This semester I have funding for two students help with a beyond the grid research project I started this summer. This funding is provided by Sonoma State University through the Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Program and I'm grateful for the support. The goal is to create an affordable and rapid technique for estimating electricity demand by micro-grid businesses in the developing world. There are many instances where installing too much capacity creates costs that limit the number of hours that a microgrid can run. There are also problems when insufficient capacity is installed causing brownouts that erode customer satisfaction and trust. It is straightforward to conduct a through inventory of a household's appliances and then use this inventory to estimate the electricity demand. While quite accurate, this approach has the disadvantage of being costly. We hope to correlate more easily observable characteristics with appliance ownership and electricity consumption.
Through a partnership with Cenderwash University in Indonesia and Advancing Energy, we have access to a dataset from over 1000 households with demographic information and appliance ownership. We also asked participants to tell us what appliances they would purchase once electricity was provided. This gives us some indication of the latent demand that would be revealed by an electricity installation. These households will be electrified in the coming year and we will collect electricity consumption data. We should be able to observe appliance acquisition indirectly in this consumption data and verify some of the survey responses. The survey is mostly completed and now we are in the process of analyzing this data. The first step is to clean the dataset and inspect it for plausibility as much as possible. After that, we will search for variables that correlate well with appliance ownership and planned appliance purchases. Ultimately, we hope to provide a more cost-effective electricity demand estimation tool, allowing electricity providers to purchase and install the correct amount of electricity-generating equipment.