DLC Highlights Savings Potential of Networked Lighting Controls

tablet showing lighting and wifi controls for a building

(Credit: DesignLights Consortium)

by | Aug 28, 2023

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tablet showing lighting and wifi controls for a building

(Credit: DesignLights Consortium)

The DesignLights Consortium (DLC) has released a study that reveals how lighting efficiency programs and practices could better capture energy and cost savings made possible with new LED technologies.

The study, Future-Proofing Energy Efficiency with Networked Lighting Controls, recommends revising energy efficiency incentive models to gain the full benefits of network-controlled lighting (NLCs). NLCs are lighting systems that use wirelessly networked sensors to allow luminaires, or light units, to communicate.

The report explains that installation of NLCs with LED projects can increase lighting savings by about 50%. However, less than 1% of commercial luminaires in the U.S. have installed NLCs at present.

The study found integrating NLCs with other building systems to better manage HVACs and leveraging NLCs to reduce peak loads can yield “substantial energy and demand savings, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and societal benefits.” Especially for large offices, retail buildings, healthcare centers, and other energy-intensive buildings, significant energy savings can be achieved, particularly when NLCs are paired with HVAC systems.

“As first-generation LEDs are reaching the end of their useful lives and second-generation LED replacements are planned for offices, industrial buildings, and other commercial facilities nationwide, it’s important for us to understand the savings potential of NLCs in a world where decarbonization is a high priority,” said Christina Halfpenny, DLC executive director and CEO. “In both the Northeast and Southwest scenarios, the study revealed a strong case for energy efficiency investments to support controls with LED retrofits–particularly when integrated with HVAC systems.”

Study Reveals Models for Saving Millions, Explains How to Incentivize Connected Lighting

The study used computer models of Connecticut and Arizona to characterize two differing regions of the U.S., finding 2030 commercial building electric energy consumption reductions of 10% in Connecticut and 5% in Arizona due to NLC integration. It also found that NLC measures paired with HVACs passed the Societal Cost Test, used to assess utility system, environmental, and economic impacts of changes made to the system.

Further, businesses in Connecticut and Arizona could achieve net benefits of nearly $1.2 billion and $217 million, respectively, from reduced commercial building electric energy consumption by 2030.

The researchers recommend that regulators and energy efficiency programs only offer lighting incentives for luminaires that include NLCs or are controls-ready and discontinue incentive programs for lighting equipment that does not allow for NLC integration. It also suggests making space within budgets and designing programs to incentivize and support NLC-HVAC integration.

Although up-front costs of NLC installation may be high, the study emphasizes that their recommendations include the most cost-effective way for those with 2030 decarbonization goals to capture savings in the years to come.

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