Innovative Plug Load Equipment Monitoring for Energy Savings and Asset Tracking at a National Laboratory

Bob Dahowski, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Jennifer Su-Coker, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), research and operations staff collaborate to proactively define and implement innovative sustainability solutions. PNNL's Sustainability Pay$ Program reinvests savings from utility improvement projects on staff-generated initiatives with direct and measurable impact on the triple bottom line—environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic prosperity. A current Sustainability Pay$ project seeks to tackle plug load energy use via improved monitoring while also improving asset tracking capabilities.

Plug load energy use (e.g., that consumed by laboratory, office, and computing systems) continues to increase. Without good monitoring, very little is known about how such equipment is operated and how much energy is consumed. Opportunities are numerous for improving management and best practices for equipment purchase, set-up, and use, and the potential energy and dollar savings are significant and often overlooked. Further, as a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory, PNNL faces rigorous Property Management and Accounting Requirements, with a growing number of property assets to be tracked. More than half of the 40,000+ assets require an annual inventory, with the rest requiring biennial identification. Fewer than 25% are able to be tracked and located via network connection, leaving the rest to be located and validated manually at significant time and cost.

The plug load equipment monitoring and asset tracking project aims to identify a method for streamlining the tracking of property assets while also achieving improved knowledge and control over equipment operation and energy use. A commercial plug load monitoring and control technology was demonstrated for the dual purpose of energy monitoring and asset tracking. The technology was deployed in selected spaces on laboratory equipment and non-networked computing systems to evaluate the technology against a defined set of performance goals. In addition to the primary goals of monitoring the location and energy use of stationary equipment, the value of potential added benefits such as alerting staff of off-normal events or operation, and identifying laboratory equipment that is underutilized and therefore available for other researchers, was evaluated. The ability to streamline the tracking of property assets while also achieving improved knowledge and control over equipment operation and energy use will provide significant value and multiple benefits to PNNL and its energy, sustainability, and property management goals. Demonstration results will guide potential large-scale deployment of the technology, and provide lessons learned to other organizations with similar needs.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will be able to define energy monitoring and asset tracking needs at their facilities;
  • Learn strategies for reducing equipment energy use through commercially available monitoring technology;
  • Learn to identify and implement best practices for equipment purchase, setup, and operation; and
  • Identify which options may be most suitable for their needs in plug load energy monitoring and asset tracking.


Mr. Dahowski is an energy and environmental engineer at PNNL where he focuses on research and applications related to building systems energy efficiency and sustainability.

Ms. Su-Coker is the pollution prevention program manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). She is also the manager for PNNL's sustainability Pay$ program. She has led many initiatives aimed to foster sustainable culture and improve sustainable laboratory operations.


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