Energy Intelligence: Easy efficiencies to maximize renewable impact
CEE’s Energy Intelligence program works with small industrial customers in Minnesota to lower their energy use and cut operating costs, by providing data about the amount of energy used and when. Energy data is displayed on a web-based dashboard in 15-minute intervals — and with accurate information about when and how energy is being wasted, manufacturers can implement energy efficiency improvements that are tailored to reflect their own special circumstances.
This past summer, Leah Kunkel interned with CEE's Energy Intelligence
program. Kunkel holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Saint Louis University. She is currently completing a master’s in sustainability and will pursue a Ph.D. in sustainable energy from Arizona State University in the fall.
Leah landed the CEE internship through the U of M's Minnesota Technical Assistance Program
, which (among other things) pairs interns with businesses to help implement energy efficiency projects and cut waste. We asked her to reflect on her time with CEE's Energy Intelligence program.
What are some key takeaways from your time with the Energy Intelligence program?
The Energy Intelligence program allowed me to build relationships with the people I met at the various manufacturing sites I visited. I was able to work with them to find solutions for saving energy and improving their business bottom line.
The program exposed me to smart metering technology, which monitors and records energy use. This helped me to see the impact that I made, quantifying energy savings throughout the summer.
What motivated you to pursue a career in energy efficiency?
I always enjoyed the outdoors growing up and I began learning about sustainability issues as I grew older. Sustainability challenges threaten the natural areas that I care about, and this inspired me to make a change. Several years ago I volunteered with the WindAid Institute
, an NGO in Peru working to install wind turbines in communities without grid access. This sparked my interest in renewable energy. And I learned later that renewable energy is much more effective when coupled with energy efficiency improvements. These two advancements go hand-in-hand, and I hope to continue working and learning in the field of sustainable energy.
Any surprises during your internship?
I was surprised by the amount of energy savings options at each site I visited. Many of these sites hadn't looked into energy savings at all, and were unaware of the significant savings they could achieve by simply changing to LED light bulbs or turning off equipment when it wasn’t being used.
What do you hope to tackle in your career?
There is no shortage of technologies available for energy efficiency improvements. The larger challenge seems to be communicating
these opportunities to the business owners that could benefit from them. By informing business owners about the importance of implementing these energy efficient measures — for their business and for the environment — I hope to help reduce barriers to implementation.
Energy Intelligence program
CEE Commercial Programs