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A century ago, less than ten percent of the world’s population lived in cities. With population growth and a global shift toward geographic consolidation in metropolitan areas, it is predicted that two out of every three people on earth will be calling a city home by 2030.

Today’s cities consume more than 70% of the world’s energy supply — a figure which will only increase over time. More energy needs, a greater drain on resources…

Something has to give.

Can smart technology support our cities of the future? We think so. Lighting accounts for 19% of the world’s total electricity consumption, with almost two-thirds of that energy being used to light our cities’ commercial and public buildings, with a further 15% going to lighting the streets.

Energy Efficient Lighting Solutions

With LED solutions becoming more and more efficient—and less costly—will these innovations in lighting lower the energy demands of cities as well as improve the energy efficiency of the lighting sector? While we believe the answer is yes, some behavioral factors may act as early impediments to maximizing energy efficiency in the lighting sector.

When efficient lighting hardware is combined with intelligent controls, savings in electricity consumption of 50-80% are quite common. Unfortunately, many project owners are still demanding ROIs of 1-3 years for lighting systems that will “sit under the ceiling” for the next 10-25 years.

Walmart has implemented LED lighting in their stores and parking lots.

Walmart has implemented LED lighting in their stores and parking lots.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Another big problem faced by potential project initiators is uncertainty caused by suppliers who, in their (sometimes unscrupulous) zeal to sell wares and maximize profits, are making inaccurate claims that often conflict with each other. If efficient lighting solutions are to become more widely and rapidly adopted, buyer confidence in objectively standardized information is going to be key to the process.

Energy Efficient Lighting Getting Less Expensive

The bell curve of price decline has also caused reticence for all but “early adopters” to embrace the change. As with the commercial roll-out of any “new” technology, there is fear that the deal is going to get better in the next financial period. Without considering comparative minimum performance standards, “price over performance” decisions will continue to be made based on incomplete, inaccurate data.

Re-examine Specs to Accommodate Energy Efficient Lighting

We in the industry also need to think more carefully about recommended lighting levels and look more closely at the tasks being performed in the environments being lit. Systems that are glaring, too hot, too dim, misfocused, unsuitable for the purpose, or just dead-ugly do not enhance design or increase productivity.

For example, many offices are still specifying task area lighting of 500 Lux when the work being performed is entirely computer-based, making that standard far less than ideal. As users in those environments find these lighting levels uncomfortably high, those that failed to consider these factors are now finding that removing lamps or having whole systems switched off is their only remaining solution. Aside from the costs of lost productivity incurred during this “let’s fix it” phase, the overall cost of the installation itself would likely have been significantly reduced if this had been considered from inception.

Time Will Tell

In the end, lighting technology is becoming more efficient every day, and that trend is going to continue. However, the industry’s job of communicating the benefits of adoption is not what it should be at the moment, but there is hope that this will improve as the technology matures and becomes more widely known.