Upgrading lighting to impactfully lower emissions
December 12, 2019
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By Luis Ramirez
Sustainability is a top priority for companies of all sizes, and today nearly 600 worldwide have formally adopted ambitious science-based targets for lowering emissions. Reducing environmental impact and conserving natural resources aren’t just good publicity, they’re also good for business, with a third of consumers saying they’d rather buy from companies doing good for the planet and its people.
In honour of Energy Conservation Day on December 14, cutting power consumption tops the list of sustainability initiatives for many organizations. While the majority look to process improvements, equipment optimization and facility upgrades as solutions that deliver the greatest impact, many overlook one of the simplest, most impactful sustainability upgrades that can deliver long-term ROI: updating the lights.
In fact, lighting accounts for 11 per cent of commercial energy consumption in Canada and, as a result, is a major driver of carbon emissions and air pollution. The industrial sector consumes 54 per cent of delivered energy globally, and with industrial lights often on 24/7, they consume 58 terawatt hours (TWh) a year—enough to power a third of all homes in the U.S.
The biggest reason for this massive usage is the fact that, of the hundreds of millions of industrial light fixtures in place, more than 90 per cent are antiquated and inefficient, like high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures. These are not only huge drains on the electrical grid (and the energy budget) but they’re also just a poor-quality light. The unnatural orange glow from HPS fixtures often requires more lights to illuminate the same area, and workers must often use supplemental lighting from portable halogen lights, which compounds the problem, consuming more energy and further contributing to environmental impact.
Driven to find a better alternative, conserve energy and reduce environmental impact, a growing number of industrial companies are demanding more modern solutions like industrial LED technology. Proven to be the most energy-efficient industrial lighting source on the market, LED lighting offers substantial electricity savings over any other lighting option. While many suppliers tout their face-value efficiency—the most advanced LED fixtures can reduce energy use by up to 80 per cent compared to high-intensity discharge fixtures—that’s only the beginning.
With the addition of a smart lighting system, LED technology can help drive even greater ROI, savings and sustainability for your customers. Here’s how:
- Programmable lighting. With smart lighting, facilities can design a programmed scheme that turns lights on and off on a schedule based on shifts, production demands and other parameters. This ensures the lights get turned off when not in use, which drastically cuts down on energy consumption.
- Occupancy sensors. LED fixtures can easily be equipped with occupancy sensors to activate and turn on lights only when there’s movement or activity in the designated area. This is ideal for warehouse and storage facilities where there may be areas that see very little activity, but the lights must typically be left on, just in case. With occupancy sensors, the lights practically operate themselves, cutting down on burn time substantially.
- Daylight harvesting and dynamic dimming. Conventional fixtures are not practically compatible with dimming, which shortens their already-short lifespan even further. LEDs, on the other hand, easily support dimming capabilities, which makes them perfectly suited for daylight harvesting, reducing the amount of artificial light (and energy consumed) when ambient light is available. Fully automated systems can make these adjustments dynamically, for hands-off efficiency.
- Smart lighting management. Because LED lighting systems are essentially data networks, some can even connect to centralized building management systems. Here, operators can monitor energy consumption real-time and determine when lights need maintenance. With this visibility, facilities can take a much more proactive approach to managing lighting energy consumption and adjust their program schemes as needed.
- Automated demand response (ADR) capability. As demand on the electrical grid increases across the country, a growing number of utility companies are asking industrial customers to participate in ADR These consist of parameters—agreed upon by both the utility and the customer—by which the customer’s power load will automatically be lowered in times of peak demand, in order to reduce the risk of brownouts and blackouts. Because LED smart lighting systems support this kind of programming, and lights can be dimmed or individually turned off in alternating patterns, this gives companies the flexibility to participate in ADR programs, which not only reduce energy consumption, but can also qualify your customers for significant energy rebates and financial incentives.
In addition to these smart lighting features, LED fixtures require far less maintenance than conventional fixtures, which helps to save energy by reducing the need for mechanical lifts and production shutdowns. In climate-controlled facilities, the fact that LED fixtures produce exceptionally far less heat than HPS also helps to reduce the demand on HVAC systems—lower heat output means the AC runs less, which can make a huge difference in energy consumption.
Across the entire industrial sector, the impact of converting to LED is significant. Studies show that if all 455,000 industrial facilities in the U.S. alone were to convert to high-efficiency LED lights, it would cut energy consumption by 52 Twh, eliminating 28 million tons of carbon emissions.
While some facilities may be hesitant to make the leap to LED lighting technology due to the perceived higher up-front cost, the payback for LED is much higher. Industrial LED lighting provides a wide range of value-added opportunities to further reduce energy usage, cost and overall total cost of ownership over a longer lifespan that other systems simply can’t offer. The result is not only a lower electricity bill each month, but also a much higher energy ROI and improved sustainability for your customers.
Luis Ramirez is the chief operations officer at Dialight and is responsible for global operations, including: direct and contract manufacturing; supply chain, planning and logistics; quality, warranty and technical services; and sustainability initiatives.
 Natural Resources Canada, 2019
 U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2016
 U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Lighting Market Characterization”; ECG analysis
 U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Energy Savings Forecast”, p. 18
 GE “ROI of LED”
 U.S. Dept. of Energy, Lighting Market Characterization, Tables 4-1, 4-22