During summer 2010 — the second hottest on record in Rhode Island — Brown consumed an additional 1.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity compared to the summer before, according to Christopher Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives for the Department of Facilities Management.
Powell said the amount of energy needed to cool a room soared to 57 percent higher than last summer and 42 percent higher than the 30-year average. "I've never seen it that high," he said.
Despite the surge in electricity consumption in the summer, the total energy consumption so far this year is lower than the usual level in the past because Brown has managed to lower consumption of other utilities such as water and natural gas, Powell said.
Powell said better pricing and, more importantly, the impact of efficiency investments have decreased Brown's unit costs of energy. "It would have been a lot worse had we not done a lot of energy efficiency work in the past year," he said.
Powell said 75 percent of the increase in electricity consumption over the summer can be attributed to the unusually high temperatures, since more energy needs to be consumed to maintain the room temperature at a given level when it is hotter outside. The laboratories and offices equipped with air conditioning are major electricity consumers in summer, while residence halls, 95 percent of which do not have air conditioning, do not have a significant impact, Powell said.
Another factor leading to the increase in electricity consumption is the newly installed air conditioning in a few buildings, including the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center, the Science Resource Center and the High Performance Computing Center, Powell said.
Powell said the early start of classes this semester has caused a very small increase in utility costs compared to its usual level.