New dashboard monitors UNC’s energy usage

At a time when the University is looking to save money wherever possible, a new online system is making it easy for anyone to see the energy efficiency of campus buildings.

The system is an energy dashboard, an online graphic display that provides hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and near real-time data for steam, electricity, chilled water solar usage, and will eventually provide monthly data for water installations. One display uses color-coded balloons to show which buildings are high energy users (red) to low energy users (green), while another allows viewers to click on individual building names to see bar charts that track their energy usage.

“Allowing people to see energy consumption trends should raise awareness and lead to better energy reduction habits,” said Dwight Morgan, dashboard project manager. And better habits lead to more savings. Since the University’s energy use policy was adopted in July 2009 and energy conservation measures implemented as a result, the University had avoided more than $10 million in utility costs.

The energy dashboard went live online in November, with data for 150 buildings on campus. The idea of being able to monitor energy usage grew out of the University’s first Climate Action Plan, which emphasized decreasing energy demand and changing energy sources as ways to reduce the University’s carbon footprint. The dashboard was developed using information from a survey done in the summer of 2009 and with input from other sources, like the Energy Task Force convened in 2010 to discuss the University’s energy policies.

While Energy Services is responsible for maintaining the information in the database, the look and functionality of the dashboard was developed by New Media Campaigns, a website design company in Carrboro, founded by three UNC graduates: Joel Sutherland and Kris Jordan (computer science) and Clay Schossow (advertising and political science).

The dashboard is a work in progress. Not all buildings are included in the database, and some aren’t yet equipped to monitor all their utility usage. But improvements are on the way, Morgan said. “Future versions will provide more and better trend analysis as the system incorporates more information and better analytics.” Those with suggestions for the dashboard can contact Morgan at (919) 843-7327 or dwight.morgan@energy.unc.edu.