Energy consumption

Fred Beach, assistant director for energy and consumption, discusses China’s energy consumption on campus Thursday.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Surpassing all other countries, China continues to demand the most industrial energy consumption, according to Fred Beach, assistant director for energy and technology policy for the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Beach spoke Thursday on China’s continued success in leading the area of major energy sources as part of the University’s Energy Symposium. He said he focuses his studies on the relationship between China and the global energy demand.

“China’s energy consumption has doubled in 10 years,” Beach said. “China is now number one.”

Beach said the reason that China has such a big lead in the energy industry is because of the country’s large population. With more than 1.3 billion people living mostly on the eastern coast of the country, China has the largest population in the world.

China is not just a leader in the coal business but practically dominates it, Beach said.

“China consumes more coal as a nation than the rest of the world,” Beach said. “It was like someone hit a switch, and they decided to take over.”

This was possibly because of the Chinese government wanting to raise the quality of life of its people, according to Beach. 

“All of the world’s people have every right to live and consume energy like you and I do,” Beach said.

According to Beach, when added to the country’s total population, this consumption rate becomes dangerous because the population then becomes an energy problem. Beach said the number of citizens burning coal as their source of energy in their own homes is a major contributing factor to China’s consumption rate.

Beach said the world should be concerned about China’s rate of energy consumption and use of fossil fuels because an end result could be an increase in global temperatures, causing sea levels to rise and a climate to change

Petroleum engineering senior Gordon Tsai said he liked how Beach broke down the material.

“[It was] interesting how they compare to the U.S.,” Tsai said.

Chemical engineering senior Dylan Gust expressed the same sentiment and said that it was very informative to him as well.

“It was great hearing the macro-perspective,” Gust said. “Knowing this information will aid in my studies.”

Photo Credit: Erica Reed | Daily Texan Staff

UT Facilities Services’ Energy and Water Conservation Program recently launched several initiatives to decrease energy spending over the next seven years, totaling roughly $43 million annually.

UT President William Powers Jr. appointed a committee to reduce UT’s water and energy consumption by at least 20 percent by 2020. According to Stephanie Perrone, one of Facilities Services’ four energy stewards, UT is well on its way to reaching that goal. 

“We need a 12.2 percent reduction over the next seven years, which seems really possible,” Perrone said. 

Since the program formed in 2009, UT has lowered its energy use by 7.8 percent and saved over $2.3 million in energy costs. 

Perrone said the reduction can be attributed to several variables, including increased capital renewal and replacement projects, Utilities and Energy Management efforts to reduce steam and chilled water, the Replacement and Renewal program realignment to replace antiquated systems and increased maintenance efforts.  

“Typically, our usage increases by 3.8 percent every year because we’re always growing the campus,” Perrone said. “But last year was the first year it actually decreased — even with the growth on campus.” 

The bulk of funds UT spends on energy goes toward chilled water and steam, which are used to heat and cool the buildings.

“About half of our energy use at UT goes directly to air conditioning and about a quarter of it goes to heating up the buildings,” energy steward Matt Stevens said. 

Chilled water, electricity and steam for every building on campus is supplied year-round by the Hal C. Weaver Power Plant. The plant burns natural gas to produce electricity and uses the heat produced in the process to generate steam.

Facilities Services is working to expedite the decrease in energy consumption by involving students in its efforts. Stevens said students help by taking part in initiatives such as Longhorn Lights Out, a campus-wide event where participants turn off lights and power down equipment for one hour on a specified date and time. 

“We have about 40 student volunteers who go around and turn off lights for us; that’s one of the best ways students can help out,” Stevens said.

Another new initiative, Conservation Conversations, is a series of speaker events designed to educate and engage the community on issues relating to sustainability.

“The more communication we have with the public, the more we’re going to see people change their energy consumption habits,” Perrone said.

On Thursday, the Austin City Council authorized a $50,000 two-year contract with the UT faculty and a graduate student to help the Austin Water Utility reduce energy consumption and costs.

Mechanical engineering assistant professor Michael Webber, and Carey King, research associate of the UT Energy Institute, will team up with Jill Kjellsson, engineering and public affairs graduate student to study the energy used by Austin Water at specific times of day in order to maximize efficiency.

Webber, the project leader, said he is pleased with the city’s interest in energy conservation.

“This is unusual for a utility to be this forward-looking, so I want to commend and compliment Austin Water for having the vision that this is important,” Webber said.

Kjellsson began working with Austin Water in the summer of 2012, using data to create hourly energy-use profiles to show what time of day electricity is being used by the city’s water sector. She began working with Webber later that year.

“My plan is to use the research so far to look at ways in which the Austin Water Utility can participate in the power market through demand response and shifting of peak energy use to other times of day,” Kjellsson said.

Kjellsson said there are students in other departments at UT working on optimizing and improving water-treatment technologies.

“The $50,000 will help cover part of the costs associated with graduate research assistant stipends and tuition,” Webber said.

“There are a lot of people who study water and a lot who study energy, but I don’t think there are a lot of people studying how much energy is in water,” Webber said. “Nationally, more energy is used for water than people expect — about 12 percent of energy consumption is water pumping.”

Jill Mayfield, Austin Water’s public information coordinator, said water and energy usage is greatest at night when the water is pumped into the reservoirs to be treated.

Austin Water is the largest energy user in Austin because the water treatment pumps consume so much energy, so the city is constantly looking for ways to reduce its peak energy demand, Mayfield said.

Before the project begins, the agreement must be signed by the assistant city manager and the University’s vice president, said Raj Bhattarai, City of Austin division manager.

“I don’t foresee any complications,” Bhattarai said. “We’ve entered into other contracts with other professors at UT … we do a number of other projects with UT. It should be pretty straight forward, pretty routine.”

In October 2011, the City of Austin switched to a more expensive but renewable energy provider, GreenChoice, which costs about $5 million more than the city’s previous energy provider that used 85 percent more greenhouse gases, Bhattarai said.

“Even a modest saving in energy would be quite substantial for us, so that’s the reason we’re doing this project,” Bhattarai said.

Bhattarai said the contract stipulates Webber and his team will brief Austin Water Utility up to four times each year for the duration of the project.

Webber said the research will benefit not only the City of Austin, but also the students at UT.

“This research report helps UT students understand the energy-water nexus better,” Kjellsson said. “Energy and water are linked in many ways, and this research addresses one of those ways — the energy used to move and treat water and wastewater.”

UT Bureau of Economic Geology director Scott Tinker drew nearly 300 people to a lecture on global energy consumption and usage.

Tinker’s lecture at the Blanton Museum of Art on Wednesday could appear on film as part of a documentary on the present and future state of energy consumption. The Arco Films production team has been working with Tinker on the 90-minute film since early 2009.

“I have two college-aged kids, and they’re always sending me videos on YouTube,” Tinker said. “So you could say that’s kind of how the idea
took root.”

Putting together a video to showcase this research was also a way for Tinker to get information to a broader audience and a bigger demographic.
“We wanted to show what the future of energy would be in a realistic world, not an ideal one,” said film producer and director Harry Lynch.

Lynch’s team shot more than 500 hours of footage throughout 10 different countries for the movie, which aims to show the viewer unfamiliar aspects of the energy production process. For example, many people are unaware of the high costs that go into creating and distributing energy, Tinker said.

“We’re really spoiled in how cheap energy is, whether it’s the cost of electricity or the amount of money that we spend on a gallon of gas,” he said. “We get excited when a gallon of gas turns to $4, but there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into bringing that gas from underground to
the consumer.”

Geology senior Michael Nieto attended the talk and said he agrees with the idea that the general public needs more education about
energy conservation.

“People in general don’t really take into consideration the effects of using day-to-day technologies,” Nieto said. “It would be good for students to see this video because it’s good to be more aware about how your life affects the environment.”

The public should be able to view the documentary, which will accompany a large website, later this year.

“We’ve actually screened a rough cut of the movie and had an original score written,” said Tinker. “We hope to be finished in May, when we’ll take the finished product to a distributor. Hopefully, you’ll see it as a feature length film on HBO and then on the DVD markets.”