MIT and UC Berkeley launch energy-efficiency research project

Jun 18, 2013
MIT and UC Berkeley launch energy-efficiency research project
"E2e," is a new interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from the MIT Energy Initiative and University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. E2e aims to evaluate and improve energy-efficiency policies and technologies. Credit: Courtesy: The E2e Project

Energy efficiency promises to cut emissions, reduce dependence on foreign fuel, and mitigate climate change. As such, governments around the world are spending tens of billions of dollars to support energy-efficiency regulations, technologies and policies.

But are these programs realizing their potential? Researchers from the MIT (MITEI) and University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business have collaborated to find out.

The researchers' -efficiency research project, dubbed "E2e," is a new interdisciplinary effort that aims to evaluate and improve energy-efficiency policies and technologies. Its goal is to support and conduct rigorous and objective research, communicate the results and give decision-makers the real-world analysis they need to make smart choices.

The E2e Project is a joint initiative of the Energy Institute at Haas and MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), an affiliate of MITEI—two recognized leaders in energy research.

The project's name, E2e, captures its mission, the researchers say: to find the best way to go from using a large amount of energy ("E") to a small amount of energy ("e"), by bringing together a range of experts—from engineers to economists—from MIT and UC Berkeley. This collaboration, the researchers say, uniquely positions the E2e Project to leverage cutting-edge scientific and economic insights on energy efficiency.

"Cutting energy has lots of potential to help us save money and ," says Michael Greenstone, MIT's 3M Professor of and a member of MITEI's Energy Council. "It's critical to find the local, national and global policies with the biggest bang for the buck to use governments', industry's and consumers' money wisely while slowing climate change."

Greenstone is leading the project with Christopher Knittel, co-director of CEEPR, and Catherine Wolfram, associate professor and co-director of the Energy Institute at Haas.

"When deciding on the best energy measures to implement, decision-makers should compare model predictions to actual consumer behaviors. That's where this project comes in," Wolfram says. "The E2e Project is focused on singling out the best products and approaches by using real experiments centered on real buying habits. It will provide valuable guidance to government and industry leaders, as well as consumers."

The group's motivations for studying energy efficiency are derived, in part, from the McKinsey Curve—a cost curve that shows that abating emissions actually pays for itself.

"Our goal is to better understand what the costs and benefits of energy-efficient investments are—where the low-hanging fruit is, as well as how high that fruit is up the tree," says Knittel, MIT's William Barton Rogers Professor of Energy Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "The McKinsey curve would suggest the fruit's already on the ground. If this is true, we want to figure out why no one is picking it up."

Former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, a member of the E2e advisory board, says, "I like the saying 'A penny saved is a penny earned,' which rings true from the standpoint of energy. Energy that is used efficiently not only reduces costs, but is also the cleanest energy around. The E2e Project will allow us to better understand which energy-efficiency programs save the most pennies."

Shultz is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, where he leads the Energy Policy Task Force. The board also includes MIT Institute Professor John Deutch, former undersecretary of the Department of Energy; Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School and President Obama's former director of regulatory affairs; Susan Tierney, managing principal at Analysis Group and a former Department of Energy official; and Dan Yates, CEO and founder of Opower.

The E2e Project seeks to answer questions such as: Are consumers and businesses bypassing profitable opportunities to reduce their energy consumption? What are the most effective ways to encourage individuals and businesses to invest in energy efficiency? Are current energy-efficiency programs providing the most savings?

The project's first experiments are already underway. For example, the team is tracking consumers' vehicle purchasing decisions to discover if better information about a car's fuel economy will influence consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. If so, emphasizing the calculated fuel savings in the vehicle information presented to consumers may be productive.

Other initial projects include evaluating the Federal Weatherization Assistance Program, and determining why households invest in energy efficiency and the returns to those investments.

Explore further: Study finds disincentives to energy efficiency can be fixed

More information: www.e2e.haas.berkeley.edu/ , www.e2e.mit.edu/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alternative-fuel cars are no carbon cure-all

Jun 12, 2013

(Phys.org) —Making cars more fuel-efficient is great for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but rather than promoting sales of electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles, policymakers should turn their ...

Recommended for you

US urged to drop India WTO case on solar

13 hours ago

Environmentalists Wednesday urged the United States to drop plans to haul India to the WTO to open its solar market, saying the action would hurt the fight against climate change.

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

20 hours ago

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...

Finalists named in Bloomberg European city contest

Apr 23, 2014

Amsterdam wants to create an online game to get unemployed young people engaged in finding jobs across Europe. Schaerbeek, Belgium, envisions using geothermal mapping to give households personalized rundowns of steps to save ...

Bloomberg invests $5M in solar-powered lamp

Apr 22, 2014

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation has announced a $5 million investment in an artsy-looking solar-powered lamp designed for use in off-grid populations in Africa.

User comments : 0

More news stories

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

Brazil enacts Internet 'Bill of Rights'

Brazil's president signed into law on Wednesday a "Bill of Rights" for the digital age that aims to protect online privacy and promote the Internet as a public utility by barring telecommunications companies ...

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.