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College of Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Energy Smart Research

TSERI’s partnership with CPS Energy highlights energy consumption patterns and opportunities

With the summer months on the horizon after an erratic winter and spring, energy bills will soon reflect the use of home air conditioners and other cooling devices. Innovations decided to sit down and have a chat with The Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute (TSERI). TSERI has been partnering with CPS Energy on various exciting initiatives including the Energy Efficiency and SmartLiving™ Research program. One of the goals of the program is to help consumers figure out how to keep kilowatt hours – and costs – down, even within the unpredictable Texas weather.

“The Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute has assembled a multidisciplinary research team to develop a framework that enables utilities and policymakers to engage commercial and residential customers with the objective of promoting and deploying energy efficiency and conservation, as well as demand/response enabling technologies,” said Dr. Afamia Elnakat, an associate professor of research with TSERI. “Working with CPS provides us with a unique opportunity to create research and apply it to the real word. This project has given me a chance to go behind the scenes and see what is really involved with turning on a light switch.”

According to Elnakat, over the past 14 months, the TSERI team, under the guidance of Dr. Juan Gomez, deputy director and an associate professor of research at the TSERI, has conducted a characterization of San Antonio’s residential buildings, developed a methodology to assess the energy performance of single-family detached homes in the San Antonio area, and performed a series of comparative analyses to quantify the impact of building characteristics, equipment, and appliances inside the home. The study also looked at the impact of weather on energy performance and usage patterns throughout the community.

“We look at homes like they are living organisms,” Elnakat said. “The home heats up with you, cools you down; exists with your family. Homes age. We really try to understand everything about the places we call home so we can better understand our impact.”

In the upcoming months, the TSERI team will focus on additional comparative analyses as well as developing a science-based methodology for understanding the impact of people and their behaviors on energy performance and utilization patterns. One specific area the team is looking at under the guidance of Elnakat is the role of women in household energy decisions. The long-term objective of the research program is to develop a culture of efficiency and conservation in the community as well as to showcase San Antonio as a model for broader national utilization.

“We want to be able to tell people how they can save energy in their house,” said Elnakat. “What I can do to save energy in my house, doesn’t necessarily help my neighbor save energy. It’s not a cookie-cutter model. We are trying to couple technology and innovation with the human factor, so we can give the consumers educated ideas on how they can save kilowatt hours, and money, at their convenience in their own home. We care about the per capita consumption (kilowatts per hour per person).

Yes, the ‘person’ is what makes our research approach unique.”


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