Phase out residential lighting programs? Not so fast…

LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs have become a major market player in recent years and can be expected to grow when new lighting efficiency standards come into effect in 2020. Utilities might be tempted to think that there is little of this “low-hanging fruit” left for residential efficiency programs to pluck. Before utility program planners sunset this portfolio mainstay, however, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy You are leaving suggests you take a closer look at the particulars of your program.

Well-designed lighting programs will likely continue to garner savings for utilities through 2019, but the outlook gets more complicated on January 1, 2020. For one thing, regional differences play a role in how lighting programs perform after the standards are raised. LED adoption varies from state to state and even within states. In most of WAPA’s territory, LEDs are between 20 and 30 percent of the light bulbs purchased. That leaves plenty of room for an effective program to grow the market.

Sales data indicates that lighting programs and retail support are strong drivers of LED adoption. Also, preliminary evidence from New York and Massachusetts indicate that LED adoption drops when programs end. So utilities would be premature to start scaling back their lighting programs—certainly where LED sales are low, and even in states like California where LEDs represent 40 percent of light bulb sales.

ACEEE identifies several program options that could continue the progress in lighting efficiency, even after the standards go into effect.

  • Underserved markets: Lighting programs can find additional savings by targeting rural, elderly and low-income market segments that have been slower to adopt LEDs.
  • Specialty lamps: LED versions of popular specialty lamp styles are now available, including decorative, candelabra, globe and reflector lamps. Yet these styles sell significantly fewer units than general-purpose LED lamps, suggesting that consumers need more education about the products.
  • High quality lamps: Programs should continue to promote high-performing ENERGY STAR-branded products, rather than “value” LED lamps that do not meet ENERGY STAR standards.
  • Controls: Dimming and occupancy controls offer significant additional savings opportunities. Lighting programs can help connect consumers to quality control solutions that are easy to install and operate.

While residential lighting efficiency programs still have plenty of savings left to tap, the technology’s increasing efficiency will eventually end their usefulness. It is not too soon for utilities to start considering the next opportunities for helping customers control and reduce their energy use.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 4/9/18

LEDs relight Mountain Village

San Miguel Power AssociationYou are leaving serving Colorado’s Western Slope, recently teamed up with Cooperative Business Lighting Partners You are leaving and the town of Mountain Village, Colorado, to replace 4,828 conventional light bulbs with efficient LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.

The Relight Mountain Village program provided town residents with deeply discounted LED bulbs to improve lighting efficiency in their homes or businesses. Cooperative Business Lighting Partners sold a variety of LED bulbs at a reduced rate to Mountain Village residents. San Miguel funded the discount with a generous rebate passed through from its wholesale power provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission AssociationYou are leaving along with $20,000 from the town’s energy reduction projects budget.

Cooperative Business Lighting Partners estimates that the project will reduce the town’s overall energy use for lighting by 518,998 kilowatt-hours annually, and have a payback period of less than four months.

Learn more about this stunningly successful community program in SMPA’s December newsletter (page 2).

Source: San Miguel Power Association, 12/2/14

Technology Spotlight: New lighting technologies may make canopy retrofit a winner

Exterior lighting attracts customers to retail locations, enhances safety conditions and improves the perception of safety in spaces where pedestrian and vehicle traffic mix, such as convenience stores with gas pumps. TSsidebar1

Gas station canopy lighting operates for long hours in all weather conditions to light the fuel pumping area. Metal halide (MH) lighting has long dominated this application, but LED and induction lighting offer an alternative. These products save energy, reduce maintenance, provide higher-quality light and offer more control options. The biggest unknown is if the technologies can deliver the promised long lamp life in real-world conditions. High-quality fixtures are the key to achieving that longevity.

Better, not more, lighting
While energy codes reduce power allowances and regulate light pollution, businesses still want to look brighter than their neighbors to attract more customers. New technologies can provide more light with less energy, and a good retrofit can put the right amount of light where you need it without producing excess light.

Some utility programs promote canopy lighting retrofits with incentives and the promise of energy savings. LEDs can often deliver more useful light for less than half the energy MH lamps use, but there are no standard rules about how many LEDs are needed to replace MHs.

According to the Illuminating Engineering SocietyRedirecting to a non-government site (IES), measured and perceived light levels are not directly related. An articleRedirecting to a non-government site by the National Lighting Product Information Program explains that the perceived brightness of a space is affected by the average light level, contrast and distribution, and amount of light produced. For example, a recent retrofit projectRedirecting to a non-government site replaced 56 320-watt MH fixtures with 30 142-watt LED luminaires, reducing energy use by 80 percent.

Different luminaires, different needs
A recent survey of canopy retrofits found very high light levels under canopies but not enough area lighting beyond the structures. This high contrast can impair vision. People also feel safer when they can see and respond to what is going on beyond their immediate space.

Many gas pump islands exceed the light level recommendations for these retail spaces in the horizontal plane (see sidebar), while vertical light levels are often much lower. These levels should be the same because vertical light is needed to make people and objects more visible.  TSsidebar2

A qualified lighting designer can maximize lighting effectiveness and energy savings by using different types of luminaires on different parts of a property. The IES classifies luminaires according to the amount of light that they distribute upward. Full-cutoff fixtures direct all their light down, while semi-cutoff fixtures emit some light sideways. Non-cutoff fixtures may be omnidirectional and contribute to light pollution. Using a variety of luminaires in different locations ensures that there is enough light to meet customers’ needs and it does not create glare or other safety issues.

Realistic energy savings expectations
Understanding how much of the total energy bill canopy lighting represents helps in managing savings expectations. Exterior lighting at convenience stores can consume 20 percent of the total energy useRedirecting to a non-government site. Convenience stores and truck stops have many other significant energy loads, such as refrigeration and heating and cooling. If those systems are upgraded at the same time, or if electricity rates change, energy savings from a lighting retrofit may be obscured.

Many facilities still rely on manual controls, even though photocells and timer controls are available. MH is most efficient when left on for at least 10 hours; in contrast, LEDs and induction lamps can be switched frequently without affecting their lamp life or light quality. Bi-level operation—lamps that come up to full power when customers arrive and drop to a lower light level when customers leave—might offer additional savings at less busy stations.

More savings from maintenance?
MH lamps have a relatively short lifespan (10,000 to 20,000 hours) compared to LED and induction lamps (50,000 to 100,000-plus hours), and experience much higher depreciation of lighting quality over time. To compensate for these drawbacks and to avoid frequent expensive replacements, facilities using MH lamps often over-light. LEDs and induction lamps, with their long lamp life and more durable quality, can reduce the need for maintenance and over-lighting. Maintenance savings may accumulate faster than energy savings, improving the payback in spite of high first costs.

As LED performance improves and costs decline, this technology has become competitive in many markets, especially when factoring in total cost of ownership rather than energy savings alone. Induction lighting may also be worth considering.

Call Western’s Energy Experts hotline, 800-769-3756, for more guidance on customer lighting projects.

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New LED streetlights light up Palo Alto

The City of Palo Alto Utilities Redirecting to a non-government site (CPAU) is in the process of installing LED streetlights throughout Palo Alto. This is no short-term project, but a long-term commitment to upgrading the city’s public lighting. Rather than singling out a particular neighborhood, the utility is pursuing installation in phases.

Not all streetlights are being replaced either—the old-fashioned “Washington” and “tear drop” style lightposts will remain. LED streetlights are only being installed where previously there were “cobra-head” style streetlights.

To determine public interest in LED streetlighting, the city ran a pilot program where they installed the energy-efficient lighting technology in various areas around town and invited the public to comment on them. The feedback from those who responded was generally positive, and so the first phase of the project went forward with the aid of a federal grant.

The benefits to the city and its residents are many:

  • 40 percent less electricity use than older high-pressure sodium [HPS] lamps
  • Longer lamp lifespan, meaning fewer replacements
  • Smaller carbon footprint
  • Increased visibility from bright, direct light

The city has found that most residents are very happy with the better illumination of these new streetlights. However, if neighbors agree that the light level is a problem, they can contact CPAU for an evaluation of the location.

LED workshop focuses on municipal uses

The City of San José, Calif., hosted the Municipal Solid State Lighting Consortium’s (MSSL)   final workshop of the 2011 fiscal year Aug. 25 and 26.

Following a welcome by San José Mayor Chuck Reed, 88 attendees spent a day and a half exploring topics that included: 

  • City of San José LED Street Lighting Program
  • Reading and Understanding LM-79 & LM-80
  • Cost Benefit Analysis Financial Tools – Evaluating the Impacts
  • LED Streetlights and the Environment
  • Calculating Light Loss Factors in the LED World
  • The MSSLC Consortium’s LED Luminaire Specification
  • Purchasing an LED and Advanced Control System – Lessons Learned
  • California LED Street Lighting Tariff Pilot Program for Variable Usage
  • Technology and Market Assessment of Networked Outdoor Lighting Controls – NEEA Study
  • MSSLC Specification – Remote Monitoring and Adaptive Lighting Control Systems

Audience participation was particularly strong for the session, Cost Benefit Analysis Financial Tools, presented by Emma Berndt of Clinton Climate Initiative. The need for such a tool became evident when the speaker asked who would download this program when it became available, and just about everyone in the audience raised their hands. This presentation, along with Jason Tuenge’s presentation on the new luminaire specification, energized attendees with anticipation for these two documents that MSSL will release over the next few weeks.

Attendees also had opportunities to network during extended breaks and lunch.  Participants came from as far away as Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Thursday evening, most of the attendees joined a bus tour of San José’s residential and arterial street outdoor LED lighting and controls pilot installations. The outing included a tour of the Philips Lumileds LED fabrication plant in San José, providing an overview on how this technology works. Attendees learned which fixtures and which applications result in best performance and the most energy savings. 

According to attendee surveys, the workshop offered much-needed insight into the use of LEDs in municipal applications. Download the workshop presentations and other materials to learn more.

The MSSL Consortium is busy planning educational activities for the new fiscal year. Expect a webinar this fall on the Cost Benefit Analysis financial tools.

Community projects highlighted on Day 2 of forum

Presentations focused on improving energy efficiency at the community level, as the Utility Energy Forum moved into its second day.

Streetlighting project
The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) is conducting a pilot program to evaluate the potential energy savings and lighting quality of LED and induction streetlights. Project Manager Christine Tam explained that the municipal utility operates and maintains 6,300 high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps ranging from 70 to 250 watts. The city streetlights are on a five-year replacement plan.

LED and induction technologies both have life spans of 100,000 hours compared to 24,000 hours for HPS, reducing their operation costs. A further advantage LED has over the other lamps is that it contains no mercury.

The city installed alternative lighting in three test areas—one with 20 LED lamps, a second with 30 LEDs and a third area with induction lights. As part of the evaluation, residents and city workers offered feedback on their opinion about the light quality. In Palo Alto and other cities that have installed LEDs, some residents complain about bright white light. City workers, however, often prefer it to dimmer HPS lights. Installing dimmers on LED streetlights can mitigate complaints, but adds to the cost.

The results of the pilot program indicate that for Palo Alto, LEDs are marginally cost-effective, especially where the lights are new installs. Tam points out that the city is calculating the savings based on its own avoided cost of $.08 per kWh. A city that pays a utility for electricity will probably have greater savings. CPAU expects to release a full report on the lighting pilot this summer.

Working with ARRA funding
The challenges of using funding from the American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was the subject of a presentation by Tara Vogel, renewable energy analyst for Nevada State Energy Office.

As exciting as it is for energy agencies to have access to funding, meeting Federal regulations in addition to state and internal provisions can slow implementation. Many rules are still under review for exceptions, and vendors may resist buying materials until procurement requirements are settled.

Even the so-called “shovel-ready” projects may hit stumbling blocks. The State Energy Office had worked on many retrofit projects on schools with NV Energy. When some districts realized that Federal money was available, they asked to change their proposals to stretch the dollars further. “They had no idea of the paperwork that was involved in changing the project specifications,” said Vogel. 

Nevertheless, Nevada is charging forward on ARRA projects—ahead of schedule, in some cases. Panel moderator Janis Erickson of Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) observed that the ARRA era is new territory for energy-efficiency programs, and utilities and municipalities must be flexible and ready to learn.

Partner with your local community college
That sentiment was echoed by Sandy Kirschenmann, Vice Chancellor, Los Rios Community College District in the Sacramento area. Los Rios has a long-standing partnership with SMUD, most recently focusing on developing curriculums around the skills needed to install smart grid and renewable technologies.

Kirschenmann urged utilities to reach out to local community colleges to supply the training component necessary for many ARRA grants. “Community colleges, like ARRA, are all about jobs, jobs, jobs,” she said.

Contacting the president or chancellor of the college is the most important step a utility can take. “The presidents are very in tune with the needs of their communities, and they are always looking for ways to keep their curriculums current and relevant,” Kirschenmann said. “The president will take your call.”

 She also advised finding an advocate on the teaching staff who is developing the training programs. Sometimes, the utility representative becomes that person. Scott Terrell of Truckee Donner Public Utility District told the audience that, after 25 years of developing water and energy conservation programs for utilities, he had started teaching classes at the new community college in Truckee.

After establishing contact with the community college, utilities can bring economic development agencies, workforce investment entities and advisory boards into the partnership.

Above all, Kirschenmann concluded, be tolerant of ambiguity. “ARRA money rolled out very fast and things change from day to day,” she said. “The utilities that can respond to those changes will emerge as the real leaders.”