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. The Center has already earned research 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.
CalPlug and its activities are guided by a senior advisory board, an academic advisory committee and a technical advisory committee. The founding board members include experienced directors from major organizations and industry players, such as the California Energy Commission, Southern California Edison, Broadcom Corporation, the Consumer Electronics Association and UCI leadership. The Interim Director of the new center is G.P. Li, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and director of Calit2.
CalPlug invites all interested groups to join the effort as members and partners. The center’s success depends on support and interactions from all sides. Working together through research, testing, demonstrations, and information exchange we can advance energy efficiency, environmental quality and economic growth. Formal corporate memberships are available.
CalPlug’s physical facilities include an engineering lab, test and demonstration rooms, offices, and space for meetings — over 8,000 sq. ft. in all, located on the building’s fourth floor. Calit2 administers CalPlug and provides it with access to an auditorium, electronics labs, an incubator for startup firms, and visualization and teleconference facilities.