Plug & Process Loads

Plug & Process Loads

Plug and process loads (PPLs) consume about one-third of primary energy in U.S. commercial buildings. As buildings become more efficient, PPL efficiency has become pertinent in achieving aggressive energy targets. Through the PPL Technology Research Team, partners participate in a platform to share experiences and learn from their peers, and work together to create resources on PPL energy reduction strategies and their applications, covering a wide variety of electronic, computer, refrigeration, and cooking devices, including equipment essential to information processing, medical treatment, and food service businesses.

PPL Beat Blogs

The Plug and Process Load Team occasionally contributes articles about new developments and technologies on the Better Buildings Beat Blog

Get Involved

The Plug and Process Load Team collaborates with researchers and industry experts to promote awareness and energy reduction through new technologies. Contact the Plug and Process Load Team to learn how you can get involved. 

2019 Summit Presentations are Live

Slide decks from the 2019 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit sessions are now available to download and share. 

Featured Solutions

This landscaping study examines smart, wireless plug and process load meter and control technologies and recommends research on (1) integrating PPL data into EMIS platforms (2) making PPL data interoperable with other building end-use data and (3) developing and testing automatic PPL controls.
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a study comparing energy and usability of remote virtual machines (VMs) accessed through zero-client devices with traditional laptop computers to determine if zero-client computing could be a solution to reducing building energy use.
The decision guides found in this resource were created to help building owners find the right control strategy for PPLs in their buildings.
This specification provides detailed selection criteria for five major APSs, and sets standards for modeling APSs. It is intended to help those who procure APSs select the most effective models for their commercial buildings.
Each advanced power strip has three outlet types for equipment with various electricity needs. This infographic describes the uses for each outlet type.
Using the process and strategies outlined in this brochure, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was able to drastically reduce its PPL energy use in the Research Support Facility (RSF).
Download this list of incentives and rebates for plug and process load controls that are offered by utilities across the country.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) successfully renovated the historic Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. GSA’s goals were to preserve the building’s historic features, and achieve Zero Energy Building (ZEB) status.
Numerous control strategies exist for reducing plug and process load (PPL) energy. Selecting the correct control strategy for particular devices, building types, and occupant needs can maximize energy savings.

Other Resources

Fact Sheets

GSA’s Green Proving Ground (GPG) program recently assessed the effectiveness of advanced power strips (APS) in managing plugload energy consumption in eight of its buildings.
This brochure addresses gaps in actionable knowledge that can help reduce the plug load capacities designed into buildings.


List of currently qualified products available for sale in the U.S. that meet the DOE/CBEA Distribution Transformer Specification.
There are some misconceptions on how APSs work and their actual savings potential. This resource was created to help bust some of these myths and encourage wider adoption of these cost-effective, energy-saving devices.


NREL performed a field study of a plug load management system in two retail buildings, calculated associated energy and costs savings, and captured qualitative performance outcomes.
NREL has developed guidance for evaluating and selecting a range of technologies to control plug and process loads.
DOE commissioned NREL to partner with two hospitals (MGH and SUNY UMU) to collect data on the energy used for multiple thermal and electrical end-use categories.
This report addresses gaps in actionable knowledge that would help reduce the plug load capacities designed into buildings.

Additional Information

Commercial Buildings Resource Database
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) publications related to commercial buildings, including plug and process load resources.

ENERGY STAR Tools and Resources Library
Tools and resources on implementing a successful energy management strategy.

ENERGY STAR Purchasing and Procurement
An ENERGY STAR resource on purchasing efficient products to reduce energy costs without compromising quality. Learn more about ENERGY STAR qualified products and specify them in your purchasing policies and contracts.

Energy-Efficient Product Procurement
Federal agencies are required to procure energy-efficient products. This Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) resource includes trainings, seminars, and publications to help Federal purchasers identify energy- and water-efficient products.

Net Zero Blueprint
This High Performance Buildings article discusses the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NRELs) replicable approach to achieve a large reduction in building energy use and adopt a net-zero energy approach for large-scale commercial buildings without increasing cost.

GSA’s Plug Load Management Suite
The General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) Plug Load Management Suite contains information to help facility managers manage energy use and minimize energy loads used by equipment plugged into outlets. GSA’s Suite contains research-based solutions that address key challenges related to plug load management.

GSA’s Flyers of Green Proving Ground Results
The General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) Green Proving Ground program conducts demonstrations of various technologies and provides summaries of results. The following one-pagers may be useful for identifying solutions for plug and process energy loads:

Sustainable Facilities Tool
The GSA’s Sustainable Facilities Tool offers useful sustainable guidance and tools for a variety of roles, including facility manager, leasing specialist, procurement professional and project manager. The tool may provide useful information for incorporating PPL strategies and technologies for your role, including a Green Products Compilation for procuring more energy efficient plug and process load equipment.


Meet the Technology Expert

Dr. Kim Trenbath is a Research Engineer in the Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where she has worked since 2013. She leads the Better Buildings Alliance Plug and Process Loads Technical Research Team, and researches how advanced technologies can reduce plug load energy use in commercial buildings. Her other current research includes fault detection and diagnostics and zero energy buildings. Dr. Trenbath co-manages the ongoing buildings-related JUMP into STEM student competition. Dr. Trenbath has a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, a M.S. in Industrial Engineering, and a B.E. in Civil Engineering. Dr. Trenbath is also an adjunct professor at the Colorado School of Mines. If you would like more information on the PPL Team, please contact