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Four females addressing an audience at the front of a meeting room, with a projection screen off to the side. Three females are sitting at the long table, and the fourth is standing at a lectern.

By Jordan Hibbs

Plug and process loads (PPLs) consume about one-third of primary energy in U.S. commercial buildings. PPL efficiency solutions have become relevant in achieving energy cost savings and improvement in building performance; however, their broad implementation has been stunted by a number of myths. To debunk some predominant misconceptions, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) Rois Langner led an educational session at this year’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. The Myth-Busting Barriers Associated with Plug Load Controls panel was composed of members from the Better Buildings Alliance Plug and Process Load Technical Solutions Team. Each panelist addressed a separate but equally prevalent myth and how project teams have successfully overcome those myths by incorporating PLL controls and efficiency solutions into their energy management plans. 

Myth #1: Plug loads don’t matter and controlling plug loads doesn’t save money

Sustainability Specialist at the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management at Stanford University, Moira Hafer, shared insights from a 2014-2015 Stanford study in which a comprehensive plug load equipment inventory was conducted to quantify campus plug load energy consumption and determine viable plug load energy reduction opportunities. The study showed that campus plug loads used 77.3 million kWh per year, costing $9 million annually, and consuming 34% of the total campus electricity use.

Stanford used the inventory results to inform the development of more than 100 possible savings opportunities. They factored in the cost of upgrades, associated savings, and the feasibility of implementation for each opportunity. This exercise resulted in the execution of 33 opportunities that were cost effective and had a reasonable payback. Stanford estimates that by implementing these opportunities, they will save $2.3 million, reducing total campus energy by 9%.

Myth #2: I don’t have control over plug loads

Manager at Waypoint Building Group, Marta Schantz, shared examples of plug load solutions including educational campaigns, advanced power strips, design strategies for consolidated plug loads, and networked plug load controls. Citing successful energy reduction strategies including case studies by Shorenstien, L’Oreal, GSA Green Proving Ground, and the City of Roanoke, Marta made a strong case that it is possible to control plug load energy with proper planning and design.

Myth #3: I can’t control my plug loads because I have tenants in my space

Vice-President of Strategy and Sustainability at the Tower Companies, Eugenia Gregorio, shared outcomes of Tower’s case study, Increasing Tenant Engagement through Plug Load Management, which addressed plug loads in a multitenant office building. The study used two different strategies on two separate tenants in a multitenant building to determine which strategy was more effective in reducing energy consumption: educational messaging, or advanced power strips. The results of the study showed higher energy savings with advanced power strip devices, which reduced the tenant’s total electricity energy consumption by 6% during working hours, 29% during evening hours, and 17% on weekends. Combining the two strategies may result in even more savings.

Greenbuild is a beneficial platform for industry stakeholders to speak to peers about how they address barriers to the uptake of energy efficiency technologies and strategies. Stay tuned for more afterthoughts detailing lessons learned from the conference!