While market transformation of residential lighting is a near term reality, with the impending EISA 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 the DLC considers “a bellwether for how and where we are allocating our resources so we can make the biggest impact on market adoption and energy efficiency,” Executive Director Christina Halfpenny told participants in a webinar conducted September 12 by the report’s author Dan Mellinger, Senior Consultant at Energy Futures Group of Vermont.  For his part, Mellinger 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 percent of C&I facilities. Over 70 percent of the nation’s C&I lighting inventory, on the other hand, comprises indoor linear fixtures – a category that currently enjoys just 6.5 percent 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, programs could capture annual energy savings approximately equal to the annual output of Arizona’s three-reactor Palo Verde Generating Station, the largest power plant in the US by net generation – at about 15 TWh per year.

Download Report: Energy Savings Potential of DLC Commercial Lighting and Networked Lighting Controls

The webinar provides some recommendations for overcoming barriers to wider adoption of NLCs, such as changes in utility program design and better education of users throughout the supply chain. Resources available through the DLC (https://www.designlights.org/) include the Networked Lighting Controls Qualified Products List which you can access by logging in here, Networked Lighting Control Installer Training Program, a 2017 Report on Energy Savings from NLC Systems, and the July 2018 Energy Savings Potential Report.  For DLC utility Members, there is also NLC Program Guidance and an NLC Energy Savings Calculator.

In conclusion, Mellinger said, “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.”