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Plug Loads Shouldn’t Be Ignored, Says Study

March 5, 2014 By Linda Hardesty

Energy Manage puzzleA study on virtual energy assessments conducted with nine Boston buildings found that plug loads represent a significant portion of energy use in commercial buildings and that tenant engagement and plug load reductions are currently under-incentivized by utilities and existing energy efficiency programs.

The study “Virtual Energy Assessments: An Emerging Technology to Understand Building Energy Use and Opportunities,” was conducted by the Boston-based, non-profit A Better City (ABC) with funding from the Barr Foundation. ABC partnered with Retroficiency, a Boston-based remote energy auditing company for the pilot.

Nine properties, totaling more than 5.1 million square feet were audited as part of the pilot. This included six office properties and three hotels. The virtual energy assessment provided a breakdown of energy use for each property. The breakdown included kWh, kBtu, and steam data. Lighting and plug loads made up the majority of electricity consumption for both property types.

Besides that discovery that plug loads are a ripe area for energy savings, the virtual energy assessment results for the nine buildings identified the potential for $1,431,487 in annual savings from energy efficiency interventions. Several buildings in the pilot program had invested heavily in energy efficiency prior to the virtual audit; therefore, savings identified for these buildings were quite small, with the best performing property having no identified savings opportunities. Retroficiency identified significant savings potential in other buildings that had not yet pursued energy conservation as intensely. The highest identified annual cost savings for any building was $765,169. The average annual savings for the entire portfolio was $178,935.90.



3 comments on “Plug Loads Shouldn’t Be Ignored, Says Study

  1. Glad to see more research being devoted to plug loads. Other studies have found that in high efficiency buildings, plug loads may account for more than 50% of the total energy consumption.

    See GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool) for more synthesized plug load content and tips for bringing energy efficiency into action.

    http://sftool.gov/learn/about/426/plug-loads

  2. In many cases the majority of the plug loads are actually server rooms or telecom infrastructure within the building.
    When comparing baseline consumption for utility incentives in small server rooms located in commercial buildings, I’ve often noticed that a server room and its cooling equipment can easily total 25%-60% of total building electric consumption (annualized). The server room may only cover 1%-5% of the floor space, but is the largest electric end use in the building.

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