Sustainability-focused MFAT scholar wins Best Paper award

MFAT scholar Leonie Bule, who has just completed the first year of her PhD, has already seen her research progressing on the right track.

Associate Professor Nirmal Nair, Leonie Bule with her award, and IEEE Power and Energy Society President Frank Lambert

Leonie was recently named the recipient of the prestigious best paper award at the IEEE Power Engineering conference late last year for her co-authored piece, Data-Driven Analytics for Effective Energy Management and Audits of Large Enterprise.

The paper features an assessment of thermal and cooling energy demands using historical energy and weather data. Energy reports provide indications of the baselines, irregular power consumption patterns, and necessary improvements. These reports are essential to — and often aligned with — energy audits, which are costly for any organisation with large numbers of building facilities to operate and maintain.

Using the historical data, Leonie and her co-authors were thus able to produce reports on the unique energy signatures of individual buildings, and for simplicity, also identify any buildings that require further investigation.

The piece also suggests possible further methodology based on newer data analytic methods, opening up opportunities for future research beyond the current literature. It also aligned well with Leonie's PhD, which involves fields such as active electric distribution, energy management, data analytics, and power system methods. Overall, she sees the work as a small contribution towards a critical area of research.

Energy resources are very important to our daily lives, and therefore, we need to use them in a sustainable way to ensure not just benefits to our current environment, but also the livelihoods of our future generations. Building energy management is vital to this, especially when it comes to space heating and cooling for large enterprises.

Leonie Bule

Leonie co-authored the award-winning paper with her supervisor, Associate Professor Nirmal Nair, the University of Auckland's Energy Manager Russell Baillie, and Alan Tanton, a visiting student from France who assisted with data collection. The collaborative exercise was beneficial to Leonie and enriched her research as it involved material outside her areas of expertise. It also allowed her to use our University as a case study.

She is grateful for the award as well as the MFAT funding; both opened up pathways for her to contribute towards a more better future.

"Coming from a small Pacific Island nation, I often feel like I'm not capable of producing a quality written piece, but this award has boosted my confidence and given me a new desire to push myself beyond limits to implement ideas and newer methods that may hopefully contribute towards a sustainable and carbon-free future. It has also provided me with the opportunity to further collaborate with other professionals in the industry in Macau.

"Without MFAT's funding, doing a PhD would have been merely a dream. I now have an inner drive to perform to the best of my ability because MFAT has that trust in me in the first place; I've been given this chance. I am grateful to MFAT for this opportunity."