Category: Controls

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR Covers Luminaire-Level Lighting Controls

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) has attracted significant interest among building owners and utilities as a simple path to maximize energy cost-savings from LED lighting installation. A study conducted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), Portland, Ore., demonstrated that LLLC produced similarly substantial energy savings as a networked lighting control system, but at a lower cost.

Luminaire-level lighting control (LLLC) has attracted significant interest among building owners and utilities as a simple path to maximize energy cost-savings from LED lighting installation. A study conducted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on behalf of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), Portland, Ore., demonstrated that LLLC produced similarly substantial energy savings as a networked lighting control system, but at a lower cost.

The researchers discovered that all these systems produced substantial energy savings compared to the baseline. The LLLC systems generated 50%–74% energy savings for the control element alone, while the NLC redesign demonstrated 67% energy savings. Admittedly, the space was very well suited to LLLC compared to the NLC solution.

Click here to check out my contribution to the April issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, which covers the technology and the study.

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NBI Releases Guide on Controlling Comfort and Energy in Offices

The New Buildings Institute just released a new market guide, Controlling Comfort and Energy in Offices, which outlines the benefits and best practices to implement lighting and shading retrofits in today’s market.

The New Buildings Institute just released a new market guide, Controlling Comfort and Energy in Offices, which outlines the benefits and best practices to implement lighting and shading retrofits in today’s market.

Authored by Kevin Carbonnier, PhD, Cathy Higgins, and Webly Bowles, AIA, the 12-page guide focuses on:

  • High-quality automated shading: Window treatments, which help counteract direct sunlight, glare, heat, and lack of privacy, are very common in office buildings. They come in many different forms, ranging from traditional manual blinds with strings to automated fabric shades. Today’s automated fabric shades can be pre-programmed to raise and lower according to sunlight patterns. Employees appreciate the benefits without having to spend the time getting shades just right.
  • Modern LED lighting with advanced controls. Innovative office building lighting systems, dominated by LED lighting, can be automated down to the individual fixture. Equipped with advanced wireless controls, individual fixtures will dim or shut off automatically based on conditions around each fixture. Employees, who have become accustomed to adjusting their own lighting while working remotely, can override the system and adjust their assigned fixture to suit their own preferences.

Click here to download it.

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Dennis Shelden and Robert Karlicek to Co-lead New Rensselaer-based Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently announced the launch of the new Rensselaer Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS).

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently announced the launch of the new Rensselaer Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS).

Formed in partnership with Siemens, Lutron Electronics, Brooklyn Law School, the building engineering consulting firm Thornton Tomasetti, and the international architecture firms HKS, OBMI, and Perkins&Will, the New York City-based institute will use the most advanced digital technologies to drive decarbonization of urban environments at the systems level. Dennis Shelden and Robert Karlicek, the heads of two prominent research centers at Rennselaer, will serve as co-directors.

EBESS will model integrated transportation, communications, and supply chain networks. It will link architectural design and engineering to create infrastructure that is both net-zero in energy use and climate resilient. It will also use new materials, renewable energy systems, and sentient building platforms to maximize human health and well-being.

The new institute will integrate research across centers and schools at Rensselaer, including the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) and the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center. From its primary location in New York City, CASE has driven collaborative innovation in sustainable architecture and the built environment for more than a decade. LESA is a graduated National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center dedicated to developing autonomous intelligent systems to address modern challenges in the connected environment.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Lighting Integrators

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the smart building and lighting market and the commensurate increasing opportunity for electrical contractors to provide integration services or work with integrators.

My most recent contribution to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR talks about the smart building and lighting market and the commensurate increasing opportunity for electrical contractors to provide integration services or work with integrators.

Electrical contractors may interface with integrators in different ways or may even be integrators themselves. They might partner with them to provide integration services to customers while receiving training to ensure proper system installation and testing. Some ECs may leverage their low-voltage experience to understand which systems work well together and collaborate with engineers to offer various levels of integration themselves, such as starting with lighting controls and evolving toward building automation integration. Among these, some are expected to take the final leap to become master systems integrators, investing in being able to deliver value-added, higher-margin integration services and potentially ongoing services, such as performance monitoring and maintenance.

Check it out here.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: Lighting and DC Building Microgrids

In my lighting column published in the February issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, I tackle the topic of DC building microgrids.

In my lighting column published in the February issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, I tackle the topic of DC building microgrids.

Throughout the age of alternating current, few imagined that direct current would reemerge as a viable primary power distribution option at the grid, community or building level. DC and hybrid AC/DC microgrids, however, have gained interest in recent years due to the proliferation of renewable energy, demands for backup power during grid failures and potential efficiencies that can be gained by directly connecting DC power to DC end-use devices, such as LED lighting and controls.

If this nascent trend grows, it could present opportunities and challenges for ECs…

Click here to check it out.

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Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow Announces 2021 Competition Winners

The 2021 Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow (LHFT) competition recognized nine connected home products and platforms.

The 2021 Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow (LHFT) competition has recognized nine connected home products and platforms, including three connected lighting, controls, and ceiling fan products.

To realize the CEE Integrated Home vision, Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow is designed to help drive the adoption of efficient, connected products that demonstrate interoperability, reliability, and simplicity. In 2020, the competition sought residential connected lighting, lighting controls, ceiling fans, plug load controls, heating and cooling (HVAC) and thermostats, windows and window attachments, and other connected home devices that successfully deliver a positive consumer experience, energy management, and grid benefit.

Of the 44 products entered, 31 were selected to be evaluated by a panel of expert judges including individuals with proficiency in usability, interoperability, the connected home, integrated demand side management (IDSM) program administration, product installation, specific technology performance, sales, and design.

Of the connected lighting, controls, and ceiling fan products, the Judging Panel identified three winners:

<strong>Acuity Brands Lighting Juno AI Entertainment System
C by GE Smart Switch Dimming + Motion Sensing
Modern Forms Renegade and Tip Top Smart Fans</strong>

Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow also recognized five manufacturers that demonstrated promising features and thoughtful connected product design across several of the evaluation criteria and were subsequently selected as finalists: Renson Inc., American Lighting, Cordelia Lighting, Allied Air Enterprises, and Somfy Systems, Inc.

<a href=”http://www.lightingfortomorrow.com”>Click here</a> to learn more.

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PNNL’s Gabe Arnold Talks DC Building Microgrids

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gabe Arnold, PE, LC, Senior Engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for an article about DC building microgrids for an upcoming issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, the official publication of NECA. Transcript follows.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gabe Arnold, PE, LC, Senior Engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for an article about DC building microgrids for an upcoming issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, the official publication of NECA. Transcript follows. Check out PNNL’s new whitepaper on DC microgrids here.

DiLouie: How would you define DC microgrids?

Arnold: Microgrids are subsections of the larger electric grid with their own power sources such as solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, generators, and/or energy storage batteries. Microgrids can disconnect from the larger grid and continue to operate in what is called “island” mode. Microgrids improve resiliency because they enable the continued supply of electricity when there is an outage on the larger grid. Microgrids can be either direct current (DC), alternating current (AC), or a hybrid of the two. A direct current (DC) microgrid is one in which the power sources and loads within the microgrid are connected using DC rather than AC electricity.

DiLouie: What are the different types of DC microgrids and what types of equipment and connections are installed?

Arnold: Microgrids can be utility scale, community scale, or building scale. A utility scale microgrid may include large fields of solar panels, large battery facilities, or even small power plants that can disconnect from the larger grid and power a portion of the electric grid in the event of a grid outage. Utility scale microgrids are often high voltage distributing power in thousands of volts through transmission and distribution power lines. A community scale microgrid is smaller size and may include solar panels, generators, and/or battery facilities to power a neighborhood or campus in the event of a grid outage, usually at lower voltages than utility scale. A building scale microgrid is smaller further at the individual building or site level. It typically includes on-site solar panels, batteries, and/or generators that can provide power to the building in the event of a grid outage.

The equipment and connections can vary considerably depending on the scale and application of the microgrid. For a building scale microgrid, some type of inverter and controller is usually required to connect the PV and energy storage batteries to the building electrical system and the larger electric grid. These controllers can be off-the-shelf sometimes called “Power Servers”, or they can be assembled from individual components and controlled via software.

DiLouie: What are the prevalent standards? What approaches in terms of standards and equipment appear to show the strongest promise?

Arnold: An organization called the Emerge Alliance has defined standards for DC electricity distributed within buildings using a 380 V DC bus to power larger building loads and 24 or 48 V DC for smaller loads such as lighting and electronics. From a lighting perspective, PNNL’s market research identified 8 lighting manufacturers that offer lighting fixtures that accept these voltages at their input as a standard option, though many more manufacturers could offer fixtures at these voltages through a custom order.

The other relevant standard from a lighting perspective is IEEE 802.3bt for Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). Released in 2018, this standard enables up to 90 watts of power through PoE cabling to power building loads such as lighting. PNNL identified 17 lighting manufacturers offering a wide range of light fixtures that accept PoE at their input. PoE lighting has significant benefits including an existing supply chain and workforce that is already trained on how to install the PoE network cabling, high-speed data capability to support IoT applications, and integration benefits with other systems through the use of TCP/IP communication.

DiLouie: What are the benefits of DC building microgrids? What are ideal applications? Overall, what opportunity do they represent for buildings?

Arnold: The key benefit to microgrids is resiliency, and if it’s a DC building microgrid, there are additional potential benefits including energy savings, reduced costs, and improved equipment reliability. DC building microgrids reduce or eliminate the conversions from DC-to-AC and AC-to-DC required to connect PV panels and energy storage batteries to the increasing number of DC loads in buildings. Eliminating these conversions can save 10-18% energy in a fully DC building microgrid, reduce the cost of the equipment by eliminating the conversion circuitry, and eliminate a common failure point within the equipment. For example, a recent DOE study that implemented accelerated stress testing on LED drivers found that 64% of the drivers failed within the 6,000 hour accelerated testing period, with all failures attributed to the Stage 1 driver circuitry that performs the AC-to-DC conversion. If the conversion circuitry within drivers is eliminated, drivers may cost less and last longer.

The ideal applications for DC building microgrids are buildings where resiliency and/or sustainability are important and where PV and/or energy storage batteries are being installed. The resiliency benefits can help avoid costly downtime for a business or critical facility, and the 10-18% energy savings can help achieve a Zero Energy Building and qualify for special LEED points available to DC power systems.

DiLouie: How does LED lighting, networked lighting controls, and sensors/integration between lighting and other building systems/IoT fit in with DC building microgrids?

Arnold: LED lighting is an inherently DC technology that is well suited to DC microgrids. There are already many LED lighting products available that accept DC at their input. If using PoE, the networking is built-in and one of the key benefits of PoE is its integration and IoT potential. You don’t have to use POE though, and a wireless networked lighting control system can work just as well with DC LED lighting.

DiLouie: There are currently two approaches, one being PoE to move power and data and the other low-voltage distribution (e.g., EMerge Alliance) to move power. Do you see these approaches continuing to coexist, or do you believe they will congeal around a single standard to simplify the market?

Arnold: There are benefits both for the EMerge Alliance and the PoE approaches, and I expect we’ll continue to see them both for the foreseeable future. Though PoE has a lot of momentum and some unique benefits, it may not be the best solution from an energy efficiency perspective. Studies have found that there can be a lot of power losses within the CAT 5/6/7 network cabling and standby power losses within the PoE networking switches. These can be mitigated through larger gauge wire within PoE cabling, shorter cable runs, and improved switch design.

DiLouie: What are current barriers to adoption of DC building microgrids, and how they should they be addressed?

Arnold: This is still an early stage with these technologies, and it will take time to raise awareness, improve the equipment availability, and then educate the workforce in how to apply and install it. Among the biggest barriers we heard is the lack of available equipment that accepts DC at the input – even though the loads are inherently DC. Equipment manufacturers continue to include AC-to-DC converters at the equipment input. This is a chicken-and-egg scenario whereby equipment manufacturers are unwilling to divert resources to develop DC input equipment without a significant market to support it, and that market will not develop without more equipment choices and competition. The way forward is to start with the technologies and applications with the most compelling value propositions, or where there is already available equipment. LED lighting is a great example. Electric vehicle chargers are another. These can help build the case and gain experience towards fully DC building microgrids.

DiLouie: What’s in it for the electrical contractor? What kind of opportunities are developing for them?

Arnold: As we move towards smarter and more sustainable buildings, these new technologies will be needed, and we’ll need trained contractors to install them. PoE is a great example, I expect we’ll see a lot more of it. Now that PoE can power building loads up to 90 watts, there are a lot more loads within the building that may move in this direction over conventional AC wiring. Electrical contractors would be well-served to become familiar with installing PoE technologies.

DiLouie: What is the legislative climate for requiring a licensed electrician for installing PoE systems, and what does this mean for the electrical contracting community?

Arnold: Since the finalization of the 2018 PoE standard that enabled 90 watts to be carried through PoE cabling, a turf war of sorts has emerged. PoE is considered Class 2 low-voltage by the National Electric Code. It is safer, does not require conduit, and may have lower licensing requirements for its installation in some jurisdictions. Industry advocacy groups have gotten involved and in 2019 legislation was introduced in 22 states that would effectively require PoE to be installed by fully licensed electricians. Most of this legislation stalled or changed and it remains to be seen if or how licensing requirements may change for PoE installations. Regardless of the outcome, this indicates the potential growth expected with PoE systems in powering other loads within buildings, including lighting.

DiLouie: What extension opportunities are available for electrical contractors, such as integration and IoT?

Arnold: We’ll continue to see more movement to smart buildings and you can’t have a smart building without integrating your building systems together. We expect integration of lighting with HVAC and building management systems, security systems, industrial systems, and with new applications enabled by IoT. In fact, the Department of Energy has just launched a national campaign around this called the Integrated Lighting Campaign. I encourage readers to check it out at www.integratedlightingcampaign.energy.gov. The need and demand for system integrators to integrate these systems will continue to grow and this may be a good opportunity for electrical contractors to pursue.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry only one thing about integrating lighting with DC microgrids, what would it be?

Arnold: Though it is relatively early stages of these technologies, I would encourage industry to collaborate in the development of standards where possible. The proliferation of proprietary solutions can work against the integration opportunities and slow the overall market adoption of these beneficial technologies.

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Tunable White Positions Itself as a Lighting Tool

White-light color tuning is one of the most exciting advantages of LED lighting, providing the ability to adjust luminaire color output across the white light spectrum. As the timed spectral emission of light plays a part in circadian lighting—the application of light to promote circadian health—this developing trend offers the potential to take tunable white more mainstream.

Below is my contribution to the November issue of tED Magazine, the official publication of the NAED. Reprinted with permission.

White-light color tuning is one of the most exciting advantages of LED lighting, providing the ability to adjust luminaire color output across the white light spectrum. As the timed spectral emission of light plays a part in circadian lighting—the application of light to promote circadian health—this developing trend offers the potential to take tunable white more mainstream.

“Interest in tunable-white lighting is fueled by increased adoption of the WELL Building Standard and with more research demonstrating the positive impact tunable-white lighting can have on our moods and productivity,” said Rahul Shira, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Signify US (www.signify.com).

Tunable-white lighting products produce white light that can be adjusted over a range of correlated color temperatures, typically from a visually warm (orangish-white) 2700K up to a visually cool (bluish-white) 5000K or 6500K. This is accomplished via the relative dimming of separately controllable arrays of warm- and cool-white LEDs, or primaries. Other colors may be added to enhance the spectrum of available color output while maximizing color rendering across the dimming range. While some screwbase LED replacement lamps offer white-light tuning as a feature, it is primarily featured in luminaires.

As a new capability, tunable white has created new lighting applications. It can be used to change the apparent warming or cooling of a space, set a mood, visually emphasize room finishes or artwork, simulate daylight or candlelight, and signal activity changes in spaces such as classrooms.

As the industry develops best practices for circadian lighting, the primary utility of tunable-white lighting remains its ability to signal and support activity and mood changes for occupant productivity and wellbeing. Image courtesy of Hubbell Lighting.

“If implemented correctly, tunable-white solutions can enhance people’s moods by giving them a touchstone to the outside world, especially in spaces where they have no access to windows or daylight,” said Jeff Hungarter, Commercial Indoor Director, Cree Lighting (www.creelighting.com). “In combination with other design elements like ergonomic furniture and enhanced air quality, it can really influence the wellbeing of the people in the space.”

A promising demand driver is the potential role tunable-white lighting can play in circadian lighting and health, a relatively new aspect of lighting that deals with its non-visual effects. Circadian lighting encompasses light distribution (emphasizing vertical light to reach photoreceptors in the eye), quantity of light reaching these photoreceptors, how long and at what time of day the light is received, and the spectrum of light.

Regarding spectrum, scientific research suggests shorter-wavelength light (around 450-530 nm, bluish white) in the morning can promote circadian entrainment and thereby reduce the quantity of light required for it. As such, while the presence of tunable-white luminaires that deliver recommended spectra may not be enough on their own for circadian entrainment, they can play an important role.

These LED luminaires produce a skylight appearance and simulated daylight effect, using advanced lighting control and color tuning to simulate dawn-to-dusk, east-to-west travel of the sun. Image courtesy of Cree Lighting.

“Don’t be fooled—tunable-white lighting is not automatically circadian lighting,” Hungarter cautioned. “Tunable white can and will play an integral role when the lighting design is done to ensure quantity, timing, and other parameters for circadian lighting are met. Ongoing research and education are going to be key as we drive health and well-being into current and future lighting designs.”

This potential opportunity has created demand for design guidance. Currently, there are two guidelines for circadian lighting. One is UL’s Design Guide 24480, Design Guideline for Promoting Circadian Entrainment with Light for Day-Active People, which is largely based on Lighting Research Center recommendations and research, and the other is the WELL Building Standard, a points-based healthy building rating system that is potentially a significant demand driver for circadian lighting. Both account for spectral emission, which can be used to reduce quantity of light, though they use different metrics and WELL is more concerned with achieving a certain spectral profile (D65), while UL is more flexible.

The COVID pandemic has increased interest in designing around health and wellness. This is nominally good for lighting features such as disinfecting light, circadian lighting, and intelligent lighting control that enables space management, support of social distancing, and contact tracing. So far, however, tunable white has minimally benefited; the predominant beneficiary, at least in terms of interest, has been germicidal light.

“Designers are applying tunable white in education, healthcare, and higher-end commercial suites, where the circadian or aesthetic effects have value,” said David Venhaus, Manager of Training and Curriculum Development in the Lighting Solutions Center at Hubbell Lighting (www.hubbell-ltg.com). “COVID is driving more interest in disinfection options like UV-C or 405-nm visible blue disinfection lights.”

As a result, despite its utility, tunable white continues to face hurdles to adoption including a cost premium, more complex wiring, potentially more sophisticated controls, and a lower efficacy than fixed-color sources. While it is increasing in adoption, the market is still developing as end-users become more aware of its benefits and how to quantify these benefits.

This requires a conversation with customers that includes return on investment based on energy efficiency but also includes non-energy benefits of being able to adjust color appearance and resulting mood and atmosphere. The key to this transition and support of new lighting technologies like tunable white and intelligent lighting control is an educated customer and consultants like electrical distributors.

“Distributors can help guide end-user customers on their lighting decisions and advise them on how to shift their focus from energy savings-based ROI and take advantage of a combination of energy and occupant wellness-based justifications,” Shira said. “Moreover, distributors can add value by promoting qualified tunable-white lighting packages between fixture providers and control providers, with the understanding that manufacturers that offer both elements have robust and consistent performance and are capable of dealing with the complexity of correlated color temperature, intensity, and spectral tuning.”

“Invest the time, energy, and resources to establish a solid baseline understanding of the latest developments in tunable-white technology,” Venhaus advised. “Get familiar with the technology in the luminaires and the control systems used. And make sure you understand how the final end-user interface works because this is the key to a successful user experience.”

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Lighting Controls Association Offers Two Free Webinars and Publishes New Course

The Lighting Controls Association now offers two YouTube webinars on tunable-white lighting and automatic plug load control, plus a new course on integrating lighting control and building automation systems.

The Lighting Controls Association now offers two YouTube webinars on tunable-white lighting and automatic plug load control, plus a new course on integrating lighting control and building automation systems.

I presented the webinars in my role as education director for the LCA. The 30-minute tunable-white webinar provides a deep overview of tunable-white lighting, covering benefits and applications, advantages and disadvantages, color basics, the different types of color-tunable lighting, hardware and protocols, specification issues, and more. The shorter automatic plug load control webinar provides an overview of approaches used to automatically control plug loads in commercial buildings, covering code requirements, strategies, devices, system integration, and key decision-making points. Check them out anytime below:

Authored by C. Webster Marsh of HLB Lighting Design, the integration course covers integrators and key decision points when integrating a lighting control and building automation system. Check it out by clicking here and then clicking on the Education Express tab.

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DLC’s Christina Halfpenny on Tapping the Peak Shaving Power of Lighting Controls

“The technology exists to not only greatly increase the efficacy of commercial lighting, but to capitalize on its largely untapped potential to reduce peak demand. It’s time for regulation and practice to catch up with technology.”

Guest post by Christina Halfpenny, Executive Director and CEO of the DesignLights Consortium.

This past summer featured relentless hot, humid weather across many parts of the US, with sweltering days spanning into one heat wave after another. As air conditioners were pressed into overdrive, soaring electricity consumption inevitably spiked peak energy demand, often the most expensive energy to supply.

In the wake of peak demand days around the country, it’s an opportune time to consider the economic and environmental importance of reducing the peak – as well as how we can derive that value through energy efficiency programs that commercial and industrial electricity customers participate in already.

According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), demand charges can account for up to 70 percent of monthly electricity bills for many commercial and industrial customers. Any action that holds down peak demand has a positive impact on the bottom line for these demand-billed customers. Peak shaving can also reduce the need to turn on seldom used “peaking plants”- typically the least efficient and most polluting generating facilities – or negate the need for supplemental generating capacity.

While air conditioning drives the summer peak, the lighting sector has role to play in reducing peak demand. Recent research indicates that role could be substantial if states and EE programs adopt policies that accurately calculate and value the energy savings potential of advanced lighting systems – namely those that pair state-of-the-art LED lighting with networked lighting controls (NLC).

We’ve known for some time the increased value NLCs can bring to LED lighting projects, as well as their ability to advance building intelligence by collecting data on space utilization, occupancy and other factors that enable building systems to respond to the real-time needs of both facility managers and occupants.  In terms of energy savings, a September 2020 study by the DLC and Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance found that the ability of NLCs to boost the energy efficiency of stand-alone LED commercial lighting projects averaged 49 percent, varying from 28 to 68 percent across eight different building types.

Adding to this, a joint DLC-Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) study published last year found that efficiency programs that combine lighting technology upgrades with NLCs could see an additional 22 percent lifetime energy savings, on average.  Importantly, this first-of-its-kind analysis found that taking a systems approach to EE program support for LEDs and NLCs could yield summer peak savings of over 37,000 megawatts by 2035 – equal to seventy-four 500-megawatt power plants, or 5 percent of the generating capacity of the entire 2017 fleet of U.S fossil fuel power plants.

These savings risk staying on the table, however, without updates to EE program policies and regulations. Currently, EE programs underestimate the true value of NLCs by ignoring savings possible by installing lighting upgrades and NLCs as an integrated system, as well as by over-reliance on annual (first-year) savings rather than the lifetime savings potential of NLCs.

The peak demand impact possible through installation of advanced lighting systems was recently emphasized by a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study detailing how EE programs can help utilities meet peak demand at relatively low cost. Based on a survey of 36 investor-owned utilities in nine states, LBNL’s research found that “electricity efficiency programs appear to be a relatively low cost way for utilities to meet peak demand, compared to the capital cost of other resources that can be used to meet peak demand.”

Specific to the role of NLCs in reducing the peak, LBNL noted, “our results suggest that electricity programs that reduce peak demand merit strong consideration by utilities and regional grid operators. Further, ‘active’ efficiency measures such as lighting controls enable active management of efficiency resources, offering additional grid services.”

This point goes to the ability of some lighting controls to respond to demand, seamlessly reducing energy consumption when electrical load is heavy. In this way, NLCs have distinct peak shaving benefits over traditional efficiency measures that cannot be easily dispatched as needed.  While not all NLCs have this capability, there are 32 systems on the DLC’s Qualified Products List that do – in addition to a number of other capabilities like energy monitoring and plug load control.

The technology exists to not only greatly increase the efficacy of commercial lighting, but to capitalize on its largely untapped potential to reduce peak demand. It’s time for regulation and practice to catch up with technology.

The international science community is clear that even hotter summers are in our future. By adopting strategies that accentuate and leverage a systems approach that captures the ability of LEDs and NLCs to impact peak demand, EE programs have a valuable opportunity to reduce the volume of electricity society needs to handle a warming climate.

 

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