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Sustainability Office responds

November 22, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the authors.

To the Editor,

We appreciate Professor of Chemistry Richard Broene’s recent Letter to the Editor drawing attention to the results from the October Energy Challenge and felt it would be beneficial to explain where and how the Sustainability Office arrived at the numbers posted in the Installment.

Residences that are individually metered are connected to an outside energy dashboard company, Lucid Technologies. Lucid provides an interface and tools for Facilities Management to look at the energy data from campus buildings for monitoring and maintenance, as well as providing the framework and support to compare different buildings’ energy usage in the Energy Challenge format.

Throughout the Energy Challenges, this data—managed and calculated by Lucid—is what appears on the Energy Dashboard and provides hourly updates. At the end of the Energy Challenge, we are able to download the data from Lucid, which includes the baseline consumption in kilowatts (kW), competition rate of consumption in kW, percent reduction, total reduction in kilowatts per hour (kWh), and total reduction of carbon in pounds for each building, and for the challenge as a whole.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an online “Equivalency Calculator,” which allows the more esoteric numbers and metrics like kW and pounds of carbon to be translated into more tangible numbers like trees planted and miles driven.

This is the process by which we arrived at the numbers posted in the November Installment. Admittedly, there is room for the discrepancy between the data we receive from Lucid and however the EPA calculates its equivalency. As the Harry Potter books say, “never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain,” and in using both a data management service and the EPA calculator, we cannot speak directly to how these emissions savings calculations were made.

We have reached out to Broene, and look forward to connecting with him in order to better use the metering technology we have to provide more accurate information to the Bowdoin community in future energy challenges. This was not a willfully misleading use of statistics, but merely an example of the limits of what can be metered and measured, and how to best communicate technical information to a campus that embraces liberal arts and STEM.

Thank you all for your concern in this matter, and for your vibrant participation in the Energy Challenge itself.

Sincerely,

Keisha Payson, Associate Director of Sustainability

Bethany Taylor, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator

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