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CLARITY Experiments with Carbon Footprint

Some exciting carbon footprint innovation that is being fostered by the CLARITY research centre, which is a joint venture between DCU and UCD, with additional support from Tyndall National Institute in Cork. CLARITY is one of the Science Foundation Ireland funded CSETs – Centres for Science Engineering and Technology. 

As DCU Professor Alan Smeaton explained “A person’s carbon footprint is caused mainly by three things: the energy you use at home (mostly electricity but also gas), the energy you use at work, and the energy used to get from home to work. Other travel also contributes and is something you can control, and other carbon from industry for example that individuals can’t control directly.”

For home energy CLARITY has deployed energy monitoring in 20+ homes, measuring electricity consumption on a per-minute basis, calculating carbon footprint and measuring current consumption against historical norm for that home on that day, week, month etc. This innovation is also able to compare usage trends with trends from other similar homes to see how good/bad you are doing compared to others, as well as compared to yourself. Real time consumption is indicated against your home’s norm via visual feedback.

For work energy, DCU is also part of the E3 programme, where each building records its energy consumption.

For travel, CLARITY researchers have accelerometers attached to key rings and movement patterns determine when the owner is driving (or being driven), the style of driving (stop-start vs. motorway), and the carbon footprint from travel. It will even be able to calculate when one is flying or on the train.

So putting 1, 2 and 3 together we now have indicators of personal carbon footprint, even having this available to view on mobile phones. We are a mobile species now and having real-time information is key to making these innovations work for people. Doing so in real-time is the only way to change behaviour.

Latent information, such as seeing this on your gas or electricity bill, does not inspire action whereas seeing the effect in real-time when you switch off lights etc., is a powerful message.We applaud this sort of innovative solution to the green energy consumption issue. More please!

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