In 2009, D-Lab and PIET were launched to accelerate the development and commercialization of low-cost, clean and efficient energy technologies and solutions in developed and developing countries.

D-Lab assembles motivated student teams and staff mentors from business, physical and social sciences, engineering, and more, encouraging them to think critically using the “Four Lenses of Sustainability”, shown to the right.

UC Davis D-Lab

In D-Lab, students gain a greater understanding of global challenges in need of solutions. They will collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams to meet the satisfaction of a real client.

Cross-disciplinary student teams work with international community partners to perform feasibility studies and create prototypes using technical, social, environmental, and financial lenses. Practical labs, case studies, and guest speakers will focus on user-centered and market-based design approaches.

D-Lab offers three courses bringing students from different academic backgrounds together to work towards a solution in four different areas:

  • Off-grid lighting and micro-power
  • Agriculture (pumping, irrigation, post-harvest)
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainability and energy efficiency

As developing countries grow and expand, low-cost, clean energy technologies are vital in improving quality of life and public health. UC Davis D-Lab addresses energy security, environmental degradation, and public health concerns through sustainable engineering efforts, led by student teams for real clients. Visit our Project Archive for a complete list of past D-Lab projects!

Zero Net Energy and Carbon Neutrality

The Path to Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Initiative conducts feasibility studies on energy and climate projects for UC Davis and other clients. Projects are student-led, with close mentorship by clients, faculty and subject experts. Launched in 2012 as “A Hands-on Approach to Energy Efficiency” with support from the Energy Efficiency Center and projects from the Energy Conservation Office (ECO), the program found great success. ECO began partial funding of ZNE in 2016, and the program has since expanded to include climate projects to support campus efforts like the UC-wide 2025 Carbon Neutrality Initiative.

Current program focus areas include:

  • Steam-to-hot water conversion
  • Renewable heating alternatives
  • Building energy efficiency and energy auditing
  • Data analytics
  • Battery electric heavy-duty transportation

Through the ZNE Initiative, PIET builds working relationships between campus operation staff, students, and faculty.  Those involved gain expertise in project-focused development and conduct state-of-the art research in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Applied learning through ZNE includes but is not limited to solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, biopower, and electric vehicles.

The main objectives of these initiatives are to:

  • Build an on-going multi-disciplinary program that educates and engages UC Davis students in energy-related issues in developing countries.
  • Bridge the gap between need, existing technologies, and the market by creating entrepreneurial strategies for dissemination in developing countries.
  • Allow student teams to create a positive impact by working with partner communities to identify and address local energy business opportunities.
  • Promote energy efficiency, mitigate climate change and environmental impacts, and advance energy independence in developing countries.
  • Provide technical training and support for advancement in adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies worldwide.