Note: The PowerDown competition did not take place during the 2018-19 academic year due to various staffing changes and transitions in building energy management systems across the Claremont Colleges.
Each year, Harvey Mudd College participates in the annual 5C PowerDown Competition. Harvey Mudd competes against Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps colleges to see which campus’ residence halls can most substantially reduce their electricity consumption over a two-week period. The Hixon Center and ESW/MOSS (Engineers for a Sustainable World / Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions) serve as the primary organizers and facilitators of the competition on the Harvey Mudd campus. The winner of the competition wins a pool of money, to which is equally contributed by each of the colleges.
In addition, the residence halls on campus actively compete against one another during the competition. The best performing dorms receive a share of the prize money if Harvey Mudd wins the overall competition.
The competition occurs annually each spring semester, typically beginning in mid- to late February and ending in early March. Prior to the competition, a baseline period is instituted to track electricity consumption over the course of two weeks (which is not disclosed). The competition period lasts for two weeks, during which the sustainability offices and student groups of each campus host a number of promotional events in the spirit of the competition.
Whether it be manually or through online data collection, each campus takes kilowatt-hour measurements (kWh) of each of its residence halls throughout the baseline and competition periods. The energy is converted into demand in kilowatts (kW) to normalize for time, and the demand is compared between the baseline and competition periods. Ultimately, a percentage is yielded, indicating whether the campus has increased its energy consumption (positive percentage) or reduced it (negative percentage).
Frequently Asked Questions
“Do you normalize for occupancy or weather?”
At present, we do not – these two figures currently present the greatest challenge to providing the most accurate, comparative data between each of the colleges. Ideally, we should be able to calculate energy consumption and demand having normalized for these two variables, considering that the weather can vary substantially between the baseline and competition periods, and considering that the schools have variable on-campus populations.
“How accurate is the data?”
The data itself is about as accurate as we can get it – but from year to year, there may be errors that we have to account for and correct. Each year, we have worked with Facilities & Maintenance to assure and consistently improve the accuracy of the data by improving the infrastructure in place to track and compile measurements of electricity consumption. Going into the 2018-19 academic year, we are confident that students will have access to accurate data on a real-time basis during the PowerDown competition.
“If the competition only lasts for two weeks, what is the impact?”
While the competition is temporary, the event has impacts that endure long after the competition. The competition was established to inspire and instill positive electricity consumption behavior and practices among students at the Claremont Colleges. Especially for first-year students, the competition is a fun and engaging opportunity to challenge conventional practices and reduce one’s footprint. The hope is that, over time, students will reduce their overall electricity consumption during their time at the Colleges.
“What can I do to reduce my electricity consumption?”
Reducing electricity consumption can require some diligence, but it is easier than you might imagine. The largest impact you can have is to reduce your use of climate control systems in living spaces, as air conditioning and heating systems are a large segment of our consumption. Luckily, our regional climate has minimal temperature variability compared to other parts of California and the United States, so adjusting to changing temperatures is a little easier. Adding and removing layers when it gets too cold or too warm, or opening and closing windows and doors as necessary, can help in reducing our use of heating and air conditioning.