Demand-side Knowledge for Sustainable Decarbonization in Resource Constrained Environments: Applied Research at the Intersection of Behavior, Data-mining, and Technology (PhD ’18)
During his time as an ERG Ph.D. candidate, Diego worked on developing information and communication solutions and ubiquitous data products for reducing waste in cities of Latin America.
“People at ERG looked like misfits. They seemed like people who could not be placed in a box. I immediately identified with that crew, and I was happy to encounter many of those people along the way at Berkeley and ERG.”
“Most of my projects attempted to address inherent structures of power, namely, democratizing access to solutions and information technology for a low-carbon society.”
Read more about Diego’s research and experience at ERG below.
What have you been working on that most excites you?
I am excited to now be working full-time on my personal projects. The first project is my company, xinampa.io, which is building data infrastructure for sustainable energy in Latin America. The second project is Mexico’s first digital platform for environmental justice, jamx.io, in collaboration with several ORGs in the U.S. and Mexico. ERG and U.C. Berkeley prepared me very well to launch these projects right after graduation.
What difference has researching with ERG made for you?
ERG taught me how to work hard, taught me how to fundraise, and how to build projects from scratch. I’m particularly grateful for having worked under the guidance of Professor Dan Kammen, who gave me a lot of opportunities to explore and challenge myself and opened many doors for me. My first three years at ERG were the best. Those years were full of good discussions in a thriving intellectual environment, full of questions and inquiry. Now that I’ve graduated, I’ve begun meeting amazing alumni for whom I’m grateful in guiding me through the highly uncertain path of entrepreneurship. It’s an amazing community.
Why did you choose ERG? What made it unique for you?
People at ERG looked like misfits. They seemed like people who could not be placed in a box. I immediately identified with that crew, and I was happy to encounter many of those people along the way at Berkeley and ERG. I hope that ERG will forever cherish and embrace misfits and people who are OK with disregarding the norm to create and follow their own truth, and carve their own path, geared towards a sustainable environment and a just society.
How has your background been a part of your research and time at ERG?
I love Latin America, its people and natural environment. I was lucky enough to dedicate all my efforts towards my region and people. I’m even luckier to keep going in this direction now that I’ve graduated.
A short dedication video for the people of Nicaragua and the country that gave me so much, and that is now struggling
What advice do you have for prospective students, what can they expect?
Five years will fly by. Challenge yourself as much as you can while at U.C. Berkeley. It’s the most perfect and safest time to take risks. Learn things that you think are hard (not only in the classroom). Take care of your close friends and family, and never disregard your physical and mental health. I should have done more of that, but I have learned now. Remember how lucky and privileged you are to spend five years exploring, thinking, and connecting, and try as hard as you can to give some of that amazing privilege back to our society.
Take care of your friends and close community, and connect with older ERGies. They have incredible insights and lessons learned!
In what ways is the work that you’ve been involved at ERG “cutting edge”?
I have no idea, and I’m not sure if it’s “cutting edge.” I would consider the work I did at ERG “relevant” and “necessary.” During my time at ERG, I led the implementation of Latin America’s first pilots of flexible demand for low and low-middle income neighborhoods in Managua and the 1st RCT for behavioral energy efficiency in Latin America. We demonstrated that technology can be used to derive important and numerous co-benefits in low-carbon economies through the use of co-design, sensor networks, and ubiquitous information systems—regardless of income or social-demographics.
Who have you been working with at ERG and how has this experience been?
Dan Kammen was my main advisor, but I also received significant support from Duncan Callaway. They both provided incredible support for me to graduate in 5 years and accomplish and succeed at all the projects I envisioned and implemented. Nothing would have happened without their support. I worked extensively with the Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions Lab (Eric Brewer). I also had amazing older ERGie mentors and friends who advised me and gave me lots of insights — I’ll be forever grateful to all of them.
How do you define ERG’s mission in terms of “sustainable environment” and “just society” and how do you or your work contribute to this?
I think ERG focuses extremely well on a “sustainable environment”, and occasionally on a “just society.” The department has begun to make an effort towards a “just society,” but in my opinion, doesn’t really know how to formally incorporate it into its education. If ERG doesn’t embrace its ethos it will find it very hard to compete for students (and faculty) with all the incredible departments across the U.S. that are beginning to focus on “energy and resources.” I hope that future students will continue the effort to bring our curriculum closer to its intended purpose.
Most of my projects attempted to address inherent structures of power, namely, democratizing access to solutions and information technology for a low-carbon society.
Future interests—what do you see yourself doing next?
I’ll work on my personal and collaborative projects until they succeed or fail! There is much to enjoy, so I’ll keep surfing, climbing, and learning how to enjoy the awesomeness of our planet and people.
Any other comments?
Thank you for everything, ERG!
Also, don’t miss Diego the T.V. star. When he’s not saving the environment, he’s saving your scalp from dandruff!
ERG Spotlight posted on August 8, 2018 by John Dees.