Carnegie Mellon University
October 21, 2016

Developing Energy-Measurement Criteria at NREL

Developing Energy-Measurement Criteria at NREL

Avani Goyal (MS ’16) spent her summer interning as an energy efficiency analyst for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. She recently spoke to CEE about the work she did and the CEE courses that prepared her for it.

CEE: Tell us about the work you were doing this summer.

I was working as an energy efficiency analyst for the Residential Buildings group of the Buildings and Systems Center within the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). We developed research designs and protocols to measure changes in United States building energy efficiency.

We studied many aspects of energy usage—cooling, lighting, heating, etc.—and came up with the best metrics so that the Department of Energy (DOE) could measure the United States’ progress toward improving building energy efficiency and meet the goals set by Building Technologies’ Office (BTO).
The work was similar to energy consulting. Based on the analysis of energy efficiency programs, the best analytical method was used.

This was then drafted into documents outlining the protocols for obtaining approval from DOE. We were in regular touch with a representative from the DOE, who was leading the project, to obtain their perspective on our analysis and proposed methods before finalizing the draft document.

CEE: Were there any aspects of the work that you found surprising?

The specific tasks of the project were developed as we were doing the work, so the day-to-day tasks could be unpredictable. This was an interesting learning experience as it gave me more ownership on how to drive the analysis further.

Also, despite broad scope, the level of specificity that was required was surprising. It showed me how much we need to learn and consider before recommending a protocol to help with analysis and achieving goals.

CEE: Did any particular CEE classes help to prepare you for this work?

There were a number of courses that helped me understand the fundamentals of energy as it is applied to buildings.

Data Acquisition and Data Driven Building Energy Management, both taught by Professor Mario Berges, and Mechanical And Electrical System Design For Buildings, taught by Gerry Mattern were instrumental in understanding how energy is used in buildings.

As a teaching assistant for Energy Demand and Utilization, taught by Costa Samaras, I was introduced to nationwide statistics for energy generation and consumption. This course also highlighted trends in the energy industry and cemented some of the larger challenges that we face in this industry as it stands today.

The course Civil Systems Investment, Planning and Pricing improved my technical writing capabilities, which helped me in drafting documents for DOE.

CEE: What was your favorite part of the experience?

I have been interested in building energy efficiency sector and this internship gave me valuable experience and exposure into it.

I really enjoyed being a part of the energy conscious and sustainable culture within the NREL campus. Many employees would bike-to-work regularly along with initiatives provided by NREL for carpooling/vanpooling. Most buildings were either gold or platinum level LEED certified with green infrastructure features throughout the campus.

The laboratory is at the forefront in areas related to renewable energy and energy efficiency.  It gave me an opportunity to interact with eminent people and emerging scholars in diverse fields in addition to attending various talks and seminars learning about the outstanding work happening at the campus.