1. How did you come up with the idea of your social venture?
The idea of the Energy Detective (ED) project come up from the original Campus Energy Saving (CES) project started at my home university. The CES project focuses on developing a standard Decision Supporting Assessment (DSA) to assist the campus by establishing a comprehensive energy-saving plan. The ED project, instead, is a methodology for the public to detect and discover solutions for energy waste in their daily lives. In short, both projects provide an energy saving methodology. The difference is that while CES has a management perspective focusing on the campus scale, the ED has the user perspective for his/her own selected space.
Why am I so interested in the "energy-saving" topic?
As a graduate student who majors in climate change and sustainable development at National Taiwan University, my studies go across different fields such as earth science, social science, engineering, and computer science, which all serve to one goal: to find a balance between human being and the mother nature. As a result, I started the CES project in NTU Student Association Department of Sustainability in 2017. Also, my research focuses on how sustainable architecture can mitigate and adapt to climate change. To achieve this goal, I use different approaches to do energy saving analysis, as well as practicing my engineering knowledge and coding skills in the NTU campus.
What is the root causes to do energy-saving?
According to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2015) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in United Nations (UN, IPCC), the frequency and severity of extreme weather would increase mainly due to global warming, which is caused by greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission. As a result, reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with adaptation is encouraged for all the countries by the UN. Carbon emissions vary by states, but the energy and residential sectors are often the main carbon emissions category. For decreasing energy consumption, the building is usually the basic unit in the energy assessment. In the building’s life cycle, the operational energy usage accounts for 70~80% in daily use (Ünalan, Bülent, 2014). Therefore, reducing the consumption of the building’s additional operational energy is essential.
What is the original CES project done before?
Among all the building mass, schools are usually a critical part account of business and housing sector. However, a methodology to assess the different energy-saving options is missing. As a result, in my master thesis, I applied climate service concept in developing a standard DSA to assist the campus by establishing a comprehensive energy-saving plan. This one can ultimately achieve the goal of the energy-saving project.
The DSA has three main steps: architectural modeling, data analyzing, and scope interviewing. To evaluate the DSA method, we applied the process on the equipment replacement at the general library in NTU. The results of the study show that the ice storage system successfully transfers the spikes during the day to electricity at night and saves electricity bill, but the overall electricity consumption increases. If the installation can be matched with other evaluated energy-saving strategies, it can achieve not only energy-saving but also the comprehensive economic solution. In sum, the CES project and the study provided that the DSA method can help administrators to make a better decision.
2. Is the problem you address relevant? Add some research that shows it is.
How does saving energy helps the environment?
Energy production and usage are one of the primary causes of climate change, accounting for almost two-thirds of the world’s GHG emissions (IEA, 2015). Although it may not be obvious, energy usage has a direct connection with the environment. When you consume less power, you reduce the number of toxic fumes released by power plants, conserve the earth’s natural resources and protect ecosystems from destruction. Cutting back on energy consumption reduces the amount of electricity that power plants have to make, subsequently decreasing the lots of fossil fuels and nuclear waste. Even a small change can make a tremendous difference.
Two different main strategies to face energy waste
Energy waste isn’t just about having inefficient light bulbs or setting the thermostat too high - it’s about incorrect usage in insulation and appliances that draw power even when it’s not needed, and dozens of other little issues add up to tremendous energy loss over time. One of the main strategies is "renewal the appliance" to more energy efficient ones. The other one is "minimizing the use of electricity" to keep the users' eyes on the energy-saving behavior in their daily lives. However, the problems of these strategies might be limited-budget, moral persuasion, sacrificing the right for our "human comfort-needs" and so on. As a result, the ED project provides a step-by-step guideline to deal with the problem to save energy more smartly.
How ED project try to solve the problem?
The main problem is that we don't even realize ”how the energy might be wasted in our lives?” So, ED project design a process to engage people in evaluating energy usage in their daily lives and try to provide tailored-solution options, making energy-saving decisions easier. The project goal is trying to inspire/engage people’s awareness of energy waste in their daily lives. As a result, the entire energy evaluation will be carried out behind the engagement.
3. How did you plan your social venture (broad picture)?
a. Funding, other resources: ED project is a free resource for public use, you can follow the guideline on the website. If you need more specific consulting, there are different B2B companies provide energy-saving management from front-end to back-end. For example, the U.S. Green Building Council has Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to help to do energy saving in building scale.
b. Communication (team-intern): I don't understand what is this for due to I am the only team member of ED project. In my mind, ED project is more like a pro bono project which only needs few people to maintain. So in the team communication should be flat and direct to each team member.
c. Customer-relationship management: ED project will provide the contact information on the website for users to report any bug or feedbacks.
4. What dilemmas did you face while planning your social venture? How did you resolve them?
At first, I am too naive to think that I can practice my energy simulation model in Technion like the achievement of the CES project in Taiwan. When I deep in more, I found that the considerable difference like the system of energy generation, charging systems, climate conditions, and building quality forms. Moreover, the most significant difficulty for me is the language in communication. It does not just translate Mandarin to English; it needs to convert the specialist language to simple one which can let everyone easily understand. So, I start over to think about how people would need if they want to do energy saving but do not acquire enough knowledge? The solution I do is to scale down from campus scale to the users' selected space, like their office, flat or classroom.
[Step 2: Implementation]
5. How did you obtain the resources you needed for your social venture?
The primary resources I need is the web server to maintain ED project's website. I use the Adobe spark to do the demo wireframe and back it up to my GitHub account. Moreover, I set the ED's project as an open resource to the public as a creative commons 0 (CC0).
6. What dilemmas did you face while implementing your social venture? How did you resolve them?
The thing is that I tried to find someone as testimonials in Israel, but there are two main problems:
(1) Not all appliances have labels in Israel, especially like the old ones or Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. So they will stop in phase2 of the ED process.
(2) Israel’s electricity payment is a period for two months. I still can not find someone keeps the bill over the years as historical data to help them to analysis.
Then I try to call for help of my community—Net Impact, which is a nonprofit membership organization for students and professionals interested in using business skills in support of various social and environmental causes, and I found that the nearest chapter is in Lebanon! After talking to the headquarter, I decide to start a chapter in Technion, and launch my ED project as challenge programs let over 380+ local branches all over the world could join.
[Step 3: Results - Success?]
7. What is the impact of your social venture? How do you measure success?
Save energy, save money and save the world. Hopefully, improve the awareness of energy saving by going through the ED process conserving electricity and money.
8. How can you scale up your social venture?
For the ED project, I revised the Ansoff matrix for scale-up strategies, to change the "products" to "functions" of ED's website, and the "markets" to "users/page viewers."
(1) Users Penetration
Back to the Personas part, Mrs.D is the target user that the ED project should focus on in the early stage as market penetration in the Ansoff matrix. Because for those Mrs.D who passionate in energy-savings but don't know how to do. Energy Detective methodology can help Mrs.D to achieve the saving goals by following the guideline step by step.
(2) Users Development
In this part, it can divide into two groups.
For those Mr.A who has low motivation and don't care about the electricity payment. The things that Mr.A care is about family happiness. As a result, the appropriate user development way for Mr.A is through gamification ideas and incentive structure.
For those Mr.B who manage their electricity usage well, the user development way might be to design some cooperation function in phase 3, 5, and 6 to make Mr.B has opportunities to corporate with other users to enhance the motivation in the ED process.
(3) Functions Development
To improve the functions which already exists in the process, like make a selectable appliance table to make users save their time to check the information in labels.
In phase 3, some functions need to be improved, like Clock diagram/ touch points and user habit discovery.
Also in phase 4 &5, the statistic line chart can be developed more easily.
For those Mr.E who use effective ways to save electricity and even avoid to use it to protect the environment, it will need more specific gains for them. Moreover, the ED project can introduce specialist/ consultant resources to them, like LEED AP credential to consult.
9. Sustainability - where do you go from here?
ED project is a guideline for everyone to improve energy-saving in life, I establish the website on GitHub and back it up in the server of my home university to make sure the official site keep accessible for sustainability.
10. What would you do differently in the beginning, after all?