Department of Energy

A new regulation on water heater size from the Department of Energy (DOE) may make replacements costs significantly higher.

The new federal regulation will go into effect April 15, according to a report from the DOE. The newer heaters will cost up to 35 percent more than the conventional heaters and will possibly require remodeling to accommodate their storage space.

The regulation will affect students in both apartments and houses, said Jessyca Whitman, field service representative with Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning. Installation can easily interfere with residence, and, if students take initiative, the problem can be avoided before it gets bigger. 

“If you are renting, which most students do, definitely talk to your land and tell them that the deadline is coming up,” Whitman said.

The regulation mostly concerns people with heaters in tight spaces, said Brad Casebier, owner of Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning.

“The new water heaters are going to be about 2 inches larger than [the standard attic space access],” Casebier said. “This means that home owners will have the additional expenses of sheet rock repair and even possible carpentry.”

Manufacturers will stop producing the current models once the deadline passes, according to a statement from Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning. Casebier said that replacing the older model before the deadline would save on time and stress. The replacement might not affect students financially, but Casebier said planning accordingly with landlords can avoid turning a one-day process into a five-day ordeal.

Whitman said the insulation is meant to keep the water hotter for longer, as opposed to increasing the gallon size of the heater. According to the DOE, the new model water heaters will save approximately 3.3 quads of energy and avoid about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 33.8 million automobiles.

Biology junior Sarah McConnon said energy conservation is a major concern as a student living in a rented house, especially when trying to save money. She said things that usually go unseen are important to take in mind when regarding energy conservation.  

“As a person that cares about the environment, it’s important to me, so that I can be a part of sustaining it, as opposed to degrading it,” McConnon said. “Every little thing matters.”

Dr. Ernest Moniz, secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, gave a talk in the Avaya Auditorium on Thursday morning. 

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said in a speech Thursday at the University that he attributes progress in the field of renewable energy to the efforts of
immigrant citizens.

“The president has been very clear that immigration will be a major focus this year,” Moniz said. “The Department of Energy can’t avoid that major pushes in the investment of clean energy have come from people who came to this country, were educated in this country and have now contributed to our economy.”

Moniz, who was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before his appointment as secretary of energy, said the development of more efficient energy sources is an important nationwide issue.

“There is no ambiguity about the need to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Moniz said.  

Moniz, who spoke with engineering students about their ideas on renewable energy, said the solution to clean energy problems will require creating opportunities for various ways to fix the issues.

“There is no single low-carbon solution that will be the magic answer everywhere,” Moniz said. “What we need to do is enable all of the fuels, all of the technologies, to have a marketplace position in a future low-carbon economy.”

University Provost Gregory Fenves said he believes the goals of the University were in sync with those of Moniz’s department.

“When we look at the mission of the Department of Energy and compare that to what we do at the University of Texas, there is tremendous alignment in our education mission, in our research mission, and also in how we get our innovations out to serve the world through entrepreneurship and communication,” Fenves said. 

Engineering professor Michael Webber, who introduced Moniz, said he has been impressed with the secretary’s performance since his appointment in May.

“He works hard, he hustles for the American people and he’s an advocate for energy solutions that stand the test of time,” Webber said. 

Moniz said his department hopes for a more diverse workforce in future years.

“When we look at what is going to be the resource needed to get the kind of energy system we want mid-century, we’re going to need a really good workforce,” Moniz said. “We just don’t have an energy workforce that reflects our demographics and our future demographics.”

An executive from the Department of Energy gave insight Thursday night into how students could use their degrees to land a career in the federal government. 

Sarah Lynch, spokeswoman for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy, spoke at the Jackson School of Geosciences to explain the federal government’s continual interest in revitalizing its workforce by hiring new qualified people. 

Lynch said there are many different entry points into the federal government.

“The federal government communications outreach values teamwork, insight and people that like to think about complex problems and actually understand the idiosyncrasies,” Lynch said.

Working for the federal government also has benefits in terms of salary. Lynch said it is very feasible to double an entry-level salary in 10 years.

“The starting salaries are pretty darn solid.” Lynch said. “I doubled my salary in seven years. You’re not going to get that in the state, and you’re not going to get that in nonprofit. You also have to work really hard. I’ve never worked a 40 hour hour work week in my life – unless I actually had one of those days off."

Entry-level positions are accompanied by training on the job. Lynch said hired students can expect a learning curve every six months.

"What I learned in graduate school were super applicable skills, right?, but I was blown out of the park in the first year," Lynch said.

Some of Lynch’s work includes interviewing high-level government officials and evaluating operational plans with federal employees. Lynch said she evaluated contractor reports when they were trying to reconstruct the oil sector in Iraq. 

She said Department of Energy jobs promise rewarding retirement benefits.

“In terms of retirement, there is something equivalent to a 401K called the TSP whereby the government after a couple years matches what you’re putting in,” Lynch said. “That becomes significant after a while and is a great benefit as a federal employee.”

Government freshman Bernardo Daniel Paredes said he realizes the competitive nature of the job application process, but he was motivated by Lynch.

“It was encouraging to hear her say how much she loves her career,” Paredes said. “She believes you will not find a more powerful mission than the federal government agencies in which you apply.”

Published on March 1, 2013 as "Energy representative offers advice on careers". 

This article was edited after its original posting for clarity.

The Department of Energy has given a roughly $500,000 grant to a UT research project that hopes to shed light on solar and non-solar energy use in Texas, with particular attention to what gets consumers amped up.

Led by Varun Rai, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the project will combine data and survey results with the goal of establishing more efficient solar power systems. 

Texas is one of the best areas in the U.S. to harvest solar power, according to Rai. He said the project will examine what obstacles prevent its use, particularly in residential areas. Rai also said he hopes the data will result in the development of more solar technologies, such as systems to power homes and electric vehicles.

“Through a robust research design combining behavioral economics, diffusion of innovations and advanced data analytics, this project seeks to support the overarching objective of making renewable energy, and solar in particular, more affordable and widespread,” Rai said.

Many solar power systems run rebate programs, according to Eric Bickel, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UT who is assisting with the project. Because solar power is now much cheaper than it was 40 or 50 years ago, when it was first invented, this project will investigate how to make solar energy more widespread. Similar grants were also awarded to MIT, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Yale University as part of the department’s SunShot Initiative.

Ben Sigrin, a public affairs and energy and earth resources graduate student working on the project, said the project comes at a time when solar energy is at a crossroads. 

“The prices have fallen so quickly over the last few years that we’re now at a point where solar could actually become mainstream,” Sigrin said. “Our research helps understand why consumers adopt solar and ways to accelerate that adoption process.”

Scott Robinson, public affairs and energy and earth resources graduate student, is designing a “computer simulation of the residential solar market in Austin” with hopes of simulating consumer behavior as a part of the research project.

“I am using agent-based modeling to solve this problem,” Robinson said. “Instead of using an algorithm to describe the process as a whole, I model the behavior of individuals, and allow them to interact within their geographic environment.” 

This project has been a dream come true from a student’s perspective, Robinson said.

“To be honest, this project is the most interesting problem I have ever tried to solve,” Robinson said. “It has made me search out an entire new skill set in an applied environment. In other words, this is what learning should be.”