Energy Experts Share Challenges, Opportunities

By Sharon Henry

Irvine, November 20, 2015— 

Plug load waste is identified as standby power from appliances that continue to draw power even when they are turned off, or appliances that aren’t turned off when they’re not in use.

This sort of wasted power – from televisions, lighting, air conditioners, water heaters and assorted electrical appliances – has long been the target of those interested in saving energy. Add to that list the array of new and innovative electronic gadgets, electric cars and (what one presenter labeled the “boogey man" of energy efficiency) IoT, the Internet of Things. This ever-increasing landscape of technological marvels provides both challenges and opportunities, both of which were discussed by the energy efficiency experts attending the California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) semiannual workshop at Calit2 last month.

Energy professionals from business, government and academia met to share their research advances and predictions for a more sustainable future. Calit2 Irvine Director G.P. Li welcomed attendees to the all-day event, which  featured more than a dozen presenters.

CalPlug Technical Director Michael Klopfer leads off the workshop



CalPlug Technical Director Michael Klopfer discussed research opportunities currently being explored by the UC Irvine lab. “The emergence of IoT provides a lot of technical issues that need to be considered, such as privacy and security," he said.

Electrical vehicle charging is another issue of interest, Klopfer noted. "California has a large push to bring electrical vehicles onto the road. Is there a way of scheduling charging of vehicles to match fickle resources – whether it’s during the day when solar is relatively plentiful, or wind, which can be more fickle. What if you could match the charging of these vehicles so the user doesn't notice anything? As more vehicles come on the road, how can you flatten out this demand, and lessen the load at peak hours?" These are the type of questions CalPlug is modeling, Klopfer said.

ions for a more sustainable future. Calit2 Irvine Director G.P. Li welcomed attendees to the all-day event, which  featured more than a dozen presenters.


(L to R) Jon Lanning, TribklStar; Domenico Gelonese, Embertec; Martin Vu, California Technical Forum; Michael Klopfer, Calplug



While plug loads for home electronics in the United States account for nearly 20 percent of all residential energy, research conducted by CalPlug found a substantial amount of energy can be saved by using a Tier 2 advanced power strip (APS2).

As the APS2 continues to gain momentum in the marketplace, independent studies and field tests have demonstrated promising savings potential in both residential and commercial settings.

Martin Vu of California Technical Forum (CALTF) shared recommendations for power strip manufacturers: usage sensing – to provide at least one method to sense and determine consumer utilization and usage patterns; and advanced power analysis – to perform advanced power analysis in addition to voltage and current sensing. These power measurement and analysis measures may include true RMS power, power factor analysis and other load signature detection, and control algorithms - to perform automated power management of connected devices based on data and information acquired.

Jon Lanning from TrickleStar, a manufacturer of products designed to reduce energy consumption in homes and workplaces, and a new corporate sponsor of CalPlug, told the group that energy vampires drain electricity dollars. The "always on" culture eats up energy dollars. Lanning explained how his company’s work has produced advanced power strips that can automatically eliminate the wasted loads of electronic peripheral devices that are not needed when an electronic control device is in standby or off mode.

Domenico Gelonese, CEO of Embertec, an Australian energy efficiency technologies company, discussed T2 solutions his company is investigating to reduce energy use in commercial office space. “PCs are being left on. It’s a big, big, problem,” he said.

(L to R) Steve Palm, Broadcom; Paul Glist, Davis Wright Tremain LLP


Small network equipment provides and coordinates traffic on the Internet, and is the backbone of the IoT structure. Traffic demands from IoT are expected to increase the cost of energy and infrastructure. Steve Palm, Broadcom senior technical director, noted that IoT standards will be the first to benefit from network power-saving. “Connected sensors can now tell when a user leaves a space while watching a show, and can migrate that show to a nearby device while putting the first device in a power-save mode.” Palm said. “Hot water for a shower or coffee can be heated just as the user stirs from sleep, instead of keeping the water hot at all times.”

Paul Glist, a partner with Davis Wright Tremain LLP, assisted major cable, satellite and telephone providers in creating a 2013 comprehensive national voluntary energy-efficiency agreement to address concerns over the energy consumption of communications and IP equipment. Glist reported in its first two years, the voluntary agreement on set-top-box energy efficiency has had a national impact– reducing national set-top-box energy consumption by 8.75 percent, resulting in a “consumer savings of $504 million and CO2 savings of 2.9 million metric tons,” he said.

The small network equipment (SNE) agreement recently introduced and modeled after the set-top-box agreement will cover broadband modems, integrated access devices (IADs), and local network equipment. “It locks in efficiencies before IoT swallows us alive,” Glist said.

(L to R) Charles Kim, California Edison; Daniel Young, Energy Solutions; Linyi Xia, Calplug; Michael Klopfer, Calplug



CalPlug Project Manager Linyi Xia shared the center’s current research for plug-in appliances and their relationship to the smart grid and homes. Research found the average California household uses 62 MBTU annually – 31 percent less than the national average, she said. By 2035, plug load devices will consume up to 50 percent of a residential energy budget. And new electronic devices, including wearables, are adding to the energy demand. It takes about 325 MW annually to charge the 6.7 million Fitbits that are currently in use, Xia said.

All new residential construction in California will be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020, Daniel Young with Energy Solutions said. The challenge will be “trying to predict home energy use accurately and precisely.” 

Another challenge, added Charles Kim from Southern California Edison, is IoT, “the boogey man” of energy efficiency. “And electric cars, which can use more energy than a house,” he said. “The scary factor is the uncertainty,” Kim added. The “not-so-scary” news is that “California is a nationwide leader of energy and environmental initiatives.” By 2020, greenhouse gas emissions will have been reduced about 30 percent from 1990 levels; by 2050, it will be reduced 80 percent from 1990 levels. California Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a 50 percent increase in renewable energy generation and up to 50 percent decrease in petroleum use for vehicles, and a doubling of energy efficiency for existing buildings, Kim told the audience.

Along with government intervention, individuals can take cost-effective personal actions to achieve a renewable energy future. “Plug load reduction represents an important component,” said Tom Huff from Clean Power Research.

“IoT is getting easier by the day,” said Al Choperena from Smartenit. “But with so many connected devices, will their standby and operating power be aligned with ZNE goals?” he asked. Choperena presented a number of considerations for ZNE and IoT “friendliness,” from high-efficiency actuators and sleep/wake algorithms to proactivity before imposed regulations.

“The connected-home market is estimated to hit $16.5 billion this year, and will grow to $44 billion by 2017,” said Rich Peterson, vice president of global sales at INSTEON. “The question for the industry is: what are consumers going to be expecting?”

The CalPlug event concluded with a panel discussion and audience questions pertaining to technology, energy efficiency and available solutions to obtain ZNE.


For more information about CalPlug and upcoming workshops visit


-- Sharon Henry