Great endeavors need a measure of blue-sky thinking, the courage and know-how to say, “Let’s try something entirely new.” Such thinking leads to new research and technologies to enable big changes in our energy future. The goal is dramatic improvement — technologies that deliver 10 times the capability and reliability, at one-tenth the cost. Reaching for the sky doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, it’s game-changing.

Information technology has opened worlds of new possibilities in commerce, manufacturing, medicine, and other fields — and we’ve just scratched the surface of its potential. Today, researchers are leveraging that progress and applying it to energy. They are creating “disruptive technologies,” innovations in advanced sensors and system integration that will up-end old technologies and replace them with far better ways of reaching our energy goals. CIEE’s work helps drive i4Energy, a dynamic collaboration with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), involving UC’s Berkeley, Davis, Santa Cruz, and Merced campuses. The “i4” in the center’s name represents its focus on information, intelligence, integration, and innovation, key elements in transforming energy generation, transmission, distribution, and use.

Successes are many, with more on the way. Tiny wireless sensors are enabling energy-efficient buildings and homes; optimizing grid capacity, responsiveness, and security; and aiming to link energy demand, user response, and pricing for increased efficiency and consumer choice. In the area of system integration, work is remedying a problem that plagues utilities nationwide: integrating legacy software systems — purchased piecemeal over time — so that they can share information and operate collaboratively to maximize efficiency.

CIEE manages such projects with an eye to continuity, carving a straighter path to progress. With expertise in technical administration and project management, CIEE finds ways to leverage existing research and secure funding to advance next-stage research.