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.

Check out the PPL Team's latest webinar: Watch Now
Plug Load Energy: Assess and Reduce
Stay up-to-date: PPL Quarterly Update
The PPL Team writes articles for the Beat Blog on new technologies and more: View Blogs
On-Demand PPL Webinars

The Plug and Process Load Team has hosted many webinars about a variety of PPL-related topics. Access all the recordings and slide decks in the On-Demand Webinar Library.

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. 

2020 Summit Presentations are Live

Recordings, slides, and transcripts from the 2020 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit sessions are now available online. Revisit your favorite sessions from our Virtual Leadership Symposium, or catch one you may have missed.

Featured Solutions

This brochure outlines the process and strategies used by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to drastically reduce its plug and process load (PPL) energy use and reach annual cost savings of $58,000.
This brochure provides an overview of plug and process loads (PPLs) in retail buildings and describes the process and strategies needed to cost-effectively reduce their energy impact.
Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) funded the development of smart learning behavior algorithms that could simplify smart socket installation processes and dramatically expand the sockets’ capabilities and energy-saving potential by suggesting suitable control schedules.  
Each advanced power strip has three outlet types for equipment with various electricity needs. This infographic from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) describes the uses for each outlet type to help determine the smartest way to power office devices and save energy.
Download this list of incentives and rebates for plug and process load controls that are offered by utilities across the country.
This toolkit provides guidance on understanding the different strategies for reducing plug and process load (PPL) energy, and selecting the right strategy for particular devices, building types, and occupant needs to maximize energy savings.
To address the trivial task of monitoring thousands of plug loads in today's large buildings, researchers at NREL proposed a method for combining a limited amount of smart plug metering with a device inventory to develop a disaggregated breakdown of device-level power consumption, revealing energy savings opportunities.
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.

Other Resources

Case Studies

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) published a report on their Plug Load Management (PLM) System Field Study. NREL investigated PLM technology in two retail buildings, calculated associated energy and costs savings, and captured qualitative performance outcomes.
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 U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) successfully renovated the historic Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, preserving the historic features and achieving Zero Energy Building (ZEB) status. The project earned LEED Platinum certification by reducing the building’s energy consumption, with a significant focus on reducing plug and process load energy use.
To further their commitment to green building and leading by example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) included an ultra-energy-efficient data center in their new Research Support Facility, resulting in annual cost savings of $200,000 in utility bills and an annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 5,000,000 pounds.

Fact Sheets

Each advanced power strip has three outlet types for equipment with various electricity needs. This infographic from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) describes the uses for each outlet type to help determine the smartest way to power office devices and save energy.
In constructing a new research facility for its campus, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) project team identified the opportunity to design a world-class, energy-efficient data center to support its operations. In the first 11 months, this facility delivered cost savings of approximately $82,000 based on energy use cuts of nearly 1,450,000 kWh.
Prospective building occupants and real estate brokers lack accurate references for plug and process load (PPL) capacity requirements, so they often request 5–10 W/ft2 in their lease agreements. This leads to overestimating PPL capacity and designers oversizing electrical infrastructure and cooling systems. However, if decisions are made so systems can operate more energy efficiently, upfront capital costs will decrease. This information can be used to drive changes in negotiations about PPL energy demands, and should enable brokers and tenants to agree about lower PPL capacities. Owner-occupied buildings will also benefit.
Many consumer electronics continue to draw power even when they are switched off. This is known as a "vampire load," and can add up to about $200 in yearly energy costs for an average home. By replacing standard power strips with an Advanced Power Strip (APS), you can significantly cut the amount of electricity used by your home office and entertainment center devices, and save money on your electric bill.
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. Three types of plug-load reduction strategies were evaluated: schedule timer control, load-sensing control, and a combination of the two. Results underscored the effectiveness of schedule-based functionality, which reduced plug loads at workstations by 26% and by nearly 50% in printer rooms and kitchens.

Guidance

This brochure outlines the process and strategies used by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to drastically reduce its plug and process load (PPL) energy use and reach annual cost savings of $58,000.
This brochure provides an overview of plug and process loads (PPLs) in retail buildings and describes the process and strategies needed to cost-effectively reduce their energy impact.
The decision guides found in this resource were created to help building owners find the right control strategy for PPLs in their buildings.
This guide from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes how local governments have planned and implemented energy-efficient product procurement programs to reduce energy costs and create a range of environmental and economic benefits.

Policies and Incentives

Download this list of incentives and rebates for plug and process load controls that are offered by utilities across the country.

Presentation

This session highlighted innovative approaches to controlling plug loads with other systems, including highlights from a field evaluation of LED systems equipped with advanced lighting controls that interface with the HVAC systems and plug loads.

Reports

Learning behavior algorithms and automatic and dynamic load detection are technology areas that could accelerate plug load management system adoption by reducing installation demands and providing additional energy efficiency and nonenergy benefits. This paper includes findings on the current state of these technologies.
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.
This paper documents the methodology NREL researchers developed to identify and reduce PPLs as part of the RSF’s low energy design process.
This project demonstrated the performance of commercially available advanced power strips (APSs) for plug load energy reductions in building A4 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), Hawaii.
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 documents the methodology used to procure, construct, and operate an energy-efficient data center suitable for a net-zero-energy-use building - NREL's Research Support Facility.  
This report addresses gaps in actionable knowledge that would help reduce the plug load capacities designed into buildings.
NREL has developed guidance for evaluating and selecting a range of technologies to control plug and process loads.
This study from GSA aims to provide insight on how to effectively manage plug load energy consumption and attain higher energy and cost savings for plug loads.
Commercially available Advanced Power Strips offer a variety of control approaches, including manual control, automatic low-power state, schedule timers, load-sensing, occupancy, and vacancy. This paper describes those approaches in detail and presents multiple case studies demonstrating plug load controls.

Specifications

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.
This specification provides a description of required and recommended performance characteristics resulting in increased energy savings for Dry-LVDTs in commercial buildings.

Toolkit

This toolkit provides guidance on understanding the different strategies for reducing plug and process load (PPL) energy, and selecting the right strategy for particular devices, building types, and occupant needs to maximize energy savings.

Webinars

On this webinar, presenters discussed Oregon’s Statewide Plug Load Strategy, the state’s adoption of ASHRAE 90.1-2016 energy codes, and Oregon’s recently adopted Energy and Resource Conservation Policy, which includes several components of the Plug Load Strategy.
The Plug and Process Load Technology Research Team hosted two technical presentations focused on automatic receptacle controls – methods for reducing plug load energy consumption – and their inclusion in the 2021 IECC code cycle, as well as a study of how the code requirements are affecting various stakeholders.
Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) present recently published studies that describe novel approaches for better understanding device-level energy consumption in buildings.
Researchers from University of Michigan and ACEEE present their respective work on zero-client computing in office settings and energy savings from Set Top Box and small-network voluntary agreements. 
A researcher from NREL summarizes a recent field study that assessed a wireless meter and control system (a.k.a. "smart outlets") for plug loads in two retail environments.
Experts from NREL discuss the implications of navigating cybersecurity with smart outlets.
Members of the California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) provide insights on their plug and process loads research focus areas that affect commercial building efficiency: plug load appliances and devices in use, consumer behavior studies, energy conservation in server rooms, and benchmarking energy efficiency prototypes and products.
Subject matter experts walk through the details of the APS specification and provide examples of how stakeholders can apply the specification (e.g., tenants in leased spaces, building owners and managers across their portfolios, utilities for energy incentive programs).
This webinar included a discussion by NREL on simple low-cost and portable plug and process loads interventions.

Additional Information

PPL Team Quarterly Update
Learn about recent activities and upcoming events from the Plug and Process Load Tech Team.

Low Voltage Distribution Transformer Calculator
Install a distribution transformer that will reduce energy use by more than 15% using this calculator from DOE.

Consortium for Energy Efficiency: Distribution Transformer Initiative
The purpose of this Initiative is to drive market demand for high efficiency through assisting member programs to overcome barriers like first cost, split incentives, and absence of a consistent definition for high-performance.

DOE Appliance and Equipment Standards Program
The Building Technologies Office (BTO) implements minimum energy conservation standards for more than 60 categories of appliances and equipment. This program provides a resource to help consumers make informed decisions when selecting products in order to save energy and money.

FY2020 Sector Priorities

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 Plug and Process Loads Technology 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 PPL@nrel.gov.