Blog Posts


Workshop Papers

Venue Title
ICLR 2024 Model Failure or Data Corruption? Exploring Inconsistencies in Building Energy Ratings with Self-Supervised Contrastive Learning (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Building Energy Rating (BER) stands as a pivotal metric, enabling building owners, policymakers, and urban planners to understand the energy-saving potential through improving building energy efficiency. As such, enhancing buildings' BER levels is expected to directly contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions and promote climate improvement. Nonetheless, the BER assessment process is vulnerable to missing and inaccurate measurements. In this study, we introduce CLEAR, a data-driven approach designed to scrutinize the inconsistencies in BER assessments through self-supervised contrastive learning. We validated the effectiveness of CLEAR using a dataset representing Irish building stocks. Our experiments uncovered evidence of inconsistent BER assessments, highlighting measurement data corruption within this real-world dataset.

Authors: Qian Xiao (Trinity College Dublin); Dan Liu (Trinity College Dublin); Kevin Credit (Maynooth University)

ICLR 2024 Literature Mining with Large Language Models to Assist the Development of Sustainable Building Materials (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Concrete industry, as one of the significant sources of carbon emissions, drives the urgency for its decarbonization that requires a shift to alternative materials. However, the absence of systematic knowledge summary remains a challenge for further development of sustainable building materials. This work offers a cost-efficient strategy for information extraction tasks in complex terminology settings using small (2.8B) large language models (LLMs) with well-designed instruction-completion schemes and fine-tuning strategies, introducing a dataset cataloging civil engineering applications of alternative materials. The Multiple Choice instruction scheme significantly improves model accuracies in entity inference from non-Noun-Phrase sources, with supervised fine-tuning benefiting from straightforward tokenized representations of choices. We also demonstrate the utility of the dataset by extracting valuable insights into promising applications of alternative materials from knowledge graph representations.

Authors: Yifei Duan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Yixi Tian (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Soumya Ghosh (IBM Research); Richard Goodwin (IBM T.J. Watson Research Center); Vineeth Venugopal (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Jeremy Gregory (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Jie Chen (IBM Research); Elsa Olivetti (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

ICLR 2024 CausalPrompt: Enhancing LLMs with Weakly Supervised Causal Reasoning for Robust Performance in Non-Language Tasks (Papers Track)
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Abstract: In confronting the pressing issue of climate change, we introduce "CausalPrompt", an innovative prompting strategy that adapts large language models (LLMs) for classification and regression tasks through the application of weakly supervised causal reasoning. We delve into the complexities of data shifts within energy systems, often resulting from the dynamic evolution of sensor networks, leading to discrepancies between training and test data distributions or feature inconsistencies. By embedding domain-specific reasoning in the finetuning process, CausalPrompt significantly bolsters the adaptability and resilience of energy systems to these shifts. We show that CausalPrompt significantly enhances predictions in scenarios characterized by feature shifts, including electricity demand, solar power generation, and cybersecurity within energy infrastructures. This approach underlines the crucial role of CausalPrompt in enhancing the reliability and precision of predictions in energy systems amid feature shifts, highlighting its significance and potential for real-world applications in energy management and cybersecurity, contributing effectively to climate change mitigation efforts.

Authors: Tung-Wei Lin (University of California, Berkeley); Vanshaj Khattar (Virginia Tech); Yuxuan Huang (University College London); Junho Hong (University of Michigan); Ruoxi Jia (Virginia Tech); Chen-Ching Liu (Virginia Tech); Alberto L Sangiovanni-Vincentelli (University of California, Berkeley); Ming Jin (Virginia Tech)

ICLR 2024 Estimating the age of buildings from satellite and morphological features to create a pan-EU Digital Building Stock Model (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The acceleration in the effects of global warming and the recent turbulences in the energy market are further highlighting the need to act quicker and smarter in terms of decisions to transition to greener energy and reduce our overall energy consumption. With buildings accounting for about 40% of the energy consumption in Europe, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the building stock and their energy-related characteristics, including their age, in order to make informed decisions for energy savings. This study introduces a novel way to approach the age estimation of buildings at scale, using a machine learning method that integrates satellite-based imagery with morphological features of buildings. The findings demonstrate the benefits of combining these data sources and underscore the importance of incorporating local data to enable accurate prediction across different cities.

Authors: Jeremias Wenzel (Universiteit Twente); Ana M. Martinez (European Commission - Joint Research Centre); Pietro Florio (European Commission - Joint Research Centre); Katarzyna Goch (Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences)

ICLR 2024 Empowering Safe Reinforcement Learning in Power System Control with CommonPower (Tutorials Track)
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Abstract: Reinforcement learning (RL) has become a valuable tool for addressing complex decision-making problems in power system control. However, the unique intricacies of this domain necessitate the development of specialized RL algorithms. While benchmarking problems have proven effective in advancing algorithm development in various domains, existing suites do not enable a systematic study of two key challenges in power system control: ensuring adherence to physical constraints and evaluating the impact of forecast accuracy on controller performance. This tutorial introduces the sophisticated capabilities of the CommonPower toolbox, designed to address these overlooked challenges. We guide participants in composing benchmark problems within CommonPower, leveraging predefined components, and demonstrate the creation of new components. We showcase the training of a safe RL agent to solve a benchmark problem, comparing its performance against a built-in MPC baseline. Notably, CommonPower's symbolic modeling approach enables the automatic derivation of safety shields for vanilla RL algorithms. We explain the theory behind this feature in a concise introduction to the field of safe RL. Furthermore, we present CommonPower's interface for seamlessly integrating diverse forecasting strategies into the system. The workshop emphasizes the significance of safeguarding vanilla RL algorithms and encourages researchers to systematically investigate the influence of forecast uncertainties in their experiments.

Authors: Hannah Markgraf (Technical University of Munich); Michael Eichelbeck (Technical University of Munich); Matthias Althoff (Technical University of Munich)

NeurIPS 2023 Sustainable Data Center Modeling: A Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning Benchmark (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The rapid growth of machine learning (ML) has led to an increased demand for computational power, resulting in larger data centers (DCs) and higher energy consumption. To address this issue and reduce carbon emissions, intelligent control of DC components such as cooling, load shifting, and energy storage is essential. However, the complexity of managing these controls in tandem with external factors like weather and green energy availability presents a significant challenge. While some individual components like HVAC control have seen research in Reinforcement Learning (RL), there's a gap in holistic optimization covering all elements simultaneously. To tackle this, we've developed DCRL, a multi-agent RL environment that empowers the ML community to research, develop, and refine RL controllers for carbon footprint reduction in DCs. DCRL is a flexible, modular, scalable, and configurable platform that can handle large High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters. In its default setup, DCRL also provides a benchmark for evaluating multi-agent RL algorithms, facilitating collaboration and progress in green computing research.

Authors: Soumyendu Sarkar (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Avisek Naug (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Antonio Guillen (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Ricardo Luna Gutierrez (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Vineet Gundecha (Hewlett Packard Enterpise); Sahand Ghorbanpour (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Sajad Mousavi (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Ashwin Ramesh Babu (Hewlett Packard Enterprise Labs)

NeurIPS 2023 A Configurable Pythonic Data Center Model for Sustainable Cooling and ML Integration (Papers Track)
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Abstract: There have been growing discussions on estimating and subsequently reducing the operational carbon footprint of enterprise data centers. The design and intelligent control for data centers have an important impact on data center carbon footprint. In this paper, we showcase PyDCM, a Python library that enables extremely fast prototyping of data center design and applies reinforcement learning-enabled control with the purpose of evaluating key sustainability metrics, including carbon footprint, energy consumption, and observing temperature hotspots. We demonstrate these capabilities of PyDCM and compare them to existing works in EnergyPlus for modeling data centers. PyDCM can also be used as a standalone Gymnasium environment for demonstrating sustainability-focused data center control.

Authors: Avisek Naug (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Antonio Guillen (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Ricardo Luna Gutierrez (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Vineet Gundecha (Hewlett Packard Enterpise); Sahand Ghorbanpour (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Sajad Mousavi (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Ashwin Ramesh Babu (Hewlett Packard Enterprise Labs); Soumyendu Sarkar (Hewlett Packard Enterprise)

NeurIPS 2023 Enhancing Data Center Sustainability with a 3D CNN-Based CFD Surrogate Model (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Thermal Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models analyze airflow and heat distribution in data centers, but their complex computations hinder efficient energy-saving optimizations for sustainability. We introduce a new method to acquire data and model 3D Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) based surrogates for CFDs, which predict a data center's temperature distribution based on server workload, HVAC airflow rate, and temperature set points. The surrogate model's predictions are highly accurate, with a mean absolute error of 0.31°C compared to CFD-based ground truth temperatures. The surrogate model is three orders of magnitude faster than CFDs in generating the temperature maps for similar-sized data centers, enabling real-time applications. It helps to quickly identify and reduce temperature hot spots($7.7%) by redistributing workloads and saving cooling energy($2.5%). It also aids in optimizing server placement during installation, preventing issues, and increasing equipment lifespan. These optimizations boost sustainability by reducing energy use, improving server performance, and lowering environmental impact.

Authors: Soumyendu Sarkar (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Antonio Guillen (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Zachariah Carmichael (University of Notre Dame); Vineet Gundecha (Hewlett Packard Enterpise); Avisek Naug (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Ashwin Ramesh Babu (Hewlett Packard Enterprise Labs); Ricardo Luna Gutierrez (Hewlett Packard Enterprise)

NeurIPS 2023 Real-time Carbon Footprint Minimization in Sustainable Data Centers wth Reinforcement Learning (Papers Track) Best ML Innovation
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Abstract: As machine learning workloads significantly increase energy consumption, sustainable data centers with low carbon emissions are becoming a top priority for governments and corporations worldwide. There is a pressing need to optimize energy usage in these centers, especially considering factors like cooling, balancing flexible load based on renewable energy availability, and battery storage utilization. The challenge arises due to the interdependencies of these strategies with fluctuating external factors such as weather and grid carbon intensity. Although there's currently no real-time solution that addresses all these aspects, our proposed Data Center Carbon Footprint Reduction (DC-CFR) framework, based on multi-agent Reinforcement Learning (MARL), targets carbon footprint reduction, energy optimization, and cost. Our findings reveal that DC-CFR's MARL agents efficiently navigate these complexities, optimizing the key metrics in real-time. DC-CFR reduced carbon emissions, energy consumption, and energy costs by over 13% with EnergyPlus simulation compared to the industry standard ASHRAE controller controlling HVAC for a year in various regions.

Authors: Soumyendu Sarkar (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Avisek Naug (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Ricardo Luna Gutierrez (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Antonio Guillen (Hewlett Packard Enterprise); Vineet Gundecha (Hewlett Packard Enterpise); Ashwin Ramesh Babu (Hewlett Packard Enterprise Labs); Cullen Bash (HPE)

NeurIPS 2023 Deploying Reinforcement Learning based Economizer Optimization at Scale (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Building operations account for a significant portion of global emissions, contributing approximately 28\% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With anticipated increase in cooling demand due to rising global temperatures, the optimization of rooftop units (RTUs) in buildings becomes crucial for reducing emissions. We focus on the optimization of the economizer logic within RTUs, which balances the mix of indoor and outdoor air. By effectively utilizing free outside air, economizers can significantly decrease mechanical energy usage, leading to reduced energy costs and emissions. We introduce a reinforcement learning (RL) approach that adaptively controls the economizer based on the unique characteristics of individual facilities. We have trained and deployed our solution in the real-world across a distributed building stock. We address the scaling challenges with our cloud-based RL deployment on 10K+ RTUs across 200+ sites.

Authors: Ivan Cui (Amazon); Wei Yih Yap (Amazon); Charles Prosper (Independant); Bharathan Balaji (Amazon); Jake Chen (Amazon)

NeurIPS 2023 CityTFT: Temporal Fusion Transformer for Urban Building Energy Modeling (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Urban Building Energy Modeling (UBEM) is an emerging method to investigate urban design and energy systems against the increasing energy demand at urban and neighborhood levels. However, current UBEM methods are mostly physic-based and time-consuming in multiple climate change scenarios. This work proposes CityTFT, a data-driven UBEM framework, to accurately model the energy demands in urban environments. With the empowerment of the underlying TFT framework and an augmented loss function, CityTFT could predict heating and cooling triggers in unseen climate dynamics with an F1 score of 99.98 \% while RMSE of loads of 13571.3750 Wh.

Authors: Ting-Yu Dai (The University of Texas at Austin); Dev Niyogi (The University of Texas at Austin); Zoltan Nagy (The University of Texas at Austin)

NeurIPS 2023 PressureML: Modelling Pressure Waves to Generate Large-Scale Water-Usage Insights in Buildings (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Several studies have indicated that delivering insights and feedback on water usage has been effective in curbing water consumption, making it a pivotal component in achieving long-term sustainability objectives. Despite a significant proportion of water consumption originating from large residential and commercial buildings, there is a scarcity of cost-effective and easy-to-integrate solutions that provide water usage insights in such structures. Furthermore, existing methods for disaggregating water usage necessitate training data and rely on frequent data sampling to capture patterns, both of which pose challenges when scaling up and adapting to new environments. In this work, we aim to solve these challenges through a novel end-to-end approach which records data from pressure sensors and uses time-series classification by DNN models to determine room-wise water consumption in a building. This consumption data is then fed to a novel water disaggregation algorithm which can suggest a set of water-usage events, and has a flexible requirement of training data and sampling granularity. We conduct experiments using our approach and demonstrate its potential as a promising avenue for in-depth exploration, offering valuable insights into water usage on a large scale.

Authors: Tanmaey Gupta (Microsoft Research India); Anupam Sobti (IIT Delhi); Akshay Nambi (Microsoft Research)

NeurIPS 2023 High-resolution Global Building Emissions Estimation using Satellite Imagery (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Globally, buildings account for 30% of end-use energy consumption and 27% of energy sector emissions, and yet the building sector is lacking in low-temporal-latency, high-spatial-resolution data on energy consumption and resulting emissions. Existing methods tend to either have low resolution, high latency (often a year or more), or rely on data typically unavailable at scale (such as self-reported energy consumption). We propose a machine learning based bottom-up model that combines satellite-imagery-derived features to compute Scope 1 global emissions estimates both for residential and commercial buildings at a 1 square km resolution with monthly global updates.

Authors: Paul J Markakis (Duke University); Jordan Malof (University of Montana); Trey Gowdy (Duke University); Leslie Collins (Duke University); Aaron Davitt (WattTime); Gabriela Volpato (WattTime); Kyle Bradbury (Duke University)

ICLR 2023 CityLearn: A Tutorial on Reinforcement Learning Control for Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings and Communities (Tutorials Track)
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Abstract: Buildings are responsible for up to 75% of electricity consumption in the United States. Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings can provide flexibility to solve the issue of power supply-demand mismatch, particularly brought about by renewables. Their high energy efficiency and self-generating capabilities can reduce demand without affecting the building function. Additionally, load shedding and shifting through smart control of storage systems can further flatten the load curve and reduce grid ramping cost in response to rapid decrease in renewable power supply. The model-free nature of reinforcement learning control makes it a promising approach for smart control in grid-interactive efficient buildings, as it can adapt to unique building needs and functions. However, a major challenge for the adoption of reinforcement learning in buildings is the ability to benchmark different control algorithms to accelerate their deployment on live systems. CityLearn is an open source OpenAI Gym environment for the implementation and benchmarking of simple and advanced control algorithms, e.g., rule-based control, model predictive control or deep reinforcement learning control thus, provides solutions to this challenge. This tutorial leverages CityLearn to demonstrate different control strategies in grid-interactive efficient buildings. Participants will learn how to design three controllers of varying complexity for battery management using a real-world residential neighborhood dataset to provide load shifting flexibility. The algorithms will be evaluated using six energy flexibility, environmental and economic key performance indicators, and their benefits and shortcomings will be identified. By the end of the tutorial, participants will acquire enough familiarity with the CityLearn environment for extended use in new datasets or personal projects.

Authors: Kingsley E Nweye (The University of Texas at Austin); Allen Wu (The University of Texas at Austin); Hyun Park (The University of Texas at Austin); Yara Almilaify (The University of Texas at Austin); Zoltan Nagy (The University of Texas at Austin)

ICLR 2023 Smart Meter Data Analytics: Practical Use-Cases and Best Practices of Machine Learning Applications for Energy Data in the Residential Sector (Tutorials Track)
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Abstract: To cope with climate change, the energy system is undergoing a massive transformation. With the electrification of all sectors, the power grid is facing high additional demand. As a result, the digitization of the grid is becoming more of a focus. The smart grid relies heavily on the increasing deployment of smart electricity meters around the world. The corresponding smart meter data is typically a time series of power or energy measurements with a resolution of 1s to 60 min. This data provides valuable insights and opportunities for monitoring and controlling activities in the power grid. In this tutorial, we therefore provide an overview of best practices for analyzing smart meter data. We focus on machine learning applications and low resolution (15-60 minutes) energy data in a residential setting. We only use real-world datasets and cover use-cases that are highly relevant for practical applications. Although this tutorial is specifically tailored to an audience from the energy domain, we believe that anyone from the data analytics and machine learning community can benefit from it, as many techniques are applicable to any time series data. Through our tutorial, we hope to foster new ideas, contribute to an interdisciplinary exchange between different research fields, and educate people about energy use.

Authors: Tobias Brudermueller (ETH Zurich); Markus Kreft (ETH Zurich)

ICLR 2023 Machine Learning for Advanced Building Construction (Papers Track)
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Abstract: High-efficiency retrofits can play a key role in reducing carbon emissions associated with buildings if processes can be scaled-up to reduce cost, time, and disruption. Here we demonstrate an artificial intelligence/computer vision (AI/CV)-enabled framework for converting exterior build scans and dimensional data directly into manufacturing and installation specifications for overclad panels. In our workflow point clouds associated with LiDAR-scanned buildings are segmented into a facade feature space, vectorized features are extracted using an iterative random-sampling consensus algorithm, and from this representation an optimal panel design plan satisfying manufacturing constraints is generated. This system and the corresponding construction process is demonstrated on a test facade structure constructed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). We also include a brief summary of a techno-economic study designed to estimate the potential energy and cost impact of this new system.

Authors: Hilary Egan (NREL); Clement Fouquet (Trimble Inc.); Chioke Harris (NREL)

ICLR 2023 Safe Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Price-Based Demand Response (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Price-based demand response (DR) enables households to provide the flexibility required in power grids with a high share of volatile renewable energy sources. Multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) offers a powerful, decentralized decision-making tool for autonomous agents participating in DR programs. Unfortunately, MARL algorithms do not naturally allow one to incorporate safety guarantees, preventing their real-world deployment. To meet safety constraints, we propose a safety layer that minimally adjusts each agent's decisions. We investigate the influence of using a reward function that reflects these safety adjustments. Results show that considering safety aspects in the reward during training improves both convergence speed and performance of the MARL agents in the investigated numerical experiments.

Authors: Hannah Markgraf (Technical University of Munich); Matthias Althoff (Technical University of Munich)

ICLR 2023 Global-Local Policy Search and Its Application in Grid-Interactive Building Control (Papers Track)
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Abstract: As the buildings sector represents over 70% of the total U.S. electricity consumption, it offers a great amount of untapped demand-side resources to tackle many critical grid-side problems and improve the overall energy system's efficiency. To help make buildings grid-interactive, this paper proposes a global-local policy search method to train a reinforcement learning (RL) based controller which optimizes building operation during both normal hours and demand response (DR) events. Experiments on a simulated five-zone commercial building demonstrate that by adding a local fine-tuning stage to the evolution strategy policy training process, the control costs can be further reduced by 7.55% in unseen testing scenarios. Baseline comparison also indicates that the learned RL controller outperforms a pragmatic linear model predictive controller (MPC), while not requiring intensive online computation.

Authors: Xiangyu Zhang (National Renewable Energy Laboratory); Yue Chen (National Renewable Energy Laboratory); Andrey Bernstein (NREL)

ICLR 2023 Activity-Based Recommendations for the Reduction of CO2 Emissions in Private Households (Papers Track)
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Abstract: This paper proposes an activity prediction framework for a multi-agent recommendation system to tackle the energy-efficiency problem in residential buildings. Our system generates an activity-shifting schedule based on the social practices from the users’ domestic life. We further provide a utility option for the recommender system to focus on saving CO2 emissions or energy costs, or both. The empirical results show that while focusing on the reduction of CO2 emissions, the system provides an average of 12% of emission savings and 7% of electricity cost savings. When concentrating on energy costs, 6% of emission savings and 20% of electricity cost savings are possible for the studied households.

Authors: Alona Zharova (Humboldt University of Berlin); Laura Löschmann (Humboldt University of Berlin)

ICLR 2023 Efficient HVAC Control with Deep Reinforcement Learning and EnergyPlus (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Heating and cooling comprise a significant fraction of the energy consumed by buildings, which in turn account for a significant fraction of society’s energy use. Most building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems use standard control schemes that meet basic operating constraints and comfort requirements but with suboptimal efficiency. Deep reinforcement learning (DRL) has shown immense potential for high-performing control in a variety of simulated settings, but has not been widely deployed for real-world control. Here we provide two contributions toward increasing the viability of real-world, DRL-based HVAC control, leveraging the EnergyPlus building simulator. First, we use the new EnergyPlus Python API to implement a first-of-its-kind, purely Python-based EnergyPlus DRL learning framework capable of generalizing to a wide variety of building configurations and weather scenarios. Second, we demonstrate an approach to constrained learning for this setting, removing the requirement to tune reward functions in order to maximize energy efficiency given temperature constraints. We tested our framework on realistic building models of a data center, an office building, and a secondary school. In each case, trained agents maintained temperature control while achieving energy savings relative to standard approaches.

Authors: Jared Markowitz (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory); Nathan Drenkow (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

NeurIPS 2022 SolarDK: A high-resolution urban solar panel image classification and localization dataset (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The body of research on classification of solar panel arrays from aerial imagery is increasing, yet there are still not many public benchmark datasets. This paper introduces two novel benchmark datasets for classifying and localizing solar panel arrays in Denmark: A human annotated dataset for classification and segmentation, as well as a classification dataset acquired using self-reported data from the Danish national building registry. We explore the performance of prior works on the new benchmark dataset, and present results after fine-tuning models using a similar approach as recent works. Furthermore, we train models of newer architectures and provide benchmark baselines to our datasets in several scenarios. We believe the release of these datasets may improve future research in both local and global geospatial domains for identifying and mapping of solar panel arrays from aerial imagery. The data is accessible at

Authors: Maxim MK Khomiakov (DTU); Julius Radzikowski (DTU); Carl Schmidt (DTU); Mathias Sørensen (DTU); Mads Andersen (DTU); Michael Andersen (Technical University of Denmark); Jes Frellsen (Technical University of Denmark)

NeurIPS 2022 Explainable Multi-Agent Recommendation System for Energy-Efficient Decision Support in Smart Homes (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Transparent, understandable, and persuasive recommendations support the electricity consumers’ behavioral change to tackle the energy efficiency problem. This paper proposes an explainable multi-agent recommendation system for load shifting for household appliances. First, we extend a novel multi-agent approach by designing an Explainability Agent that provides explainable recommendations for optimal appliance scheduling in a textual and visual manner. Second, we enhance the predictive capacity of other agents by including weather data and applying state-of-the-art models (i.e., k-nearest-neighbours, extreme gradient boosting, adaptive boosting, random forest, logistic regression, and explainable boosting machines). Since we want to help the user understand a single recommendation, we focus on local explainability approaches. In particular, we apply post-model approaches LIME (local, interpretable, model-agnostic explanation) and SHAP (Shapley additive explanations) as model-agnostic tools that can explain the predictions of the chosen classifiers. We further provide an overview of the predictive and explainability performance. Our results show a substantial improvement in the performance of the multi-agent system while at the same time opening up the “black box” of recommendations. To show the pathway to positive impact regarding climate change, we provide a discussion on the potential impact of the suggested approach.

Authors: Alona Zharova (Humboldt University of Berlin); Annika Boer (Humboldt University of Berlin); Julia Knoblauch (Humboldt University of Berlin); Kai Ingo Schewina (Humboldt University of Berlin); Jana Vihs (Humboldt University of Berlin)

NeurIPS 2022 Transformer Neural Networks for Building Load Forecasting (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Accurate electrical load forecasts of buildings are needed to optimize local energy storage and to make use of demand-side flexibility. We study the usage of Transformer neural networks for short-term electrical load forecasting of 296 buildings from a public dataset. Transformer neural networks trained on many buildings give the best forecasts on 115 buildings, and multi-layer perceptrons trained on a single building are better on 161 buildings. In addition, we evaluate the models on buildings that were not used for training, and find that Transformer neural networks generalize better than multi-layer perceptrons and our statistical baselines. This shows that the usage of Transformer neural networks for building load forecasting could reduce training resources due to the good generalization to unseen buildings, and they could be useful for cold-start scenarios.

Authors: Matthias Hertel (KIT); Simon Ott (KIT); Oliver Neumann (KIT); Benjamin Schäfer (KIT); Ralf Mikut (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology); Veit Hagenmeyer (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT))

NeurIPS 2022 Urban Heat Island Detection and Causal Inference Using Convolutional Neural Networks (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Compared to rural areas, urban areas experience higher temperatures for longer periods of time because of the urban heat island (UHI) effect. This increased heat stress leads to greater mortality, increased energy demand, regional changes to precipitation patterns, and increased air pollution. Urban developers can minimize the UHI effect by incorporating features that promote air flow and heat dispersion (e.g., increasing green space). However, understanding which urban features to implement is complex, as local meteorology strongly dictates how the environment responds to changes in urban form. In this proposal we describe a methodology for estimating the causal relationship between changes in urban form and changes in the UHI effect. Changes in urban form and temperature changes are measured using convolutional neural networks, and a causal inference matching approach is proposed to estimate causal relationships. The success of this methodology will enable urban developers to implement city-specific interventions to mitigate the warming planet's impact on cities.

Authors: Zachary D Calhoun (Duke University); Ziyang Jiang (Duke University); Mike Bergin (Duke University); David Carlson (Duke University)

NeurIPS 2022 Estimating Heating Loads in Alaska using Remote Sensing and Machine Learning Methods (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Alaska and the larger Arctic region are in much greater need of decarbonization than the rest of the globe as a result of the accelerated consequences of climate change over the past ten years. Heating for homes and businesses accounts for over 75% of the energy used in the Arctic region. However, the lack of thorough and precise heating load estimations in these regions poses a significant obstacle to the transition to renewable energy. In order to accurately measure the massive heating demands in Alaska, this research pioneers a geospatial-first methodology that integrates remote sensing and machine learning techniques. Building characteristics such as height, size, year of construction, thawing degree days, and freezing degree days are extracted using open-source geospatial information in Google Earth Engine (GEE). These variables coupled with heating load forecasts from the AK Warm simulation program are used to train models that forecast heating loads on Alaska’s Railbelt utility grid. Our research greatly advances geospatial capability in this area and considerably informs the decarbonization activities currently in progress in Alaska.

Authors: Madelyn Gaumer (University of Washington); Nick Bolten (Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington); Vidisha Chowdhury (Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University); Philippe Schicker (Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University); Shamsi Soltani (Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Stanford University School of Medicine); Erin D Trochim (University of Alaska Fairbanks)

NeurIPS 2022 Improving accuracy and convergence of federated learning edge computing methods for generalized DER forecasting applications in power grid (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: This proposal aims to develop more accurate federated learning (FL) methods with faster convergence properties and lower communication requirements, specifically for forecasting distributed energy resources (DER) such as renewables, energy storage, and loads in modern, low-carbon power grids. This will be achieved by (i) leveraging recently developed extensions of FL such as hierarchical and iterative clustering to improve performance with non-IID data, (ii) experimenting with different types of FL global models well-suited to time-series data, and (iii) incorporating domain-specific knowledge from power systems to build more general FL frameworks and architectures that can be applied to diverse types of DERs beyond just load forecasting, and with heterogeneous clients.

Authors: Vineet Jagadeesan Nair (MIT)

NeurIPS 2021 Meta-Learned Bayesian Optimization for Calibrating Building Simulation Models with Multi-Source Data (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Well-calibrated building simulation models are key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and optimizing building performance. Current calibration algorithms do not leverage data collected during previous calibration tasks. In this paper, we employ attentive neural processes (ANP) to meta-learn a distribution using multi-source data acquired during previously seen calibration tasks. The ANP informs a meta-learned Bayesian optimizer to accelerate calibration of new, unseen tasks. The few-shot nature of our proposed algorithm is demonstrated on a library of residential buildings validated by the United States Department of Energy (USDoE).

Authors: Sicheng Zhan (NUS); Gordon Wichern (Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL)); Christopher Laughman (Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories); Ankush Chakrabarty (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs)

NeurIPS 2021 HyperionSolarNet: Solar Panel Detection from Aerial Images (Papers Track)
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Abstract: With the effects of global climate change impacting the world, collective efforts are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The energy sector is the single largest contributor to climate change and many efforts are focused on reducing dependence on carbon-emitting power plants and moving to renewable energy sources, such as solar power. A comprehensive database of the location of solar panels is important to assist analysts and policymakers in defining strategies for further expansion of solar energy. In this paper we focus on creating a world map of solar panels. We identify locations and total surface area of solar panels within a given geographic area. We use deep learning methods for automated detection of solar panel locations and their surface area using aerial imagery. The framework, which consists of a two-branch model using an image classifier in tandem with a semantic segmentation model, is trained on our created dataset of satellite images. Our work provides an efficient and scalable method for detecting solar panels, achieving an accuracy of 0.96 for classification and an IoU score of 0.82 for segmentation performance.

Authors: Poonam Parhar (UCBerkeley); Ryan Sawasaki (UCBerkeley); Alberto Todeschini (UC Berkeley); Colorado Reed (UC Berkeley); Hossein Vahabi (University California Berkeley); Nathan Nusaputra (UC Berkeley); Felipe Vergara (UC Berkeley)

NeurIPS 2021 PreDisM: Pre-Disaster Modelling With CNN Ensembles for At-Risk Communities (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The machine learning community has recently had increased interest in the climate and disaster damage domain due to a marked increased occurrences of natural hazards (e.g., hurricanes, forest fires, floods, earthquakes). However, not enough attention has been devoted to mitigating probable destruction from impending natural hazards. We explore this crucial space by predicting building-level damages on a before-the-fact basis that would allow state actors and non-governmental organizations to be best equipped with resource distribution to minimize or preempt losses. We introduce PreDisM that employs an ensemble of ResNets and fully connected layers over decision trees to capture image-level and meta-level information to accurately estimate weakness of man-made structures to disaster-occurrences. Our model performs well and is responsive to tuning across types of disasters and highlights the space of preemptive hazard damage modelling.

Authors: Vishal Anand (Columbia University); Yuki Miura (Columbia University)

NeurIPS 2021 A day in a sustainable life (Tutorials Track)
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Abstract: In this notebook, we show the reader how to use an electrical battery to minimize the operational carbon intensity of a building. The central idea is to charge the battery when the carbon intensity of the grid energy mix is low, and vice versa. The same methodology is used in practice to optimise for a number of different objective functions, including energy costs. Taking the hypothetical case of Pi, an eco-conscious and tech-savvy householder in the UK, we walk the reader through getting carbon intensity data, and how to use this with a number of different optimisation algorithms to decarbonise. Starting off with easy-to-understand, brute force search, we establish a baseline for subsequent (hopefully smarter) optimization algorithms. This should come naturally, since in their day job Pi is a data scientist where they often use grid and random search to tune hyperparameters of ML models. The second optimization algorithm we explore is a genetic algorithm, which belongs to the class of derivative free optimizers and is consequently extremely versatile. However, the flexibility of these algorithms comes at the cost of computational speed and effort. In many situations, it makes sense to utilize an optimization method which can make use of the special structure in the problem. As the final step, we see how Pi can optimally solve the problem of minimizing their carbon intensity by formulating it as a linear program. Along the way, we also keep an eye out for some of the most important challenges that arise in practice.

Authors: Hussain Kazmi (KU Leuven); Attila Balint (KU Leuven); Jolien Despeghel (KU Leuven)

ICML 2021 Urban Tree Species Classification Using Aerial Imagery (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Urban trees help regulate temperature, reduce energy consumption, improve urban air quality, reduce wind speeds, and mitigating the urban heat island effect. Urban trees also play a key role in climate change mitigation and global warming by capturing and storing atmospheric carbon-dioxide which is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases. Automated tree detection and species classification using aerial imagery can be a powerful tool for sustainable forest and urban tree management. Hence, This study first offers a pipeline for generating labelled dataset of urban trees using Google Map's aerial images and then investigates how state of the art deep Convolutional Neural Network models such as VGG and ResNet handle the classification problem of urban tree aerial images under different parameters. Experimental results show our best model achieves an average accuracy of 60% over 6 tree species.

Authors: Emily Waters (Anglia Ruskin University); Mahdi Maktabdar Oghaz (Anglia Ruskin University); Lakshmi Babu Saheer (Anglia Ruskin University)

ICML 2021 ANP-BBO: Attentive Neural Processes and Batch Bayesian Optimization for Scalable Calibration of Physics-Informed Digital Twins (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Physics-informed dynamical system models form critical components of digital twins of the built environment. These digital twins enable the design of energy-efficient infrastructure, but must be properly calibrated to accurately reflect system behavior for downstream prediction and analysis. Dynamical system models of modern buildings are typically described by a large number of parameters and incur significant computational expenditure during simulations. To handle large-scale calibration of digital twins without exorbitant simulations, we propose ANP-BBO: a scalable and parallelizable batch-wise Bayesian optimization (BBO) methodology that leverages attentive neural processes (ANPs).

Authors: Ankush Chakrabarty (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs); Gordon Wichern (Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL)); Christopher Laughman (Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL))

ICML 2021 Probabilistic Short-Term Low-Voltage Load Forecasting using Bernstein-Polynomial Normalizing Flows (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The transition to a fully renewable energy grid requires better forecasting of demand at the low-voltage level. However, high fluctuations and increasing electrification cause huge forecast errors with traditional point estimates. Probabilistic load forecasts take future uncertainties into account and thus enables various applications in low-carbon energy systems. We propose an approach for flexible conditional density forecasting of short-term load based on Bernstein-Polynomial Normalizing Flows where a neural network controls the parameters of the flow. In an empirical study with 363 smart meter customers, our density predictions compare favorably against Gaussian and Gaussian mixture densities and also outperform a non-parametric approach based on the pinball loss for 24h-ahead load forecasting for two different neural network architectures.

Authors: Marcel Arpogaus (Konstanz University of Applied Sciences); Marcus Voß (Technische Universität Berlin (DAI-Labor)); Beate Sick (ZHAW and University of Zurich); Mark Nigge-Uricher (Bosch.IO GmbH); Oliver Dürr (Konstanz University of Applied Sciences)

ICML 2021 A Reinforcement Learning Approach to Home Energy Management for Modulating Heat Pumps and Photovoltaic Systems (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Efficient sector coupling in residential buildings plays a key role in supporting the energy transition. In this study, we analyze the potential of using reinforcement learning (RL) to control a home energy management system. We conduct this study by modeling a representative building with a modulating air-sourced heat pump, a photovoltaic system, a battery, and thermal storage systems for floor heating and hot-water supply. In our numerical analysis, we benchmark our reinforcement learning results using DDPG with the optimal solution generated with model predictive control using a mixed-integer linear model under full information. Our input data, models, and the RL environment, developed using the Julia programming language, will be available in an open-source manner.

Authors: Lissy Langer (TU Berlin)

ICML 2021 Attention For Damage Assessment (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Due to climate change the hurricanes are getting stronger and having longer impacts. To reduce the detrimental effects of these hurricanes faster and accurate assessments of damages are essential to the rescue teams. Like other computer vision techniques semantic segmentation can identify the damages and help in proper and prompt damage assessment. Current segmentation methods can be classified into attention and non-attention based methods. Existing non-attention based methods suffers from low accuracy and therefore attention based methods are becoming popular. Self-attention based methods can map the mutual relationship and dependencies among pixels of an image and thus improve semantic segmentation accuracy. In this paper, we present a self-attention semantic segmentation method on UAV imageries to assess the damages inflicted by a natural disaster. The proposed method outperforms four state-of-art segmentation methods both quantitatively and qualitatively with a mean IoU score of 84.03 %.

Authors: Tashnim Chowdhury (University of Maryland Baltimore County); Maryam Rahnemoonfar (University of Maryland Baltimore County)

ICML 2021 Reducing Carbon in the Design of Large Infrastructure Scheme with Evolutionary Algorithms (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The construction and operations of large infrastructure schemes such as railways, roads, pipelines and power lines account for a significant proportion of global carbon emissions. Opportunities to reduce the embodied and operational carbon emissions of new infrastructure schemes are greatest during the design phase. However, schedule and cost constraints limit designers from assessing a large number of design options in detail to identify the solution with the lowest lifetime carbon emissions using conventional methods. Here, we develop an evolutionary algorithm to rapidly evaluate in detail the lifetime carbon emissions of thousands of possible design options for new water transmission pipeline schemes. Our results show that this approach can help designers in some cases to identify design solutions with more than 10% lower operational carbon emissions compared with conventional methods, saving more than 1 million tonnes in lifetime carbon emissions for a new water transmission pipeline scheme. We also find that this evolutionary algorithm can be applied to design other types of infrastructure schemes such as non-water pipelines, railways, roads and power lines.

Authors: Matt Blythe (Continuum Industries)

ICML 2021 Designing Bounded min-knapsack Bandits algorithm for Sustainable Demand Response (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Around 40% of global energy produced is consumed by buildings. By using renewable energy resources we can alleviate the dependence on electrical grids. Recent trends focus on incentivizing consumers to reduce their demand consumption during peak hours for sustainable demand response. To minimize the loss, the distributor companies should target the right set of consumers and demand the right amount of electricity reductions. This paper proposes a novel bounded integer min-knapsack algorithm and shows that the algorithm, while allowing for multiple unit reduction, also optimizes the loss to the distributor company within a factor of two (multiplicative) and a problem-dependent additive constant. Existing CMAB algorithms fail to work in this setting due to non-monotonicity of reward function and time-varying optimal sets. We propose a novel algorithm Twin-MinKPDR-CB to learn these compliance probabilities efficiently. Twin-MinKPDR-CB works for non-monotone reward functions bounded min-knapsack constraints and time-varying optimal sets. We find that Twin-MinKPDR-CB achieves sub-linear regret of O(log T) with T being the number of rounds demand response is run.

Authors: Akansha Singh (Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar); Meghana Reddy (Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar); Zoltan Nagy (University of Texas); Sujit P. Gujar (Machine Learning Laboratory, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad); Shweta Jain (Indian Institute of Technology Ropar)

ICML 2021 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by optimizing room temperature set-points (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: We design a learning and optimization framework to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions associated with heating and cooling buildings. The framework optimizes room temperature set-points based on forecasts of weather, occupancy, and the greenhouse gas intensity of electricity. We compare two approaches: the first one combines a linear load forecasting model with convex optimization that offers a globally optimal solution, whereas the second one combines a nonlinear load forecasting model with nonconvex optimization that offers a locally optimal solution. The project explores the two approaches with a simulation testbed in EnergyPlus and experiments in university-campus buildings.

Authors: Yuan Cai (MIT); Subhro Das (MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, IBM Research); Leslie Norford (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Jeremy Gregory (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Julia Wang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Kevin J Kircher (MIT); Jasmina Burek (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

NeurIPS 2020 Towards Optimal District Heating Temperature Control in China with Deep Reinforcement Learning (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Achieving efficiency gains in Chinese district heating networks, thereby reducing their carbon footprint, requires new optimal control methods going beyond current industry tools. Focusing on the secondary network, we propose a data-driven deep reinforcement learning (DRL) approach to address this task. We build a recurrent neural network, trained on simulated data, to predict the indoor temperatures. This model is then used to train two DRL agents, with or without expert guidance, for the optimal control of the supply water temperature. Our tests in a multi-apartment setting show that both agents can ensure a higher thermal comfort and at the same time a smaller energy cost, compared to an optimized baseline strategy.

Authors: Adrien Le Coz (EDF); Tahar Nabil (EDF); Francois Courtot (EDF)

NeurIPS 2020 Formatting the Landscape: Spatial conditional GAN for varying population in satellite imagery (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Climate change is expected to reshuffle the settlement landscape: forcing people in affected areas to migrate, to change their lifeways, and continuing to affect demographic change throughout the world. Changes to the geographic distribution of population will have dramatic impacts on land use and land cover and thus constitute one of the major challenges of planning for climate change scenarios. In this paper, we explore a generative model framework for generating satellite imagery conditional on gridded population distributions. We make additions to the existing ALAE [30] architecture, creating a spatially conditional version: SCALAE. This method allows us to explicitly disentangle population from the model’s latent space and thus input custom population forecasts into the generated imagery. We postulate that such imagery could then be directly used for land cover and land use change estimation using existing frameworks, as well as for realistic visualisation of expected local change. We evaluate the model by comparing pixel and semantic reconstructions, as well as calculate the standard FID metric. The results suggest the model captures population distributions accurately and delivers a controllable method to generate realistic satellite imagery.

Authors: Tomas Langer (Intuition Machines); Natalia Fedorova (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology); Ron Hagensieker (

NeurIPS 2020 Context-Aware Urban Energy Efficiency Optimization Using Hybrid Physical Models (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Buildings produce more U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through electricity generation than any other economic sector. To improve the energy efficiency of buildings, engineers often rely on physics-based building simulations to predict the impacts of retrofits in individual buildings. In dense urban areas, these models suffer from inaccuracy due to imprecise parameterization or external, unmodeled urban context factors such as inter-building effects and urban microclimates. In a case study of approximately 30 buildings in Sacramento, California, we demonstrate how our hybrid physics-driven deep learning framework can use these external factors advantageously to identify a more optimal energy efficiency retrofit installation strategy and achieve significant savings in both energy and cost.

Authors: Benjamin Choi (Stanford University); Alex Nutkiewicz (Stanford University); Rishee Jain (Stanford University)

NeurIPS 2020 Predicting the Solar Potential of Rooftops using Image Segmentation and Structured Data (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Estimating the amount of electricity that can be produced by rooftop photovoltaic systems is a time-consuming process that requires on-site measurements, a difficult task to achieve on a large scale. In this paper, we present an approach to estimate the solar potential of rooftops based on their location and architectural characteristics, as well as the amount of solar radiation they receive annually. Our technique uses computer vision to achieve semantic segmentation of roof sections and roof objects on the one hand, and a machine learning model based on structured building features to predict roof pitch on the other hand. We then compute the azimuth and maximum number of solar panels that can be installed on a rooftop with geometric approaches. Finally, we compute precise shading masks and combine them with solar irradiation data that enables us to estimate the yearly solar potential of a rooftop.

Authors: Daniel de Barros Soares (nam.R); François ANDRIEUX (nam.R); Bastien HELL (nam.R); Julien LENHARDT (nam.R; ENSTA); JORDI BADOSA (Ecole Polytechnique); Sylvain GAVOILLE (nam.R); Stéphane GAIFFAS (nam.R; LPSM (Université de Paris)); Emmanuel BACRY (nam.R; CEREMADE (Université Paris Dauphine, PSL))

NeurIPS 2020 Using attention to model long-term dependencies in occupancy behavior (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Over the past years, more and more models have been published that aim to capture relationships in human residential behavior. Most of these models are different Markov variants or regression models that have a strong assumption bias and are therefore unable to capture complex long-term dependencies and the diversity in occupant behavior. This work shows that attention based models are able to capture complex long-term dependencies in occupancy behavior and at the same time adequately depict the diversity in behavior across the entire population and different socio-demographic groups. By combining an autoregressive generative model with an imputation model, the advantages of two data sets are combined and new data are generated which are beneficial for multiple use cases (e.g. generation of consistent household energy demand profiles). The two step approach generates synthetic activity schedules that have similar statistical properties as the empirical collected schedules and do not contain direct information about single individuals. Therefore, the presented approach forms the basis to make data on occupant behavior freely available, so that further investigations based on the synthetic data can be carried out without a large data application effort. In future work it is planned to take interpersonal dependencies into account in order to be able to generate entire household behavior profiles.

Authors: Max Kleinebrahm (Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie); Jacopo Torriti (University Reading); Russell McKenna (University of Aberdeen); Armin Ardone (Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie); Wolf Fichtner (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

NeurIPS 2020 Physics-constrained Deep Recurrent Neural Models of Building Thermal Dynamics (Papers Track)
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Abstract: We develop physics-constrained and control-oriented predictive deep learning models for the thermal dynamics of a real-world commercial office building. The proposed method is based on the systematic encoding of physics-based prior knowledge into a structured recurrent neural architecture. Specifically, our model mimics the structure of the building thermal dynamics model and leverages penalty methods to model inequality constraints. Additionally, we use constrained matrix parameterization based on the Perron-Frobenius theorem to bound the eigenvalues of the learned network weights. We interpret the stable eigenvalues as dissipativeness of the learned building thermal model. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach on a dataset obtained from an office building with 20 thermal zones.

Authors: Jan Drgona (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory); Aaron R Tuor (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory); Vikas Chandan (PNNL); Draguna Vrabie (PNNL)

NeurIPS 2020 An Enriched Automated PV Registry: Combining Image Recognition and 3D Building Data (Papers Track)
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Abstract: While photovoltaic (PV) systems are installed at an unprecedented rate, reliable information on an installation level remains scarce. As a result, automatically created PV registries are a timely contribution to optimize grid planning and operations. This paper demonstrates how aerial imagery and three-dimensional building data can be combined to create an address-level PV registry, specifying area, tilt, and orientation angles. We demonstrate the benefits of this approach for PV capacity estimation. In addition, this work presents, for the first time, a comparison between automated and officially-created PV registries. Our results indicate that our enriched automated registry proves to be useful to validate, update, and complement official registries.

Authors: Benjamin Rausch (Stanford); Kevin Mayer (Stanford); Marie-Louise Arlt (Stanford); Gunther Gust (University of Freiburg); Philipp Staudt (KIT); Christof Weinhardt (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology); Dirk Neumann (Universität Freiburg); Ram Rajagopal (Stanford University)

NeurIPS 2020 OfficeLearn: An OpenAI Gym Environment for Building Level Energy Demand Response (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Energy Demand Response (DR) will play a crucial role in balancing renewable energy generation with demand as grids decarbonize. There is growing interest in developing Reinforcement Learning (RL) techniques to optimize DR pricing, as pricing set by electric utilities often cannot take behavioral irrationality into account. However, so far, attempts to standardize RL efforts in this area do not exist. In this paper, we present a first of the kind OpenAI gym environment for testing DR with occupant level building dynamics. We demonstrate the variety of parameters built into our office environment allowing the researcher to customize a building to meet their specifications of interest. We hope that this work enables future work in DR in buildings.

Authors: Lucas Spangher (U.C. Berkeley); Akash Gokul (University of California at Berkeley); Utkarsha Agwan (U.C. Berkeley); Joseph Palakapilly (UC Berkeley); Manan Khattar (University of California at Berkeley); Akaash Tawade (University of California at Berkeley); Costas J. Spanos (University of California at Berkeley)

NeurIPS 2020 Data-driven modeling of cooling demand in a commercial building (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for 30% of the total energy consumption in buildings. Design and implementation of energy-efficient schemes can play a pivotal role in minimizing energy usage. As an important first step towards improved HVAC system controls, this study proposes a new framework for modeling the thermal response of buildings by leveraging data measurements and formulating a data-driven system identification model. The proposed method combines principal component analysis (PCA) to identify the most significant predictors that influence the cooling demand of a building with an auto-regressive integrated moving average with exogenous variables (ARIMAX) model. The performance of the developed model was evaluated both analytically and visually. It was found that our PCA-based ARIMAX (2-0-5) model was able to accurately forecast the cooling demand for the prediction horizon of 7 days. In this work, the actual measurements from a university campus building are used for model development and validation.

Authors: Aqsa Naeem (Stanford University); Sally Benson (Stanford University); Jacques de Chalendar (Stanford University)

NeurIPS 2020 Do Occupants in a Building exhibit patterns in Energy Consumption? Analyzing Clusters in Energy Social Games (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Energy use in buildings account for approximately half of global electricity consumption and a significant amount of CO2 emissions. To encourage energy efficient behavior among occupants in a building, energy social games have emerged to be a successful strategy leveraging human-in-the-loop strategy and engaging users in a competitive game with incentives for energy efficient behavior. Prior works involve an incentive design mechanism which is dependent on knowledge of utility functions (energy use behavior) for the users, which is hard to compute when the number of users is high, common in buildings. We propose that the utilities can be grouped to a relatively small number of clusters, which can then be targeted with tailored incentives. Proposed work performs the above segmentation by learning the features leading to human decision making towards energy usage in competitive environment. We propose a graphical lasso based approach with explainable nature for such segmentation, by studying the feature correlations in a real-world energy social game dataset.

Authors: Hari Prasanna Das (UC Berkeley); Ioannis C. Konstantakopoulos (UC Berkeley); Aummul Baneen Manasawala (UC Berkeley); Tanya Veeravalli (UC Berkeley); Huihan Liu (UC Berkeley); Costas J. Spanos (University of California at Berkeley)

NeurIPS 2020 Interpretability in Convolutional Neural Networks for Building Damage Classification in Satellite Imagery (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Natural disasters ravage the world's cities, valleys, and shores on a monthly basis. Having precise and efficient mechanisms for assessing infrastructure damage is essential to channel resources and minimize the loss of life. Using a dataset that includes labeled pre- and post- disaster satellite imagery, we train multiple convolutional neural networks to assess building damage on a per-building basis. In order to investigate how to best classify building damage, we present a highly interpretable deep-learning methodology that seeks to explicitly convey the most useful information required to train an accurate classification model. We also delve into which loss functions best optimize these models. Our findings include that ordinal-cross entropy loss is the most optimal loss function to use and that including the type of disaster that caused the damage in combination with a pre- and post-disaster image best predicts the level of damage caused. Our research seeks to computationally contribute to aiding in this ongoing and growing humanitarian crisis, heightened by climate change.

Authors: Thomas Y Chen (The Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering)

NeurIPS 2020 Privacy Preserving Demand Forecasting to Encourage Consumer Acceptance of Smart Energy Meters (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: In this proposal paper we highlight the need for privacy preserving energy demand forecasting to allay a major concern consumers have about smart meter installations. High resolution smart meter data can expose many private aspects of a consumer’s household such as occupancy, habits and individual appliance usage. Yet smart metering infrastructure has the potential to vastly reduce carbon emissions from the energy sector through improved operating efficiencies. We propose the application of a distributed machine learning setting known as federated learning for energy demand forecasting at various scales to make load prediction possible whilst retaining the privacy of consumers’ raw energy consumption data.

Authors: Christopher Briggs (Keele University); Zhong Fan (Keele University); Peter Andras (Keele University, School of Computing and Mathematics, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK)

ICLR 2020 BISCUIT: Building Intelligent System Customer Investment Tools (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Energy use in buildings account for approximately half of global electricity consumption and a significant amount of CO2 emissions. Often, the higher energy usage in buildings are accounted to old and poorly maintained infrastructure and equipments. On the other hand, Smart buildings are capable of achieving energy efficiency by using intelligent services such as indoor positioning, personalized lighting, demand-based heating ventilation and air-conditioning, automatic fault detection and recovery etc. However, most buildings nowadays lack the basic components and infrastructure to support such services. The investment decision of intelligent system design and retrofit can be a daunting task, because it involves both hardware (sensors, actuators, servers) and software (operating systems, service algorithms), which have issues of compatibility, functionality constraints, and opportunities of co-design of synergy. Our work proposes a user-oriented investment decision toolset using optimization and machine learning techniques aimed at handling the complexity of exploration in the large design space and to enhance cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, and human-centric values. The toolset is demonstrated in a case study to retrofit a medium-sized building, where it is shown to propose a design that significantly lowers the overall investment cost while achieving user specifications.

Authors: Ming Jin (U.C. Berkeley); Ruoxi Jia (UC Berkeley); Hari Prasanna Das (UC Berkeley); Wei Feng (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory); Costas J. Spanos (University of California at Berkeley)

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Abstract: The expansion of human settlements in Peru has caused risk exposure to landslides. However, this risk could increase because the intensity of the El niño phenomenon will be greater in the coming years, increasing rainfall on the Peruvian coast. In this paper, we present a novel methodology for detecting housing areas and agricultural lands in low-resolution satellite imagery in order to analyze potential risk in case of unexpected landslides. It was developed by creating two datasets from Lima Metropolitana in Peru, one of which is for detecting dry riverbeds and agriculture lands, and the other for classifying housing areas. We applied data augmentation based on geometrical methods and trained architectures based on U-net methods separately and then, overlap the results for risk assessment. We found that there are areas with significant potential risk that have been classified by the Peruvian government as medium or low risk areas. On this basis, it is recommended obtain a dataset with better resolution that can identify how many housing areas will be affected and take the appropriate prevention measures. Further research in post-processing is needed for suppress noise in our results.

Authors: Brian Cerrón (National University of Engineering); Cristopher Bazan (National University of Engineering); Alberto Coronado (National University of Engineering)

ICLR 2020 MobilityNet: Towards a Public Dataset for Multi-modal Mobility Research (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Influencing transportation demand can significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Individual user mobility models are key to influencing demand at the personal and structural levels. Constructing such models is a challenging task that depends on a number of interdependent steps. Progress on this task is hamstrung by the lack of high quality public datasets. We introduce MobilityNet: the first step towards a common ground for multi-modal mobility research. MobilityNet solves the holistic evaluation, privacy preservation and fine grained ground truth problems through the use of artificial trips, control phones, and repeated travel. It currently includes 1080 hours of data from both Android and iOS, representing 16 different travel contexts and 4 different sensing configurations.

Authors: K. Shankari (UC Berkeley); Jonathan Fürst (NEC Laboratories Europe); Mauricio Fadel Argerich (NEC Laboratories Europe); Eleftherios Avramidis (DFKI GmbH); Jesse Zhang (UC Berkeley)

ICLR 2020 Towards a unified standards for smart infrastructure datasets (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Development of smart devices and smart home appliances allowed us to harness more data about energy patterns inside households, overtime this amount will increase. There are contributions published to address building datasets, working for objective of energy consumption optimization. Yet there are still factors if included could help in understanding problem better. This proposal tries to annotate missing features that if applied could help in a better understanding energy consumption in smart buildings impact on environment. Second, to have a unified standards that help different solutions to be compared properly.

Authors: Abdulrahman A Ahmed (Cairo University)

NeurIPS 2019 Quantifying Urban Canopy Cover with Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Urban canopy cover is important to mitigate the impact of climate change. Yet, existing quantification of urban greenery is either manual and not scalable, or use traditional computer vision methods that are inaccurate. We train deep convolutional neural networks (DCNNs) on datasets used for self-driving cars to estimate urban greenery instead, and find that our semantic segmentation and direct end-to-end estimation method are more accurate and scalable, reducing mean absolute error of estimating the Green View Index (GVI) metric from 10.1% to 4.67%. With the revised DCNN methods, the Treepedia project was able to scale and analyze canopy cover in 22 cities internationally, sparking interest and action in public policy and research fields.

Authors: Bill Cai (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Xiaojiang Li (Temple University); Carlo Ratti (Massachusetts Institute of Technology )

NeurIPS 2019 Targeting Buildings for Energy Retrofit Using Recurrent Neural Networks with Multivariate Time Series (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The existing building stock accounts for over 30% of global carbon emissions and energy demand. Effective building retrofits are therefore vital in reducing global emissions. Current methods for building energy assessment typically rely on walk-throughs, surveys or the collection of in-situ measurements, none of which are scalable or cost effective. Supervised machine learning methods have the potential to overcome these issues, but their application to retrofit analysis has been limited. This paper serves as a novel showcase for how multivariate time series analysis with Gated Recurrent Units can be applied to targeted retrofit analysis via two case studies: (1) classification of building heating system type and (2) prediction of building envelope thermal properties.

Authors: Gaby Baasch (University of Victoria)

NeurIPS 2019 Design, Benchmarking and Graphical Lasso based Explainability Analysis of an Energy Game-Theoretic Framework (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Energy use in buildings account for approximately half of global electricity consumption and a significant amount of CO2 emissions. The occupants of a building typically lack the independent motivation necessary to optimize their energy usage. In this paper, we propose a novel energy game-theoretic framework for smart building which incorporates human-in-the-loop modeling by creating an interface to allow interaction with occupants and potentially incentivize energy efficient behavior. We present open-sourced dataset and benchmarked results for forecasting of energy resource usage patterns by leveraging classical machine learning and deep learning methods including deep bi-directional recurrent neural networks. Finally, we use graphical lasso to demonstrate the explainable nature on human decision making towards energy usage inherent in the dataset.

Authors: Hari Prasanna Das (UC Berkeley ); Ioannis C. Konstantakopoulos (UC Berkeley); Aummul Baneen Manasawala (UC Berkeley); Tanya Veeravalli (UC Berkeley); Huihan Liu (UC Berkeley ); Costas J. Spanos (University of California at Berkeley)

NeurIPS 2019 Automatic data cleaning via tensor factorization for large urban environmental sensor networks (Papers Track)
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Abstract: The US Environmental Protection Agency identifies that urban heat islands can negatively impact a community’s environment and quality of life. Using low cost urban sensing networks, it is possible to measure the impacts of mitigation strategies at a fine-grained scale, informing context-aware policies and infrastructure design. However, fine-grained city-scale data analysis is complicated by tedious data cleaning including removing outliers and imputing missing data. To address the challenge of data cleaning, this article introduces a robust low-rank tensor factorization method to automatically correct anomalies and impute missing entries for high-dimensional urban environmental datasets. We validate the method on a synthetically degraded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature dataset, with a recovery error of 4%, and apply it to the Array of Things city-scale sensor network in Chicago, IL.

Authors: Yue Hu (Vanderbilt University); Yanbing Wang (Vanderbilt University); Canwen Jiao (Vanderbilt University); Rajesh Sankaran (Argonne National Lab); Charles Catlett (Argonne National Lab); Daniel Work (Vanderbilt University)

NeurIPS 2019 Stripping off the implementation complexity of physics-based model predictive control for buildings via deep learning (Papers Track)
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Abstract: Over the past decade, model predictive control (MPC) has been considered as the most promising solution for intelligent building operation. Despite extensive effort, transfer of this technology into practice is hampered by the need to obtain an accurate controller model with minimum effort, the need of expert knowledge to set it up, and the need of increased computational power and dedicated software to run it. A promising direction that tackles the last two problems was proposed by approximate explicit MPC where the optimal control policies are learned from MPC data via a suitable function approximator, e.g., a deep learning (DL) model. The main advantage of the proposed approach stems from simple evaluation at execution time leading to low computational footprints and easy deployment on embedded HW platforms. We present the energy savings potential of physics-based (also called 'white-box') MPC applied to an office building in Belgium. Moreover, we demonstrate how deep learning approximators can be used to cut the implementation and maintenance costs of MPC deployment without compromising performance. We also critically assess the presented approach by pointing out the major challenges and remaining open-research questions.

Authors: Jan Drgona (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory); Lieve Helsen (KU Leuven); Draguna Vrabie (PNNL)

NeurIPS 2019 Towards self-adaptive building energy control in smart grids (Proposals Track)
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Abstract: Energy consumption in buildings greatly contributes to worldwide CO2 emissions and thus any improvement in HVAC operation will greatly help tackling global climate change. We are putting forward a proposal for self-adaptive energy control in smart grids based on Deep Learning, Deep Reinforcement Learning and Multi-Agent technologies. Particularly, we introduce the concept of Deep Neural Simulation Model (DNSM) as a way of generating digital twins of buildings in which the agent can test and learn optimal operations by itself and by collaborating with other agents. Not only do we expect a reduction on energy consumption and an increment on the use of renewable sources, but also a reduction on the cost of controlling energy in buildings.

Authors: Juan Gómez-Romero (Universidad de Granada); Miguel Molina-Solana (Imperial College London)

ICML 2019 Machine Learning empowered Occupancy Sensing for Smart Buildings (Research Track)
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Abstract: Over half of the global electricity consumption is attributed to buildings, which are often operated poorly from an energy perspective. Significant improvements in energy efficiency can be achieved via intelligent building control techniques. To realize such advanced control schemes, accurate and robust occupancy information is highly valuable. In this work, we present a cutting-edge WiFi sensing platform and state-of-the-art machine learning methods to address longstanding occupancy sensing challenges in smart buildings. Our systematic solution provides comprehensive fine-grained occupancy information in a non-intrusive and privacy-preserving manner, which facilitates eco-friendly and sustainable buildings.

Authors: Han Zou (UC Berkeley); Hari Prasanna Das (UC Berkeley ); Jianfei Yang (Nanyang Technological University); Yuxun Zhou (UC Berkeley); Costas Spanos (UC Berkeley)

ICML 2019 Mapping land use and land cover changes faster and at scale with deep learning on the cloud (Research Track)
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Abstract: Policymakers rely on Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) maps for evaluation and planning. They use these maps to plan climate-smart agriculture policy, improve housing resilience (to earthquakes or other natural disasters), and understand how to grow commerce in small communities. A number of institutions have created global land use maps from historic satellite imagery. However, these maps can be outdated and are often inaccurate, particularly in their representation of developing countries. We worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a LULC deep learning workflow on the cloud that can ingest Sentinel-2 optical imagery for a large scale LULC change detection. It’s an end-to-end workflow that sits on top of two comprehensive tools, SentinelHub, and eo-learn, which seamlessly link earth observation data with machine learning libraries. It can take in the labeled LULC and associated AOI in shapefiles, set up a task to fetch cloud-free, time series imagery stacks within the defined time interval by the users. It will pair the satellite imagery tile with it’s labeled LULC mask for the supervised deep learning model training on the cloud. Once a well-performing model is trained, it can be exported as a Tensorflow/Pytorch serving docker image to work with our cloud-based model inference pipeline. The inference pipeline can automatically scale with the number of images to be processed. Changes in land use are heavily influenced by human activities (e.g. agriculture, deforestation, human settlement expansion) and have been a great source of greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable forest and land management practices vary from region to region, which means having flexible, scalable tools will be critical. With these tools, we can empower analysts, engineers, and decision-makers to see where contributions to climate-smart agricultural, forestry and urban resilience programs can be made.

Authors: Zhuangfang Yi (Development Seed); Drew Bollinger (Development Seed); Devis Peressutti (Sinergise)

ICML 2019 Low-carbon urban planning with machine learning (Ideas Track)
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Abstract: Widespread climate action is urgently needed, but current solutions do not account enough for local differences. Here, we take the example of cities to point to the potential of machine learning (ML) for generating at scale high-resolution information on energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and make this information actionable for concrete solutions. We map the existing relevant ML literature and articulate ML methods that can make sense of spatial data for climate solutions in cities. Machine learning has the potential to find solutions that are tailored for each settlement, and transfer solutions across the world.

Authors: Nikola Milojevic-Dupont (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC)); Felix Creutzig (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC))