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May 17, 2016

Edison Energy Tours UCI Advanced Power and Energy Lab

By Edison Energy

I recently had the privilege of getting a tour and presentation from Professor Scott Samuelsen, director of the Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). UCI has been a leader in the sustainability drive common across major campuses in the U.S. And it is clear that under Dr. Samuelsen’s leadership, the APEP partnership he has established with the operations side of the University through Wendell Brase, the Vice Chancellor for Administrative and Business Services, has been a cornerstone of the University resulting in significant energy cost savings.

UCI is committed to sustainability. Among their other sustainability commitments:

  • California’s Statewide Energy Partners
  • American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment
  • Among the most LEED Platinum and Gold buildings at any U.S. college campus.
  • Inaugral partners in President Obama’s Better Building Challenge
  • Sierra Magazine’s designation of UCI as the number one “Coolest School” in the United States … two years in a row.

Their sustainability commitment has driven and benefited from energy savings. Below is a slide Dr. Samuelsen shared with us on the visit:

 Advanced Power Energy Lab

The bottom-line of that chart evidences that UCI’s energy spend has been reduced by more than 50% from its projected “business as usual” spend trends. Their focus on “Deep Energy Efficiency” has driven energy costs down significantly to the benefit of California taxpayers, students and university administrators.

The UCI Advanced Power and Energy Program hosted our visit to demonstrate the potential available to us in “Deep Energy Efficiency”. They are conducting ground breaking research and applying that research in practical ways across the university. For example, Dr. Samuelsen’s team and the UCI Administration have worked to implement a Smartgrid project for the campus. The APEP team is also very active in exploring the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology today. Dr. Samuelsen led the establishment of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at UCI and the development of UCI’s hydrogen fueling station, the most technologically advanced, publicly accessible station in the world. It was the first of its kind in Orange County, and it is a key component of the California Hydrogen Highway Network.

A few observations from the visit:

  • What struck me is that the slope of the curve really began changing significantly with the implementation of renewable technology. While the political sphere debates, the real world is finding that adopting clean energy technologies can significantly lower the cost of energy.
  • While many organizations, such as the EPA, talk about goals of 30% energy cost reduction, UCI’s comprehensive approach of “Deep Energy Efficiency” has significant potential to drive down costs even further.
  • It is clear having an energy engineering center at your disposal can really have an impact on achieving your energy cost reduction and sustainability goals. Of course, most large commercial and industrial energy users are not as fortunate as UCI. Maybe that is why these companies are increasingly looking for trusted advisors with a virtual energy engineering department at its disposal to help them implement an energy plan across their enterprise.

Impressive visit. Wish everyone could understand the potential of “Deep Energy Efficiency” on their organization’s bottom line and sustainability goals.