Hansen, Vice President of Planning, Design, and Development at AECOM Technology Corporation (NYSE: ACM), a $7 billion prrkofessional services company, gave an overview of building renovations at one of its local facilities.

While AECOM’s internal sustainability investments in lighting, work spaces, and energy efficiency had relatively quick paybacks, the company also experienced many intangible benefits, such as improved employee morale, productivity, and increased credibility with clients.

vision house presentationThe last speaker was Robert Kleiman, co-founder of Structure Home, a developer of custom homes serving Southern California. Structure Home has a long history with sustainable building materials,  for example, forest certified timber. They are currently developing a white paper covering best practices in building science and sustainability and are looking for collaborators. In addition, Structure Home is building one of the most sustainable homes in Southern California, to be called the VISION House Los Angeles, located in Pacific Palisades.

panelistsThe event concluded with remarks from the panel about how academic research on sustainability can be useful to managers leading transitions in their organizations.

About the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability features collaborative, cross-disciplinary research programs. The mission of the Institute is to generate knowledge and provide solutions for regional and global environmental problems.

The Institute educates the next generation of professional and scientific leadership and drives interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability initiatives on campus.

About the UCLA IoES Corporate Partners Program

The Corporate Partners Program is an annual giving program that supports leading edge research and education provided at the IoES.

With its Corporate Partners Program, IoES has established a new model for collaboration and communication on environment and sustainability issues – fostering interactive relationships between companies and UCLA faculty, researchers, students, and other firms to explore the latest business opportunities in environment and sustainability, corporate environmental performance, successful eco-marketing strategy, and promotion of companies’ environmental initiatives.