PUC Report Singles Out CalPlug

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, Ca, October 1st, 2013 -- The California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) at Calit2 is featured prominently in a state energy efficiency report released recently by the California Public Utilities Commission. The Research and Technology Action Plan 2012-2015 reflects priorities that can help the state achieve energy goals stated in its 2008 California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, especially the reduction of carbon emissions. 

Gian Mario Maggio

The state is committed to the goal that all new residential buildings will be ‘Zero Net Energy’ by 2020, and the research and technology report includes input from many agencies and organizations. The report focuses on four key areas: integrated building design and operation; market intelligence and consumer acceptance; plug loads; and advanced HVAC technologies.

Plug loads, including entertainment equipment and electronics, currently account for 30 percent of residential electricity use and 10-15 percent of commercial usage. The percentages are projected to rise substantially as building structures get more efficient and consumers acquire more devices.  Some estimates forecast plug loads consuming 50 percent of residential electricity by 2030. The report states: “Current research is needed to focus on creating more energy efficient devices that will provide the foundation for future plug load standards and understanding consumer behavior that drives plug load use.”

CalPlug, supported by the California Energy Commission to address those very issues, was singled out in the report’s plug load chapter for its research in:
•    Plug load appliances and devices in use (set-top boxes, digital entertainment, personal computing, medical devices, etc.) 
•    Micro grid power-management systems
•    Electronic engineering and computer science breakthroughs for device efficiency
•    Consumer behavior studies 
•    Energy conservation in server rooms and small-business data centers
•    Benchmarking energy efficient prototypes and products
•    Plug Load energy efficiency standards and policy

The statewide strategic plan notes CalPlug’s effort to develop projects that target efficiency improvements and its mandate to work with industry, utilities and standard-setting groups to accelerate implementation of plug load improvements. “The development and commercialization of energy-efficient plug load devices will help put California on the path to zero net energy buildings,” the report says.

The plan names CalPlug as a potential “Initiative Lead,” calling it “one of the organizations that can lead and coordinate research, development and deployment initiatives in the area of plug loads and smart appliances.” The PUC report also references a partnership among CalPlug and related industry groups as potentially forming a “self-sustaining collaborative that can serve California to advance RD&D in plug loads to meet the [zero net energy] goals of the Strategic Plan.”

Calit2 Irvine Director G.P. Li, who also serves as CalPlug’s director, is pleased by the report’s mention of the research center, as well as CalPlug’s progress in addressing plug-load energy efficiency. “Our ability to collaborate successfully with utilities, agencies and businesses is creating opportunities for significant progress in product design and at the same time, leading the way toward new policies and standards,” he said.