The Kukui Cup and Open Power Quality: creating smart consumers for the smart grid

Philip Johnson
Department of Information and Computer Sciences
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI USA
johnson@hawaii.edu

The environmental, political, and economic problems with fossil fuels as an energy source have encouraged work on a next generation “smart” grid: an electrical infrastructure which can incorporate distributed, renewable energy generation sources such as solar and wind power. However, the smart grid cannot achieve its full potential without “smart” consumers: people who are literate about energy issues and who modify their behavior to support more efficient and effective energy generation, storage, and use. In this talk I describe two research initiatives to create “smart” consumers: the Kukui Cup and Open Power Quality.

The Kukui Cup Project (http://kukuicup.org) combines techniques from community-based social marketing, serious games, and educational pedagogy to investigate sustained change in energy-related behaviors. Kukui Cup challenges blend real world and online activities, all tied together through game mechanics.   In the real world, players participate in workshops, excursions, and creative events.  They compete to win prizes, and in the process, learn about their behavior and its impact on energy consumption.  The online game environment allows players to earn points, achieve badges, increase their energy “literacy” through readings and videos, and use social networking mechanisms. I will discuss lessons learned from seven Kukui Cup challenges, and the open source software technologies created from this project.

Open Power Quality (http://openpowerquality.org) develops open source hardware, software, and data for low cost, crowd-sourced power quality monitoring, storage, and analysis.  OPQ fills an important “data gap” in many current grids:  the quality of power as experienced by end users. OPQ accomplishes this through custom-designed, low cost “OPQBoxes” that plug in to household electrical outlets, monitor power quality, and upload power quality “events” via WiFi to our OPQHub service.  By crowd-sourcing the collection and analysis of power quality data, we hope to better understand the impact of distributed renewables on grid stability, distinguish grid-level problems from building-level problems, and increase consumer awareness of smart grid issues. I will discuss the current status of Open Power Quality and results from our recent pilot study with our first generation hardware and software.