May 23, 2019

By Colin Rowan, director of communication, Pecan Street

2019 marks Pecan Street’s 10-year anniversary, and we’re thrilled to report that it’s been an incredible decade of innovation, invention, insight, and progress.

What started as a grassroots collaboration to imagine “the utility of the future” evolved into a stand-alone organization that has conducted groundbreaking research on residential energy and water use, solar energy generation, wireless data collection, and big data management. 

Individually, these are exciting accomplishments. But they add up to bigger and more powerful stories that inspire us about the convergence of the climate fight, energy, technology, and people.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing what we think all of our individual accomplishments add up to — Pecan Street’s 10-Year Top 10.

Here are the stories we’re working on. If you have comments or suggestions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at media@pecanstreet.org.

An Army of Citizen Scientists
The core of our research is our network of individual households that have agreed to participate in our groundbreaking research. More than “research subjects,” these individuals and families have become America’s first Army of Citizen Scientists. We’ll introduce you to some of them.

A Global Model for Community-Driven, Data-Driven Research
When we started, we didn’t realize we’d blaze a trail in the research world. But the more questions we asked, the more we realized that we’d have to invent a whole new category of research. You can call it a digital focus group or a national field trial. We call it the future of energy research.

The Mother of All Energy and Water Databases
If you’re a data-nerd, you’re our kind of people. And you should visit Dataport, where more than 2,500 university-sponsored researchers get free access to the petabyte of energy and water data we’ve collected over the last decade. It’s the largest database of its kind on the planet, and we’ll introduce you to Grant Fisher, our CIO, who will explain how we built it, how we protect it, and how researchers use it.

An Innovation Lab in the Heart of Texas’ Innovation Capital
We designed our commercialization lab to be a “maker’s workshop,” a place for energy-focused engineers and entrepreneurs to invent and test the technology that will reduce emissions, clean our air, reduce energy bills and spark the future of smart energy. We’ll take you inside the lab and tell you about some of the innovative technology invented and used there.

A Real-World Plug and Play Technology Test Bed for Innovators Around the World
Our research network is a unique asset for data hounds and number crunchers around the world that can’t find high-resolution energy and water data anywhere else. But it’s also a fast-ramp, plug-and-play test bed for large and small companies that need to field-test their smart home, energy efficiency, solar energy, or water conservation technology in real homes with real people.

Groundbreaking Insights into Clean Energy and Water Conservation
Did you know that installing more west-facing solar (instead of the usual south-facing solar) is a better way to reduce the need for peaker plants? Did you know that a leaky toilet flapper is probably the biggest water waster in your house? Did you know that all the panic about electric vehicles breaking the grid was overhyped (and incorrect) propaganda? We measured and proved it.

Underserved Communities in the Climate Fight Got a Voice
Renters are notoriously underrepresented in research about energy efficiency and renewable energy. So are low-income families. But you know what? They care about climate change, too. And they represent a significant portion of American households. So we included them in our research.

Putting People and Privacy First in a Data-centric World
You might suspect that measuring, recording and storing a family’s energy and water use would require some very strict rules about privacy and security. You might not know that there were essentially no privacy or data standards for energy or water use data. So we invented them. And we created a DOE-approved cybersecurity policy that ensures that our participants’ data and anonymity are preserved and protected.

From Austin to New York and California
Our research network started in Austin’s Mueller community and eventually expanded to other parts of Austin and Texas. Thanks to support from the Sloan Foundation, we’re now expanding into New York and California, which will help us collect energy data from different climate regions with different energy use profiles.

Bridging Government, Academia, Citizens, Utilities, Foundations, and Tech Companies
Solving the climate crisis is an all-hands-on-deck challenge. And we’ve convened some of the most capable, powerful, inventive, and ambitious hands on the planet. Academic researchers? Check. Research universities? Check. Environmental policy experts? Major utilities and tech companies? Check, check, and check.

So stay tuned. It’s going to be a fun look back at our first 10 years and an inspiring preview of where we’re headed.