Nixon Leads Charge On UH Electric Bill

Terri Hefner
Wednesday - December 15, 2010
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University of Hawaii professor David Nixon

Hawaii Kai’s David Nixon is leading the charge at UHManoa to lower electricity usage in Saunders Hall, and the Saunders Energy Challenge is heating up.

The ongoing competition among the building’s seven floors is an effort to cut energy costs in the UH system, which is the second-largest user of electricity in the state. UH-Manoa’s monthly electric bill burns up more than $1.5 million of student tuition, and since the billing is centralized, there’s no way of knowing how much energy each department is consuming.

“Because each floor is a distinct academic department, most of the planning for energy savings has occurred in staff meetings,” said Nixon, associate professor, UH-Manoa Public Policy Center and Public Administration Program.“Some floors used a ‘Kill-A-Watt’metering device to check on the energy they were using for specific pieces of equipment.

“I’m also aware of notes going out to faculty prior to weekends and holidays, encouraging staff to double-check that equipment has been turned off.” Nixon also has noticed subtle little changes in people because they’ve been primed to be thinking about it: turning off the lights when leaving a the room, double-checking screensaver settings, etc.

Nixon also directs the Sustainable Saunders Initiative, a pilot partnership since 2006 between HECO and Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto to document savings based on a statistical model of baseline energy use. Each Saunders floor monitors its energy use in relation to other floors. Real-time and historical data for each floor are listed on the website

In the first round of competition, which kicked off in August, the competing floors showed 1,367 kWh in energy savings - the carbon equivalent of 29 trees. In the second round (with financial incentives) they cut use by 65 percent.

The anthropology department on the third floor saved the most and pocketed $223 for the monthlong effort by staff and students. The prize represents the value of the saved electricity.


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