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Nathalie Osborn, LEED AP
Director, Smart Grid Initiatives
NextEnergy

Lighting technology energy solutions logoIn February 2020, NextEnergy wrapped up the Lighting Technology Energy Solutions (LiTES) Program, a three-year public-private partnership with DTE, Consumers Energy and the Detroit Electrical Industry Training Center (EITC). The LiTES Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, sought to reduce energy use in small and medium commercial buildings by accelerating the adoption of advanced/networked lighting controls (ALC/NLC) through contractor training and technology deployment.

Over the course of its three-year implementation, the program deployed ALC/NLC technology in 27 small and medium commercial buildings, gaining valuable insights from building owners, property managers, contractors and trainees on their experiences of the ALC/NLC system installations.

ALC/NLC technologies were instrumental in furthering energy conservation efforts beyond installing LED upgrades alone

The potential for increased energy savings influenced building owners and property managers to install ALC/NLC at the 27 demonstration sites. System capabilities include:

  • Networking of luminaires and devices
  • Occupancy sensing
  • Daylight harvesting/photocell control
  • High-end trim
  • Zoning
  • Individual addressability
  • Continuous dimming
  • Energy monitoring

Measurement and verification (M&V) performed at 10 of these sites showed energy savings ranging from 3.67% to 46.55%, with an average 29.19% reduction in energy use specifically attributed to the implementation of ALC/NLC systems.

One of the overall program objectives was to demonstrate ALC/NLC energy savings of approximately 650,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) to 13,000,000 kWh, coinciding with greenhouse gas emission reductions of approximately 483 to 9,659.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide for 100 demonstration sites. While M&V was only performed at 10 sites, estimated energy savings of 515,968 kWh corresponded to greenhouse gas emission reductions of 299.4 equivalent metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide. These findings for the 10 M&V sites came within 79% of energy savings and 62% of the emission reductions for the original goal of 100 demonstration sites, respectively. As the 10 M&V sites only reflect 10% of the original 100 demonstration sites goal, estimated energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions could have surpassed the desired energy savings targets and fallen within the desired emissions reduction targets.

Utility incentives play a key role in encouraging ALC/NLC market adoption by providing rebates and training

NextEnergy also led an effort to evaluate current utility incentives and identify opportunities to align utility incentives with current ALC/NLC technology to help accelerate adoption within small and medium commercial buildings. LED retrofit installations have seen at-scale success in deployment, earning energy savings for customers and helping utilities meet energy savings portfolio requirements. Achieving energy savings from innovative and advanced technologies like ALC/NLC is becoming increasingly more attractive to utilities to support their energy savings portfolio goals as LED adoption in commercial buildings reaches saturation.

Utilities also cited lower customer utility bills, increased customer satisfaction and the opportunity to incorporate ALC/NLC technologies into demand response programs as added benefits to offering incentive programs.

LiTES Program incentives for small and medium commercial customers were shown to offset customer project costs by an average of 22.77%, ranging from 4.09% to 50% of project costs. ALC/NLC systems averaged $0.66/kWh saved, and energy savings averaged 11.91 kWh/dollar of utility incentive invested.

Utility-provided incentives will be necessary to accelerate ALC/NLC market adoption into the near future. To simplify the process for contractors and customers and clarify cost-savings benefits, encouraging utilities to standardize a performance-based incentive structure could further encourage greater market adoption.

More than 310 industry stakeholders trained

More than 310 industry stakeholders were trained on ALC/NLC technologies through the LiTES Program. Efforts included developing the Michigan Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program in partnership with the Detroit Electrical Industry Training Center, which certifies contractors through classroom and hands-on training. The LiTES Program also held more than a dozen utility-sponsored trade ally training sessions and a NextEnergy-hosted LiTES Summit. The LiTES trainings provided strategies to increase building owner/property manager and contactor familiarity with ALC/NLC and encourage interest in technology adoption.

Market education is still necessary to remove barriers and increase adoption of ALC/NLC in small and medium commercial buildings

The project team conducted surveys of building owners/property managers, installation contractors and trainees to collect information on accelerating the greater adoption of ALC/NLC systems in small and medium commercial buildings. Building owners and property managers were also interviewed to provide insight on their experience with ALC/NLC systems and familiarity with available utility incentives.

According to survey findings, increased adoption of ALC/NLC will require considerable education of users/customers, distributors/sales, installers/contractors and utilities. Contractors and installers appear to be most knowledgeable of ALC/NLC, followed by architects and engineers. The building owners and property managers were the least informed on ALC/NLC and are primed to benefit most from additional ALC/NLC market and technology education and resources.

An earlier study — the DesignLights Consortium’s Commercial Advanced Lighting Controls project — identified that early adoption of ALC/NLC technologies has been greatest in larger commercial buildings. Our survey findings confirmed smaller buildings continue to struggle with overcoming challenges regarding implementing ALC/NLC projects. Reluctance toward ALC/NLC market adoption is also due to issues such as poor past experiences, lack of familiarity with the technology, lack of standard software platforms, complex configuration management and high cost.

Additionally, ALC/NLC technologies are still referred to as “emerging,” even though lighting controls have been available in the market for several years. This leads to the perception that ALC/NLC technologies may not be market ready and pursuing an ALC/NLC installation may be too risky. Shifting away from terms like “emerging technology” to more market-ready language, such as “enhanced-efficiency lighting technology,” may result in mitigating the perception that ALC/NLC are too new in the market and could support increased adoption in commercial buildings of all sizes.

Interested in learning more?

NextEnergy invites you to visit www.nextenergy.org/lites for more information and resources on advanced lighting controls, including the following LiTES Program reports:

Nathalie Osborn, LEED AP
Director, Smart Grid Initiatives
nathalieo@nextenergy.org

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