UBC Undergraduate Research

Demand-side strategies for energy efficiency in University of British Columbia residences Clark, Jennifer; Croft, Nate; Fast, Liam; van der Eerden, Jackie


The University of British Columbia (UBC) is currently retrofitting its district heating system to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and energy needs. Despite improving its energy efficiency, UBC still faces constraints in peak load energy consumption, due in part to its ambitious plan to increase the number of students living on campus by nearly 65% in just 15 years. UBC’s Student Housing and Hospitality Services and Campus Sustainability Office have therefore asked for an investigation into demand-side energy consumption reduction strategies, specifically for the new student residences to be built at the Ponderosa Commons. Five such strategies are assessed in this study: (1) the use of normative messaging to influence residents’ energy consumption behaviour, (2) an energy quota and rebate program, (3) an energy saving contest, (4) a voluntary agreement program, and (5) provision of clothes drying racks in each unit. The options are evaluated using an assessment framework that weighs energy efficiency criteria above all else, followed by economic feasibility, educational contribution, and social contribution and equity. Potential reductions in electricity and hot water consumption are used as indicators for evaluating energy efficiency. Estimated costs are compared to cost savings in a return on investment analysis as an indicator of economic feasibility. In order to assess the educational contributions of an option, the research potential and level of engagement associated with each option are also considered. Finally, potential participation rates, contribution to social capital, and social equity are taken into account. The energy quota and rebate program is considered the least effective option, yielding relatively minor reductions in electricity consumption, low participation rates, and lacking any significant educational component. Although the option could potentially pay for itself with its projected cost savings, there is much uncertainty associated with its financial projections. The contest option would likely become a net expense for UBC, even after taking into account energy cost savings. Furthermore, its potential energy savings are calculated to be low relative to the other options. However, due to a high projected participation rate and a powerful interactive and educational component, the option is still considered to have good potential. The voluntary agreement program and normative messaging options are predicted to produce substantial reductions in energy consumption and potentially high financial returns due to low initial capital cost. Moreover, they both feature an educational component and foster social equity. The key difference between the two options is the greater research potential offered by the voluntary agreement program. While not overtly educational, the drying rack option offers the greatest financial certainty, with a moderate (relative to the other options) predicted return on investment. Reductions in energy consumption are predicted to be on the high end of the spectrum, as are participation rates. As a result of this analysis, we strongly recommend the provision of clothes drying racks to residents of the Ponderosa Commons. We also recommend the further exploration of a voluntary agreement program and energy saving contest to encourage energy conservation and engage student residents in an educational process. We believe that normative messaging would complement the implementation of our other options. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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