LED revolution puts lighting top of the energy efficiency agenda

LED lighting has been high on the wider energy efficiency agenda for several years, but right now no other technology change offers the same level of power reduction, whilst maintaining or improving on operational performance.

LED lighting has fast become one of the top sustainability measures taken by businesses and the public sector. Heavily-incentivised renewables may be attracting the attention from policy makers, investors and those keen to make a ‘green’ statement. But in terms of carbon abatement the deployment of LED solutions provides some of the best ratios available when it comes the amount invested per tonne of carbon reduced.

My early experience of clients deploying LED solutions was in applications where the light source was close to the illuminated surface.  This was an effective use of the technology at the time, efficacies were good in these applications, wattages were low and the business case was solid.  The step-change in more recent years has been the deployment of LED technology to illuminate wide areas and from mounting heights previously thought to be beyond the range of the technology.

Today all sectors, from logistics companies with large warehouses and external spaces to light, through to small offices and retailers, can take advantage of the LED revolution.  The commercial case for investment is strengthening as performance improves, product costs decrease and the relentless rise of energy costs continues.

The best commercial cases are present where operating hours are highest.  Where continuous operation is required payback periods are often close to one year.  However even in office applications where annual hours of operation are 3,000 or more the return on investment can be less than five years - especially where effective controls are deployed.

What is surprising is that although many companies have already grasped the opportunity, uptake is still far from universal.  So with commercial cases this strong why aren’t we seeing ubiquitous uptake of this game-changing technology? 

Lack of awareness is a major factor. The inertia around replacing systems which may be providing an adequate function is another - many businesses have the attitude that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’  But we find that a key barrier to action is the difficulty end users (often with limited technical expertise) face when seeking a supplier or partner to provide a solution.

Although there are some trusted names and robust reputations, clients are often bombarded by suppliers who have often just entered the lighting market.  This creates confusion, which in turn can add to the inertia-factor and provides an excuse for inaction.

The standard of product provided is important here: not all LEDs are equal in terms of lamp life or lamp quality.  Warranty periods matter as well – but fundamentally you do not want to deal with product failure. A good LED lighting product should be fit-and-forget.

To achieve high quality implementation, the best first step is a detailed and appropriate lighting specification from a reliable expert. This is a service that the Carbon Trust provides for a number of clients.  The option to trial solutions in the field can also provide peace of mind and is something many companies are keen to do especially where multiple similar sites are under consideration for upgrade.

To date the Carbon Trust has conducted technical reviews on over 1,500 energy efficient lighting projects with a total value of £38 million. In the last 12 months almost all projects reviewed have utilised LED lighting.

Many of the projects have been provided by our network of Accredited Suppliers, as listed on the Green Business Directory, whose experience and capabilities have been verified by the Carbon Trust.  Clients supported have included Tesco, Bathstore and Subway to name but a few.

LED performance and reliability has made it indisputably the leading energy efficiency technology on the market. With energy costs constantly rising, alongside the pressure to reduce carbon emissions, we expect the adoption of the technology to continue at a rapid pace. But while many organisations have woken up to the potential with LEDs, a greater awareness of the opportunity, along with improved focus on quality and confidence will help to drive up the rate of implementation and continue driving down carbon emissions.