In the morning, when you get to your desk at work, what are the first things you do? Probably put down your bag, greet your cube mates, maybe grab a coffee. But nearly everyone turns on their computer or laptop. Used to be that office workers would put down their bag; greet their coworkers in nearby offices—offices with doors, mind you—and open a newspaper, book, or magazine. This necessitated strong commercial lighting in every area of the facility. Today’s professionals are mobile, working off of backlit laptops, tablets, and smartphones; they’re not sitting down to read anymore, so offices don’t need the blinding fluorescents of the past.

Recognizing this fact, many commercial and industrial (C&I) customers are retrofitting their lighting fixtures with affordable, efficient lighting technologies that save energy and optimize lighting strength to match the activities performed at their facilities. So it’s no surprise that energy-efficient lighting programs are taking over the utility industry faster than anyone expected. But as federal minimum efficiency standards and local building codes become more stringent, how can utilities achieve more energy savings from efficient lighting? That’s where advanced lighting systems come into play. These systems are one of the greatest opportunities for increasing energy savings from lighting, especially in the C&I sector. Preliminary studies (PDF) suggest that efficient lighting upgrades coupled with advanced controls can provide up to 90 percent energy savings.

How does advanced lighting work? Advanced lighting systems provide real-time status updates, track energy and demand consumption, support Wi-Fi-enabled remote-control capabilities, and estimate cost savings. The combined technology uses five lighting control strategies: time scheduling, task tuning, daylight harvesting, programmed occupancy sensing, and demand response.

Figure showing the control strategies that advanced lighting technology can offer

At face value, these systems seem like a slam-dunk way to get more savings from efficient lighting. Unfortunately, utilities face substantial hurdles when designing programs around advanced lighting controls, such as long payback periods, a lack of industry standards, and complex installation and design processes. As a result, advanced lighting currently comprises an insignificant portion of utilities’ C&I efficiency program savings.

Fortunately, the recent E Source report Strategies for Designing Cost-Effective Advanced Lighting Programs provides four strategies to overcome these hurdles and design cost-effective advanced lighting control programs. In the report, we highlight recent technological advancements and regional efforts from specific utilities that make the future of advanced controls look bright.

If you’d like to share your opinions or experience with advanced lighting controls in the C&I sector, please leave a comment below or send us an email.

Contributing Authors

Associate Analyst, Demand-Side Management

Jordan Whiddon provides research, analysis, and consultation to members on issues related to energy efficiency and demand response, with a particular...