Leading the Way to Climate Neutrality: A UC Davis Big Idea

UC Davis announced 13 Big Ideas that will help propel the university’s second comprehensive fundraising campaign. Dr. Kurt Kornbluth of the EEC’s Program for International Energy Technologies is the faculty champion for the Big Idea “Leading the Way to Climate Neutrality.” In the coming months, these big ideas will undergo feasibility studies and will be marketed to targeted groups.

For more information on UC Davis Big Ideas, click here.
For more information on the Leading the Way to Climate Neutrality Initiative, click here.

Gunda, Siva

Siva Gunda

Siva Gunda is Director of Research and the India Initiative at the UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute. He supports the oversight of the day-to-day operations of the Institute as well as the development of its research agenda. Gunda is also currently leading two of the Institute’s strategic initiatives: one focused on development of a data platform and the other on development of research collaborations in India. Prior to joining the EEI, he worked at General Electric, California Fuel Cell Partnership, PG&E and the California Air Resources Board. Gunda has been an Edison International Energy Efficiency Fellow, UC Irvine International Sustainability Fellow and a UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship Business Development Fellow. He is a UC Davis PhD candidate in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering with a focus on alternate energy systems.

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Energy efficiency saves money over the long haul, by making use of what was going to waste. On a large scale, it can cut the need for expensive energy-generation projects. And it fuels a lot of jobs in California.

That sort of information means a lot considering what we think will be an emphasis on coal and oil under the incoming administration of President Donald Trump, who has promised returning jobs to coal miners and oil drillers.

We think that’s the wrong approach when considering the environment, continuing need for more energy and developing more jobs.

A new report from the group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says 321,177 Californians work in energy-efficiency jobs — half of them for companies with one to five employees.

The biggest share of those jobs — 46,620 — belongs to the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan area. Ranking No. 2 is the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area with 25,611.

Across the United States, about 1.9 million workers are employed in energy efficiency, E2 found, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. Roughly 70 percent of them work in companies with 10 employees or fewer, so this is an “industry” of small businesses.

And providing the future employees to that developing industry is happening right here in Yolo County, where UC Davis has been actively involved on the front lines of energy research.

Let’s look at this past month alone.

•Two years after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, grow houses consumed about 2 percent of the power supply in Denver alone. In California, we’ll see grow houses doing the same thing now that a new law allows recreational use of marijuana. Don’t laugh. This is quite serious. In anticipation of this new demand, a team of researchers from the Western Cooling Efficiency Center at UC Davis is testing equipment designed to reduce the energy demand of this rising new industry. The researchers developed a model of a typical grow house and tested a new dehumidifier built by the New York-based company MSP Technology. The scientists found the system could save 30 percent to 65 percent of the energy a grow house uses for dehumidification and cooling. It also reuses 100 percent of the water it removes from the air to water plants.

•A team of UC Davis students are tackling the California drought through housing design with their entry for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 Solar Decathlon. The design focuses on cutting typical residential water use in half while maintaining the same level of comfort at an affordable price. The home design’s features include systems for rainwater catchment, graywater and blackwater re-use, and a two-way communication system to monitor water and energy consumption.

•The U.S. Department of Transportation also just announced its selection of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation, led by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, to receive a five-year grant totaling about $14 million to advance a more sustainable transportation system, which means using less conventional forms of energy (ergo gas and oil) to get us from here to there.

And these activities don’t include making solar energy cheaper and developing other forms of alternative energy such as wind and hydrogen power.

It’s demonstrable that energy efficiency saves money for consumers. The report states that Californians’ monthly electric bills have gone up just $4.25 since 1990, adjusted for inflation; meanwhile, in Wyoming, where little investment is made in energy efficiency, the increase has been more than $16. Our state’s consumption of electricity has grown just 1 percent annually, while natural gas consumption has remained flat, according to the California Energy Commission.

Efficiency upgrades are particularly beneficial for low-income households, not only because they spend a larger proportion of their income on energy, but because those households often live in places with poor insulation and old, inefficient appliances, the E2 report points out.

Long-term savings for residents and businesses and 320,000-plus jobs and growing make energy efficiency a valuable industry for California.

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It’s a futuristic idea that’s fast approaching. Self-driving autonomous cars are an early focus of the Darrell Steinberg administration. Sacramento city leaders have applied for a first ever permit to allow testing of driverless vehicles on city streets.

The application with the U.S. Department of Transportation will designate approved cities as “proving grounds” for autonomous vehicle companies to experiment.

“They’re inevitable. They’re going to happen sometime in the future,” said Ash Roughani, a Bureaucracy Hacker within the Mayor’s office.

“We welcome new technologies that aren’t quite proven yet to be tested here,” Roughani continued.

He says self-driving vehicles can eliminate deadly crashes, better the environment, and add to people’s free time.

“We think they need to experience it to really appreciate and understand the value of an autonomous vehicle,” said Roughani.

Testing for semi-autonomous technology is already underway. People sit in the driver’s seat and can override the system and surveys show people like this idea.

According to a survey by Alix Partners, 90% of people said they wanted a “partially autonomous” vehicle.

A Kelly Blue Book Survey found 80% of people would “always want an option to drive themselves.”

Roughani says fully autonomous is the only way to move forward.

“A lot of the challenges arise in a lot of these semi-autonomous situations,” said Roughani.

According to the California DMV, there have been 23 wrecks involving autonomous vehicles in our state since 2014. In nearly every case, human error was to blame.

“They don’t drink they don’t take drugs, they don’t text. They’re going to be safer, no doubt about it,” said Dan Sperling, the co-founder of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. He agrees that fully autonomous vehicles are a safer option.

But he cautions that people will have to rethink travel all together in order for autonomous vehicles to work. He says people will have to ditch their personal car and be willing to ride with others.

“We want people to be sharing that vehicle,” said Sperling, “otherwise were just going to see a lot more vehicles, a lot more vehicle use.”

Which Sperling says can lead to more congestion and pollution.

If Sacramento’s application to the Department of Transportation is approved in January, self-driving cars could be seen on the streets by January 2018, but Roughani says the infrastructure to implement fully autonomous vehicles likely won’t be ready in time.

NEPTUNE Program Review at UC Davis

Date: November 1-3, 2016
Location: University of California, Davis
Event Type: Invitation Only
Description: The Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence (NEPTUNE) is a pilot program of the U.S. Office of Naval Research providing multi-million dollar funding to six universities (Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue, The Naval Academy, The Naval Postgraduate School, and UC Davis) to conduct energy research and train military personnel. Approximately seventy-five people, with representatives from all six NEPTUNE universities, attended the event where student veterans and researchers presented updates on their projects and engaged with key faculty, university leadership, and government and industry energy leaders.
Event Materials:
Event Summary

Policy Fellow Workshop #3: Ensuring High Performance Buildings through a Skilled Workforce

Date: August 18, 2016
Location: University of California, Davis
Event Type: Invitation Only
Description: The UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center (EEC) and former Senior Policy Fellow Nancy Skinner organized three workshops between April and August 2016 on key energy topics. This workshop brought together stakeholders and experts, including policy makers, regulators, academics, labor representatives, utilities, and workforce advocates, to explore how to organize an industry-led coalition that directly aligns workforce initiatives and funding with specific requirements to meet the SB 350 energy mandates.
Event Materials:
One-page Summary
Detailed Summary

Policy Fellow Workshop #2: Integrating Transportation and Electricity to Reduce Carbon Impact

Date: July 27, 2016
Location: Berkeley, CA
Event Type: Invitation Only
Description: The UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center (EEC) and former Senior Policy Fellow Nancy Skinner organized three workshops between April and August 2016 on key energy topics. This workshop brought together thirty stakeholders and experts, including representatives from automakers, regulatory agencies, electric vehicle charging firms, academics, energy storage firms, distributed energy firms, energy service providers, Investor-Owned Utilities, the Independent System Operator, and academic researchers, to explore and identify key areas that may need to be pursued to ensure a low to no carbon electricity system.
Event Materials:
One-page Summary
Detailed Summary

Policy Fellow Workshop #1: Using Data to Cut Building Energy & Increase Building Energy Efficiency

Date: April 18, 2016
Location: San Francisco, CA
Event Type: Invitation Only
Description: The UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center (EEC) and former Senior Policy Fellow Nancy Skinner organized three workshops between April and August 2016 on key energy topics. This workshop brought together thirty stakeholders and experts, including commercial property managers, building operators, brokers, energy service providers, building efficiency experts, and policy makers, to explore key issues around data, building energy use, and building energy efficiency.
Event Materials:
One-page Summary
Detailed Summary

Air Pollution and Criminal Activity: Evidence from Chicago Microdata

Published December 8, 2015 by Evan Hernstadt and Erich Muehlegger.

View the abstract.Return to the Papers listing. | Download the paper.

A large and growing literature documents the adverse impacts of pollution on health, productivity, educational attainment and socioeconomic outcomes. This paper provides the first quasi-experimental evidence that air pollution casually affects criminal activity. We exploit detailed location data on over two million serious crimes reported to the Chicago police department over a twelve-year period. We identify the causal effect of pollution on criminal activity by comparing crime on opposite sides of major interstates on days when the wind blows orthogonally the direction of the interstate and find that violent crime is 2.2 percent higher on the downwind side. Consistent with evidence from psychology on the relationship between pollution and aggression, the effect is unique to violent crimes – we find no effect of pollution on the commission of property crime.

From Cradle to Junkyard: Assessing the life cycle Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Electric Vehicles

Published August 25, 2015 by David Rapson.

View the abstract.Return to the Papers listing | Download the paper.

U.S. programs subsidize electric vehicles (EVs) in part to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We model a suite of life cycle GHG emissions considerations to estimate the GHG abatement potential from switching from an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICE) to an EV in the continental U.S. The GHG intensity of EVs hinges on the electricity and ambient temperature when charged and operated. Both have high spatial and temporal heterogeneity, yet are typically modeled inadequately or overlooked entirely. We calculate marginal emissions, including renewables, for electricity by region and test forecasted grid composition to estimate future performance. Location and timing of charging are important GHG determinants, but temperature effects on EV performance can be equally important. On average, EVs slightly reduce GHGs relative to ICEs, but there are many regions where EVs provide a decisive benefit and others where EVs are significantly worse. The forecasted grid shifts from coal towards renewables, improving EV performance; the GHG benefit per EV in western states is roughly $425 today and $2400 in 2040.