These are unusual times for all of us. With a worldwide pandemic triggering widespread shelter-in-place policies, schools are closed, people are home, and new daily rhythms are emerging. This situation creates a lot of uncertainty hanging over our heads for the economy and our health. While this undoubtedly is an anxiety-inducing time, society has faced grand challenges before. After the suffering ends, we will emerge on the other side with societal improvements that are hard to predict.

Along the way, there are some interesting changes to our energy system that are noteworthy. While the oil price collapse is capturing headlines, there is another underlying shift to how we consume energy: by working and schooling from home, electricity consumption in commercial buildings, retail stores, restaurants, and schools has plummeted. In Northern Italy, electrical power consumption dropped more than 20%. At the same time, home energy use is up.  As the summer heats up in the USA and we use our home air conditioners more, our utility bills are likely to increase in non-trivial ways. Unfortunately, the air conditioners most of us have at home are less efficient than the larger systems in commercial buildings. Ironically, the clear air from garaged cars and idled factories might make things worse. While I love the crisp vistas and blue skies, the lack of pollution means lower aerosol emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes. Those aerosols have a cooling effect, so without that pollution, the summer might be even *hotter* than before. Look for our air conditioners to work overtime to handle more people at home for more hours while cooling our homes surrounded by a hotter-than-normal outdoors.

This all means that being resourceful at home is more important than ever to maintain comfort and manage our utility bills.

We can combine these different elements into a home-learning opportunity and develop better daily habits with sustainability and conservation in mind.

With millions of students unable to attend school around the world, this pandemic is presenting us with an unprecedented educational challenge and opportunity for transformation.  Online education has become a critical component in keeping students and educators connected through distance learning platforms. Through our collaboration and partnership with CPS Energy, San Antonio Area Foundation, Itron, and the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, we have been building a suite of free online educational resources just to improve energy and environmental literacy among K-12 learners. At Smart Energy Education there are programs aimed at K-5 (Watt Watchers, an interactive set of materials focused on conservation), grades 6-8 (Resourcefulness, which teaches the fundamentals and interconnections of energy and water), and high schoolers (with Energy101, a broad-based energy course that covers energy basics, fuels, sectors, and cross-cutting issues).

We also launched a new PBS documentary series with our partners at Alpheus Media called “Power Trip: The Story of Energy”. The series is available for streaming on PBS, Amazon Prime, Apple, Google Play, and Comcast Video on Demand. The series is comprised of six hourlong episodes focusing on WATER, FOOD, TRANSPORTATION, WEALTH, CITIES, and WAR.  Filmed in 40 locations around the world and including insights from a diverse mix of 60+ experts, the series provides a visual journey and unique experience while explaining energy over place and time. And it’s a perfect way to travel virtually during the quarantine from the comfort and safety of your home.

Without a doubt, our society is forever changed. We’ve already seen the tremendous impact working from home has had on the global environment. As we prepare for our new normal, I encourage you to think more about your daily energy habits and to take advantage of the free educational resources at Smart Energy Education to learn more about conservation and sustainability.

As we navigate a new world of remote working, distance learning, and conservation from home, we hope this collection of materials will help to inspire you and your families toward a more resourceful tomorrow.  Together, we can emerge from the quarantine stronger, and wiser.