Ubiquitous plug-load devices include appliances, electronics and tools—anything that plugs into an electrical outlet. Currently, these devices are responsible for as much as 20 percent of the electrical consumption in buildings, and 30 percent by 2030. To exacerbate the situation, a majority of these devices consume power even when not in use—the much dreaded “phantom power” which accounts for over 15 gigawatts of power consumption, worldwide, 24/7. The plug loads, if not well managed, could disable California’s plans for Zero Net Energy in new homes by 2020.
The California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) was established to improve energy efficiency in the use and design of appliances and consumer electronic devices. CalPlug recently earned funding support from the California Energy Commission, for $1 million. CalPlug focuses on energy efficiency solutions, efficiency evaluations of consumer electronics, standards development, education and public outreach, and user behavior studies. CalPlug will address challenges in plug load efficiency for both residential and commercial buildings by collaborating closely with utilities, manufacturers, advocacy groups, research institutions, and energy policy makers.
CalPlug’s innovation extends beyond the research labs and reaches out to industry, commerce and government. Business collaborations and studies of user behavior are essential to plug-load energy conservation, as is consumer education. Through collaborations with research institutes and manufacturers, the center will assist in developing future appliance efficiency standards and incentives for manufacturers and retailers.