Energy Fellows

National Energy Education Development (NEED)

For my internship, I worked with Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) located in Providence, RI working as a National Energy Education Development (NEED) Intern. NEED is a nationwide program that stresses the need for comprehensive energy education in our schools throughout the country. This program focuses on the reduction of our dependence of fossil fuels, and increasing use of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency. NEED’s philosophy is “Kids Teaching Kids” which encourages students to explore, experiment, and engage, and encouraging teachers to embrace student leadership in the classroom.

As an intern, I attended NEED club meetings throughout Rhode Island to work with existing NEED teachers to assist them with their club meetings, and mentor and inspire students about energy consciousness. For example, Central Falls – Dr. Earl F. Calcutt Middle School received a grant from NASA and conducted experiments, and I was able to facilitate these experiments. Another project I was involved in with Central Falls was planting a local vegetable garden for their school to help the reduction of CO2 emissions to reduce the need for transportation to travel to get food. As an intern, I was able to facilitate and help the students plant their vegetables and herbs. I then assisted OER to raise awareness and expand the RI NEED program. I had to assist with the energy art contest awards program at the 2015 Home Show/Energy Expo at the RI Convention Center. At the 2015 Energy Expo, I also had to organize and manage the energy education booth for kids, where we had an Energy Carnival for youths attending the RI Home Show.

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Education Booth at the 2015 Energy Expo at the RI Convention Center. Students from Central Falls, Calcutt Middle School volunteering to teach children about energy!

After the NEED project submission in April 2015, Rhode Island was able to receive a submission of 6 projects from schools around Rhode Island. The small state of Rhode Island won 3 national awards and 6 state level awards. The national awards were awarded to Dr. Earl F. Calcutt Middle School, Central Falls – National Junior Level School, Scituate High School – National Senior Level School of the Year, and AVenture Academy, Providence – Special Project Rookie of the Year.  From last year, Rhode Island was able to expand NEED to 3 other schools in Rhode Island – and it is currently still expanding!

I was able to accompany our winning schools to a national exhibition to the 2015 National Youth Awards Conference in Washington, DC from June 26 – 29, 2015. All NEED schools have outstanding classroom-based programs in which students learn about energy. To recognize outstanding achievement and reward student leadership, The NEED Project conducts the National Youth Awards Program for Energy Achievement. This was a weekend full of various energy activities and events for teachers and students. I am honored I was able to be a part of teaching and inspiring students to be future green leaders of Rhode Island.

Check out this video of Central Falls, Calcutt Middle School students singing a parody to Meghan Trainor’s “All About the Bass” using lyrics that they wrote about the forms of energy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp9n6C_m7Pk

For more information about the NEED project, please visit the website http://www.need.org/ or contact Barbara Cesaro at the RI Office of Energy Resources at Barbara.Cesaro@energy.ri.gov.

 

By Devina S. Thakur ‘17

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics Major

General Business Minor

December 11, 2015

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Introducing an Energy Auditing Tool to the Rhode Island Public Sector

My name is Andrew Hintlian, and I am pursuing a double major in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island. Participating in this locus of study gave me the opportunity to take part in the yearlong URI Energy Fellows Program through the Extension Outreach Center. Throughout my engagement in this internship, I worked with the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP) Team. RIPEP was a three-year initiative supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) to achieve an overall energy savings of 20% throughout approximately 100 buildings in Rhode Island’s public sector. I took part in analyzing the energy usage data from about 50 of those municipal, state, school and water facilities.

Building Energy Asset Score (AST)

This past summer, I earned the opportunity to take on a lead role in the program by introducing an auditing tool to four school and municipal departments. The DOE’s Building Energy Asset Score (AST) is a free tool that uses a building’s structural data (lighting, HVAC systems, structural assemblies, etc.) to calculate an energy efficiency score. AST provides energy efficiency scores between 1 and 10, 1 meaning the building uses more energy than it should and 10 meaning it uses less energy than expected. A current and potential score are provided to highlight what the building can achieve from completing suggested projects. As part of the RIPEP initiative, I was tasked with collecting building information for at least 30 public facilities.

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Data Collection Process

To make sure we achieved our goal of collecting data for 30 buildings, we first contacted those municipalities, school districts, and state agencies that showed prior interest in the tool and a high level of engagement in the RI Public Energy Partnership. We received responses from North Kingstown School District (10 buildings), Cranston School District (5 buildings), Warwick Municipality (10 buildings), and the University of Rhode Island Capital Projects (6 buildings). Once we received feedback, I was able to schedule meetings with the community directors to rationalize the best approach in collecting data. We found the best way to collect this data was to start by viewing blueprints and upgrade schedules. If there was any missing information, we would perform on-site visits to attain the remaining building characteristics. The data was then entered into the Tool’s online database to receive scoring and efficiency reports. Once the buildings were scored, we met with customers again to discuss findings. Using the results, we offered recommendations on how to use the tool to identify next steps for energy efficiency investment

Customer Takeaways of AST

The intention of introducing this tool to the Rhode Island public sector was not necessarily to provide building results, but to show the usefulness of the tool. When presenting results, I focused on three takeaways that the customers can achieve from independent use of AST.  One benefit was the creation of a central database of building information. Through consistent use of this tool, the Asset Score compiles building structure and efficiency information into a single location accessible by the building operator with just the click of a button. Another takeaway is the fact that it can be used alongside Energy Star Portfolio Manager (PM) to provide further knowledge of the building. PM is a tool that the RIPEP Team used with our Rhode Island partners to analyze building energy consumption values through examining utility bills. Using the Asset Score alongside ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager Tool can compare how a building could be performing to how it is actually performing. The final takeaway we wanted to achieve was to streamline next steps in energy efficiency project implementation for these partners. By introducing this unique tool to this public sector, they can use its feedback to schedule preliminary energy audits directed by the results, continue using the tool as a resource for planning future projects and updating building structural characteristics, and understand changes in energy consumption over time from collaborative Portfolio Manager reports.

Working on RIPEP has helped to shape me professionally, and enhanced my familiarity with entry into the energy workforce. I knew I made the right choice with the Energy Fellows program as I got to partake in work that not only interested me, but challenged me to a large extent. I’ve also become more confident with my leadership and professional communications skills from my constant involvement around the office, work meetings, energy tabling events and trainings. My hope for the future of AST project implementation is that this program will help Rhode Island achieve a more sustainable future through improved energy awareness.

by: Andrew Hintlian

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics & Marine Affairs Double Major

December 11th, 2015

Fostering Energy Management in RI’s Public Sector

Over the course of the past year, I have been working as a URI Energy Fellow on the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP) Team, an initiative funded by the Rhode Island Department of Energy (DOE). As energy efficiency became a focal point for RI’s state and municipal heads, the RIPEP Team played a crucial role in determining if energy efficiency retrofits are a success, and if buildings are performing efficiently.

We accomplished this by establishing a baseline of energy consumption for over 80% of RI’s school facilities, using an online energy management tool called Portfolio Manager (PM). This baseline report allows decision makers to look at how much energy their district consumed, by building, from 2008 to 2014. The data was displayed as monthly values and grouped by energy type (electricity, natural gas, etc.). This accessible and comprehensive baseline was the first of its kind in RI, and is an invaluable accomplishment for energy efficiency in the state of Rhode Island. Now that energy efficiency has been measured in the state, it is possible for public decision makers to manage their own consumption.

Many school and municipal departments had very little knowledge of their own energy consumption. The process of evaluating energy bills is often overlooked, and the bills are simply paid for by the state without careful consideration. The RIPEP Team helped schools and municipalities make important energy decisions by:

  • Establishing a baseline for their buildings energy consumption,
  • Identifying poorly operating facilities, and
  • Providing measurable changes in energy consumption after retrofits.

After the baseline was established, the RIPEP Team also gave school districts and municipalities the means to continue their own energy management through the use of the same, user friendly and free online tool, Portfolio Manager.

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Having an experiential learning experience such as the one I received as an Energy Fellow at the URI Outreach Center was instrumental to developing a well-rounded repertoire of professional and social skills. Throughout my time on the RIPEP Team, I grew and developed in many ways I would not have within a classroom. When I first came in to the program I was disorganized, a poor communicator and unfamiliar with working in the professional office environment. Working on a supportive team encouraged me to take on new responsibilities, which led to improvement of my professional skills. Some of my many tasks included taking notes at seminars regarding current energy issues, leading small group meetings, and conducting community service. I also had opportunities to work with professionals in the field to accomplish common goals. Taking on diverse and challenging responsibilities developed my ability to synthesize ideas, bolstered my public speaking, and overall improved my professional demeanor.

Building upon my weaknesses has given me a sense of confidence I would not have found within a classroom. It has given me a clear head and reassurance to follow my passion to improve the environment. I hope to find a career in either the environmental or energy field where I can have a direct effect on environmental issues such as renewable energy or diminishing natural resources. I finally feel like I am ready to begin my career. I owe a great deal of my preparedness and confidence to my experiential learning as a URI Energy Fellow.

 

by: Connor Fiske ’15

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics Major

December 18th, 2015

Alternative Fuels and Anti-Idling

My experience as an Energy Fellow at the University of Rhode Island Outreach Center working with Ocean State Clean Cities showed me the many layers of the energy field and how versatile and useful my skills can be in the professional world. The program introduced me to the whole other side of energy, the behind the scenes allocation of energy, emerging technologies, efficiency programs, and increased use. As an undergraduate student majoring in environmental and natural resource economics, the program was ideal to further my studies and work experience.

Ocean State Clean Cities (OSCC) is a program within the URI energy fellows program. The main goal of this coalition is to reduce the amount of carbon emissions released from the transportation sector. The ways in which we try to reduce these emissions is through the promotion of alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles, idle reduction technologies, and by practicing better driving techniques. The six alternative fuels we currently promote the use of are electric, propane, natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen. All of these alternative fuels produce fewer carbon emissions when burned than traditional gasoline and diesel fuels. The reason we want to reduce emissions from the transportation sector is because the transportation sector is one of the leading users of energy.

OSCC

I had many different duties during my year as an energy fellow, many of which put me out of my comfort zone. The main duties of my position were to stay updated on current environmental issues, incentives and technologies related to fuel reduction, alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles, idle reduction technologies, and promoting fuel saving driving techniques. This information is then communicated to the public through social media outreach, holding alternative fuel stakeholder meetings that let the industry stakeholders network, and periodic email newsletters. We take advantage of the abundant information and resources that are available to the coalition through industry partners.

The accomplishments I have made through the internship have helped me grow in many ways. I helped to facilitate alternative fuel stakeholder meetings by planning, organizing, and running such events. In 2014, OSCC held five stakeholder meetings: two natural gas meetings, an electric car meeting, and a hydrogen meeting. The best things I took from these meetings was seeing the different aspects of alternative fuel industries, meeting powerful industry individuals, and the confidence of knowing that I helped make the meeting happen.

No Idling

I am currently working on launching a campaign for URI to commit to and promote the practice of anti-idling. Idling is when a vehicle’s engine is left running when not in motion. This is unnecessary at times for many vehicles and if idle time is reduced, cleaner air and a noticeable reduction of fuel spent will be the result. The main targets of this anti-idling campaign are the vehicles that are often left running at times when it isn’t necessary, vehicles unloading goods, ticketing cars, service vehicles, and even when picking up a friend.

We plan to install “no idling” signs around the URI campus at loading docks and in front of dorms, places where it is most likely for drivers to leave their car running when it isn’t necessary. The goal of this campaign, “the big picture”, is to improve air quality on campus, reduce amounts of fuel burned and reduce reliance on foreign fuel sources. My experiences working as an energy fellow and for Ocean State Clean Cities is priceless, I have learned so much and I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Thanks for reading!

By: Justin Venturini

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics Major

December 10th, 2014

Educating Rhode Islanders about Sustainable Energy

Since January 2014 I have been an Energy Fellow at the University of Rhode Island Outreach Center. This year I worked on the Sustainable Energy Outreach and Education Team, developing ways to teach the community outside of URI about energy topics such as efficiency, conservation, and renewables. We worked to serve as a teacher to the public and provide resources about energy to those who are not able to attend the university. We did this through a series of workshops available to Rhode Island residents where they could learn the “who, what, why, and how” of sustainable energy. These included a Home Energy School, a Renewable Energy School, and two residential efficiency workshops in South Kingstown and Warwick as part of the EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant.

We designed these educational programs by working backwards and first identifying outreach objectives. First, we wanted to provide people with research-based, factual knowledge about energy basics and what is happening on the federal, state, and individual levels. Most importantly, we hoped to facilitate a behavior change in Rhode Islanders to adopt sustainable energy habits, advocate for progressive energy policy, and be confident, informed energy decision makers. If successful, in the long run we will see a reduction in CO2 emissions and a diverse array of energy sources.

This fellowship has allowed me to grow professionally as well as personally. I have gained vast knowledge about the energy system and Rhode Island’s leadership in a sustainable energy future. I have also gained invaluable professional skills and a newfound confidence that has translated into my everyday life. Working in outreach and education has also inspired me to add a minor field of study to my major in Environmental Economics. In the spring I will begin my Public Relations minor in order to achieve the most effective means of communicating energy to the public.

I feel very strongly that the energy industry is where I would like to further my career. I enjoyed this internship so much that I reapplied to be a 2015 fellow, and was accepted as the Team Leader of Energy Education. This promotion will provide me with leadership skills, and more importantly allow my voice to be better heard in educating Rhode Islanders about sustainable energy behaviors.

By: Angela Tuoni

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

Public Relations Minor

December 22nd, 2014

RIPEP-er!

My internship as an Energy Fellow began in January 2014 and will continue through December 2014. What’s really interesting about my internship is that the other interns and I get to work on real projects that affect our state and get a real life experience in the workplace.

I am working at the URI Outreach Center on the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP). RIPEP is a federal grant provided to the state to increase energy efficiency in the public sector by 20% by 2015. Of four major sectors – state, schools, municipalities, and water suppliers – I work with the state sector.

I use Microsoft Excel and Portfolio Manager to organize and analyze state energy data. First, I meet with state representatives to collect information about energy use in state buildings, including old bills, meter numbers, and account numbers. Then, I organize this data using Excel. Finally, I transfer all the data into Portfolio Manager, an online tool that tracks buildings’ energy consumptions and calculates an overall energy efficiency rating for each building.

Comparing energy efficiency ratings from various buildings show us which buildings are the least energy efficient. National Grid performs a “scoping study” on each of these low efficiency buildings. In a scoping study, National Grid goes to the building and finds problems in the building that are making it not energy efficient. After the scoping study is finished, the problems are addressed. Then the building owners can track the building’s energy efficiency on Portfolio Manager to make sure the building is attaining a high energy efficiency rating. Portfolio Manager is a tool that is not only useful for calculating energy efficiency but also for making sure that the building stays efficient after repairs and replacements have been made.

As this project goes into the summer, I will meet with state agencies like the Department of Administration, the Department of Transportation, University of Rhode Island, and many more. So far I have worked with my team here at the Outreach Center, the Office of Energy Resources in Providence, and National Grid. My internship provides plenty of opportunities to network with many people throughout the state and I’m sure there will be many more people for me to meet throughout the rest of my internship at the Outreach Center. I love working with energy efficiency and with this project. Before this internship I hardly knew anything about energy efficiency but this internship has taught me so much. I’m not even halfway through my internship year and I already love it.

 

by Marissa Pereira ’16

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics Major + Business Minor

May 9th, 2014

Some Very Energetic Fellows

For my internship experience I was fortunate enough to work under Kristina DiSanto as a member of the Energy Fellows program. I was assigned to a project called the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP), which is a statewide initiative funded by the Department of Energy with the goal of reducing energy consumption by 20% in 100 government buildings in Rhode Island. Additionally the project entailed benchmarking the energy consumption of every government building in the state, and this was the aspect of the project that myself and several other fellows were given to complete. Benchmarking requires that we collect all utility data from the previous three years for each building, normalize the data, and compare each of the buildings to determine which ones are the least efficient. After determining the least efficient buildings, we target them for scoping studies and eventual energy efficiency retrofits to be performed by one our partners in the program, National Grid.

The benchmarking process requires that I use Microsoft Excel extensively, drastically improving my capabilities in using the program as well as analyzing the data itself. The data work however was only one aspect of the Energy Fellows program. Throughout the summer we attended weekly energy events that expanded my understanding of a multitude of aspects of the energy sector. We met with industry professionals and entrepreneurs in the renewable energy field and toured their facilities.

We also attended workshops on resume building, job search techniques, and participated in team building exercises. Over the course of my fellowship I developed meaningful relationships with all of my coworkers and I am proud to say that I can call each and every one of them my friend. The work environment was professional yet relaxed and very much based around student learning and development as well as the completion of project goals. I very much enjoyed my time as an Energy Fellow and would highly recommend the program to any students with an interest in the field of renewable energy technologies or energy efficiency programs. My professional development and the people I met by participating in the program all made for a wonderful experience. So what are you waiting for? Send in your application today!

 

by Eric Munzert ’14

May 14th, 2014

Educating about Energy

I am an Energy Fellow at the URI Outreach Center. My internship is focused on sustainable energy outreach and education. My team is dedicated to compiling sustainable and renewable energy information and designing education models in which we can convey this information to the public. Our main topics of research are renewable energy generation engineering and operation, sustainable markets, and natural resource economics.

This year, I worked on content design for the Outreach Center’s Spring Home Energy School, a workshop for public residents to learn at-home energy efficiency and conservation. I am also currently working on our summer Renewable Energy School and Fall Home Energy School content and design layout.

Another responsibility of mine is to attend energy events, including conferences such as the Quadrennial Energy Review, a public stakeholder meeting with Senator Jack Reed and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. During this conference Rhode Islanders discussed New England’s energy infrastructure needs and challenges. Attending this conference was a valuable experience because it provided insight into the actual operation of the energy industry, production, supply chain, and consumer demand, as well as innovative topics such as generation and distribution design and cyber security.

This internship has and continues to provide me with a solid foundation of sustainable energy knowledge, project planning and design, communication in the office space, and getting an overall feel for what I would like to do professionally.

 

by Josh Watkinson ’16

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics Major

Landscape Architecture Minor

May 9th, 2014

The Energy Fellows Experience

Helping to make Rhode Island more energy efficient

This semester I worked at the URI Outreach Center as an Energy Fellow with the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP) to improve the overall energy efficiency in the state. RIPEP is a three-year project aimed at compiling an inventory of all state and municipal buildings’ energy and water usages. Through this process we hope to identify which buildings across the state are best suited for energy efficient retro fits.

Throughout the semester, I was in charge of creating Excel spreadsheets for various state and municipal buildings outlining their energy consumption over the past few years. After this data was compiled, it was uploaded into a program called Portfolio Manager, which analyzed and organized all of the energy consumption data by town. Once the data was organized, it was presented to each town so they could decide which buildings they wanted to spend money on in order to increase energy efficiency.

Although this job’s main focus was energy efficiency, this internship was not all about analyzing data. As an Energy Fellow I was also required to attend outside energy events, as well as running information tables at various energy expos. The most interesting energy event I was able to attend was the Quadrennial Energy Review where I got to listen to the Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Jack Reed, and many other energy experts talk about some of the major issues in the alternative energy field.

Another great experience I had as an energy fellow was running an information table at The Home Show in Providence. At this event, I represented the URI Outreach Center and informed people about the various programs offered at the University, as well as answered energy efficiency questions from anyone who visited the table. I feel that these types of events really made the internship more interesting and allowed me to experience new things in the energy field. Although I have only experienced a semester of this year long internship, I have already acquired a bevy of new and extremely useful skills. I am looking forward to the rest of the trainings and experiences that summer and the fall semester will bring.

 

by Alex Blanchette ’15

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics + Applied Economics Double Major

May 9, 2014