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Students showcasing research posters at the 2015 GCEP Symposium

Bits & Watts Community Seminar: Carrie Armel, Overview of Stanford's ARPA-e Energy Behavior and Sensor Initiative

June 9, 2016 - 1:30pm to 2:30pm
Y2E2 RM 101
Event Sponsor: 
Precourt Institute for Energy, TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy
Contact Email:

Smart meters and related sensing technologies are promoted on the promise that energy information will play a key role in reducing energy use, thereby helping California meet its aggressive greenhouse gas emissions targets aimed at stemming global warming. However, poorly designed interactions with energy information jeopardize these goals and reduce the efficacy of billion-dollar utility infrastructure investments. The current problems are numerous: sensor information is complex and dull, incentives are inappropriate, interactions with energy information are poorly designed to modify behavior, and social context is ignored. These problems all involve the intersection of human behavior and technology. This research developed a comprehensive human-centered solution that leverages the anticipated widespread diffusion of energy sensors to significantly reduce and shift energy use. The authors’ major innovation was the creation of a transformative system that combines behavioral techniques with human-centered design, computation, and technology to affect energy use behavior. The work involved a collaboration of Stanford University researchers and energy industry leaders to establish a new concentration in energy and human behavior. The group conducted research, built systems, and tested solutions in the field. This research had three parts: (1) technology, including an extensible energy communications network to enable future innovation in home area networks; a software platform to enable behavioral programs to be implemented at scale through a “living laboratory”; and algorithms to advance the areas of energy disaggregation, segmentation, and automation, (2) behavioral interventions to reduce and shift energy use, and (3) data evaluation and modeling approaches that applied economic and social network analysis techniques to data collected in interventions. The behavioral interventions included media (interaction design, social networking, games and feedback interfaces), incentive (behavioral economic programs) and community (schools, utility and social organizations). The talk will survey the projects, with an emphasis on the behavioral interventions.


Dr. Carrie Armel is a research associate at Stanford’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC) where she investigates the diverse ways in which an understanding of human behavior can lead to improvements in energy efficiency. For example, the application of behavioral principles can produce significant energy reductions through interventions implemented at the policy, technology, built environment, media/marketing, and organizational/community levels. She has developed and published on such interventions, measures to evaluate their efficacy, and tools to support others in developing interventions. Dr. Armel serves as Project Director on the ARPA-E funded Stanford Energy Behavior and Sensor Initiative, which included 20 independent projects spanning 10 Stanford departments across five schools. She also co-chaired the Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference; oversees Precourt Institute’s Behavior and Energy Bibliographic Database and Website; and has taught courses on behavior and energy at Stanford. She has organized multiple workshops relating to energy and behavior, the process of developing interventions, sensor and feedback devices, and algorithms, and has created numerous tools for practitioners and academics. Dr. Armel completed a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California at San Diego, postdoctoral work in Neuro-Economics at Stanford, and postdoctoral work at Stanford’s School of Medicine.