Will Yang

Fortunately, even though the road is long and hard, a bright future is waiting for us, and waiting for Duke.


Master of Environmental Management '17

Project Team

What you don’t know about energy consumption on the Duke Campus

Our Energy Reporting and Carbon Pricing team has been aiming to boost the sustainability on campus and help lubricate as well as optimize the process of decision-making related to energy. During the journey in the past year. I took main responsibility for analyzing energy consumption as well as carbon emission data at Duke. For me, it’s interesting to communicate with staff from the Facilities Management Department, Budget & Financial Department, and stakeholders at the school or departmental level. Their kind help and insights are of great help to get a better understanding of energy consumption on campus. I am more than happy to share some key information which I find either interesting or knowledgeable.

What have we consumed and emitted at Duke?

The main forms of energy consumption were electric power, chilled water, and steam, which contributed to 44%, 12%, and 44% respectively in total energy consumption on the Duke campus in 2016. Obviously, chilled water serves the campus for cooling and steam for heating, which is a significant part of total consumption and varied in different seasons. When it comes to electricity, the consumers’ demand varies, including but not restricted to lighting, equipment, and electrical appliances. Since our project is aiming to help Duke fulfill its carbon neutrality goal before 2024, it would be beneficial for us to look at carbon emission related to energy consumption. Again, here comes the electric power, chilled water, and steam, which represent 49%, 13%, and 38% respectively of total carbon emission on campus. That’s where we start. Then, how could we make impacts?

What was surprising during the analysis of departmental energy consumption?

To reduce emission, or in other words, energy consumption on campus, we were targeting students, staff, faculties, and most importantly, decision-makers for energy management. At the school/departmental level, the data were collected and analyzed. In our information scheme, a visualization of Excel data for building managers, deans of admin or finance works as a fantastic tool to convey information and raise awareness of energy-saving. We also tried to gamify the positive competence among schools/departments via a leaderboard of energy status in this report and website.

In this process, when I looked at the data, some points caught my eye. Foremost, the differences between schools are big. Due to the various characteristics of schools (e.g., energy use in classrooms vs. offices vs. labs) as well as varied energy-efficient levels, the gaps between schools are large. Even in the same school, the buildings’ variances are huge. Take the Nicholas School of the Environment as an example. Their energy consumption intensity, which was measured by kBtu/square footage, was four times higher in the LSRC building than in Environment Hall in 2016. A breakdown and close scrutiny are always recommended for stakeholders when looking at their bills. Last but not least, allocating bills purely based on space occupied in the same building to different schools/departments would mar the equality. Different schools have their own utilization of space even in the same building, while splitting bills only factoring in space allocation would not be reasonable, especially for buildings having labs.

Energy consumption is more than just data

I have been working on data for Duke for one year, and the findings and insights are always inspiring. However, is energy sector research only reliant on data? The answer is definitely no. Last week when I listened to a presentation in a conference room at Duke, I found the HVAC system for cooling was on, while the system for heating was on as well. I felt the cool air on my left hand and hot air on my right hand, recalling this building is “efficient” in our dataset. Actually, we have a long way to go. Fortunately, even though the road is long and hard, a bright future is waiting for us, and waiting for Duke.