Energy Efficiency for University Students

Thursday, July 23, 2009 |
By John Leu
Student, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Green is en vogue right now. Everyone from banks to blue chips, congress to car companies is talking about green efforts. Even energy giants are promising more sustainable solutions.

On university campuses, strong environmental awareness has been in fashion for decades, and many of the breakthrough innovations necessary for a low carbon future have come from work done by entrepreneurial and eco-minded students.

One green topic that is being heavily discussed on both college campuses and in the corporate world is energy efficiency. Not the wear-a-sweater or drive-a-clunker mindset of the late 70's, but a sleeker, more hip lifestyle that brands an individual's small carbon footprint.

Bicycles are trendy again, with an entire culture and design style being embraced by the community. Awareness of the carbon impact food choices have is starting to shape diets, both in type and amount. Low-power laptops are now competing with netbooks for space on student's desks. And lightweight smart phones are routinely used for accessing the Web. No question, “green parties” (both political and social) are evident on campus and the demand for more sustainable infrastructure is on the rise.

Interesting and rewarding jobs is another draw for students toward energy efficiency. More than a lifestyle it can become a career. Economics majors have interesting opportunities in the much-needed financing for the growing green-tech sector. Engineers have courses specifically focused on energy efficiency. Operations has always been focused on doing more using less. Lectures, symposiums and workshops are taking place almost daily outlining opportunities for the application of existing solutions as well as a need for better, smarter approaches.

There is also a lot of discourse about the “smart grid” which intends to use information and controls more effectively to reduce electricity use while improving our lifestyle. Utilities, technology companies, universities and small startups are all vying for the development of the necessary innovative approaches that will deliver on the promise of the smart grid.

The stimulus package may also help those who have just graduated or will graduate in the near future. The White House just announced that $346 million from the ARRA will be focused on energy efficiency technology development and projects. These funds will likely span across all sectors and even help new and existing homes become more efficient.

The future of energy efficiency looks bright; we'll continue to make it even brighter while using less to do so.

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