Send us a comment or suggestion * All Fields Required
First Name
Last Name

BITES can help your class learn about energy

The analytical framework behind the BITES tool was originally developed to help inform internal planning and budgeting activities within the U.S. Department of Energy. However, BITES also provides a solid foundation for learning about the U.S. energy system as a whole.

This curriculum uses the BITES tool as the focus of a structured workshop. The workshop was designed to help students learn about the interrelationships within the U.S. energy system and investigate potential future pathways for the energy economy. The materials here are under active development, and we value any feedback in making this workshop and the related materials more valuable.

Sign up for the BITES Educators email list

Please enter your email address to receive "Educator" specific news on the latest announcements and site updates. Your email address will not be shared and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Resources You must be logged in to download these materials.Workshop guide for instructors
Workshop guide for students (including worksheet)
BITES tutorial
BITES survey

BITES workshop

Workshop goals:
  • Develop an understanding of where we get energy and how we use it today
  • Visualize the track we are on without making changes to the energy system
  • Experiment with options in each of the four sectors: building, industry, transportation and electricity
  • Explore the trade-offs between sectors and individual technologies
  • Generate a realistic cross-sector scenario that approaches or meets chosen energy and carbon emissions targets
  • Discuss, compare, and justify scenarios chosen to help define challenges and opportunities
  • Achieve consensus on a class scenario (stretch goal)

In the workshop, a group of 12-36 students or other interested people use BITES to experiment with the effects of various parameters of the energy system, such as the efficiency of cars, appliances, and industry, as well as the electric generation mix.

First, small groups for each of the four sectors (Buildings, Industry, Transportation, and Electricity) test what can be accomplished in one sector. Most will find that changes necessary in order to meet overall energy and environmental goals cannot be accomplished within a single sector.

Then, the group joins larger teams, with each team having representation from each sector group to serve as the expert for that topic. Teams select a scenario and then present their method and constructively critique other groups' approaches.

If the groups are relatively close, the next step is to try for a 'class consensus scenario' as a final output. By the end, students will have learned about the energy use and emissions in each sector and many of the options available to mitigate less desirable outcomes.

The central point of the workshop is that national goals are achievable with known technologies, but this achievement requires a concerted, cross-sector approach. The workshop is approximately four hours and can be split over multiple sessions.

What educators are saying about BITES

"The transition to a clean energy economy is civilization's greatest and most urgent challenge. NREL's modeling tools are making the challenges and choices entailed in this effort tangible, comprehensible and assessable. My students very much appreciated the demonstration."

Skip Pruss

Former Director, Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth

"The interdisciplinary scope of the workshop coincides perfectly with our approach in educating our students. BITES strengthened our programs and the students' awareness of climate change. I noted the enthusiasm of my colleagues from other departments. The tutorial was very valuable."

Samiha Mourad, Ph.D.

William and Janice Terry Professor, Electrical Engineering Department, Santa Clara University