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Researchers launch project to predict energy use in S.A. neighborhoods

Researchers launch project to predict energy use in S.A. neighborhoods

The Hays Street Bridge is the centerpiece of 78202, one of two zip codes where UTSA researchers are surveying households about their energy use.

MARCH 31, 2021 — Researchers at UTSA are surveying households in two San Antonio zip codes, 78202 and 78230, about their energy use, mobility and chronic health conditions.

Once the survey is complete, the data will be combined with cell phone GPS data to improve the ability to predict energy demand through time at the neighborhood level.

Using a Transdisciplinary Teams seed grant from the UTSA Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise, this collaborative project is led by Wenbo Wu, assistant professor of management science and statistics. He also engaged the expertise of Eric Shattuck, head of the Institute for Health Disparities Research, and Ying Huang, assistant professor of demography.

Initially proposed by Wu, the study is an exceptional representation of a multidisciplinary approach.

“We wanted to identify the prevalence of energy hardships, so we can see where the gap is and how big it is.”

“We have Eric from public health, Ying from demography, and I'm from data science,” Wu said. “We’ll also be getting support from a former colleague who is now in Syracuse to conduct the energy simulation, and to understand the different neighborhoods and their consumption of energy.”

The researchers also sought out community partners in San Antonio to engage in and help with the data collection. The neighborhood housing services department, part of the neighborhood engagement team of San Antonio, helped to identify neighborhoods for the study.

The results of the study will have a positive impact on the city, and aligns with the mission of the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy to develop solutions to affect change in order to improve the well-being of communities.

“We are working to expand the neighborhood registry and bring in more associations that are or haven't been registered in the past,” said Elizabeth Mercado, City of San Antonio neighborhood engagement officer. “Pushing out information, especially when we're working with different partners like UTSA, keeps that flow of information and the neighborhood leaders can look to us as a source of information that's going to impact them where they live.”

In addition to residents having a sense of belonging by participating the survey, Shattuck explained, there can be other far-reaching benefits.

“The city can use the research products to apply for other grants,” he said. “For example, in the survey we wanted to identify the prevalence of energy hardships, so we can see where the gap is and how big it is. It will be helpful for the city to use that information to apply for some other larger federal grants to help address the energy consumption or energy hardship problems.”

⇒ Shattuck’s recent research on the impact of social distancing on the spread of infection

Because of the neighborhood engagement team’s work, the team was able to collect 800 surveys in two days. Coming on the heels of the winter weather that crippled San Antonio’s energy, this data will be particularly relevant.

“Our hope is that we'll be successful with the survey, and we can turn around and use that pilot data to then apply for a larger federal grant to further our research,” Shattuck concluded.

Amanda Cody

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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