Savings Opportunities & Benefits for the C&I Lighting Sector

New technology and the increased utilization of “smart” lighting systems or NLC (network lighting controls) are poised to make waves of energy savings in commercial lighting for decades to come. We are excited to share this article with you and the research that shows a bright future in LED and commercial lighting.

Wave of Savings Still Ahead in the C&I Lighting Sector

While market transformation of residential lighting is a near term reality, with impending new federal standards and high market saturation, the story is very different in the world of commercial lighting. For the C&I sector, the right decisions right now can ensure savings opportunities and realize significant benefits, and utility programs should support them for another decade.

That’s the overriding message of new research published in July, Energy Savings Potential of DLC Commercial Lighting and Networked Lighting Controls, a study I consider a bellwether for how and where we are allocating our resources so we can make the biggest impact on market adoption and energy efficiency. The report’s author – Dan Mellinger, a senior consultant at Energy Futures Group of Vermont – said the findings illustrate that “we have a massive opportunity in front of us in terms of energy savings, carbon, and climate…an opportunity we can’t ignore.”

The study debunked speculation that C&I lighting efficiency programs will face the dreaded cliff due to Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) standards set to take effect in 2020. Those standards address screw base fixtures, a type of lighting used by only 10% of C&I facilities. Over 70% of the nation’s C&I lighting inventory, on the other hand, comprises indoor linear fixtures – a category that currently enjoys just 6.5% market adoption of hyper-efficient LEDs and is a great candidate for controls, further enhancing the savings opportunities.
That statistic alone is cause for optimism, with Mellinger noting that rapid adoption of LEDs in the indoor C&I lighting space can maintain energy savings potential for C&I lighting portfolios through at least 2024. However, that only begins to scratch the surface. The real energy savings story emerges by looking at networked lighting controls (NLCs) – systems in which lighting fixtures, sensors, switches, and other devices are tied together through control wiring or wirelessly to enable “smart” systems that adjust for changing conditions, space usage, and more.

Current uptake of NLCs is limited due to factors such as poor understanding of the technology and inadequate training. Robust support for NLCs from utilities and other stakeholders at the time of LED installation, however, can shift this paradigm. Mellinger noted that aggressive promotion of NLCs could bring C&I lighting programs savings and benefits for twice as long as compared with focusing on LEDs alone, and resulting savings would be long-lived. Persisting at least through 2030, this savings potential is equivalent over five years to 75 terawatt hours (tWh) of electricity – about 17 times greater than the 4.5 tWh annual output of the Hoover Dam.

Mellinger’s recommendations for overcoming barriers to wider adoption of NLCs include changes in utility program design and better education of users throughout the supply chain. “It is critically important that NLCs are promoted, recommended, and installed now – at the time of LED adoption – so we don’t strand that savings potential,” Mellinger says.

By Christina Halfpenny, Executive Director, The DesignLights Consortium

At Retro-Tech Systems, we specialize in helping facilities operate efficiently while customizing solutions for every application and need. Contact one of our experts today to learn more.



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