The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) plan to regulate carbon emissions is just the latest challenge facing the U.S. electric power system. Technological innovation is disrupting old ways of doing business and accelerating grid modernization. Earlier this year, AEE released Advanced Energy Technologies for Greenhouse Gas Reduction, a report detailing the use, application, and benefits of 40 specific advanced energy technologies and services. This post is one in a series drawn from the technology profiles within that report.
Advanced lighting technology has quickly expanded to include light-emitting diodes (LEDs), energy-saving incandescent bulbs, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Solid-state lighting, including LEDs, is in the process of transforming the lighting and electronic display markets, offering mercury-free, long-lasting, extremely efficient, digitally controllable lighting that can be used in residential and commercial settings. Solid-state lighting is five to six times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and up to 1.5 times as efficient as CFLs. Intelligent lighting controls can be used in conjunction with some forms of efficient lighting, particularly LEDs, which can be dimmed or turned on/off without loss of equipment lifespan or performance. Intelligent lighting controls use environmental information (e.g., occupancy, ambient light levels) to automatically adjust light levels and save energy. At each lighting fixture, sensors detect light levels and feed the information to controllers that adjust the lighting based on previously set goals.
About a quarter of all lights in the United States are high-efficiency bulbs, establishing high-efficiency lighting as a mature technology but with plenty of growth potential. One application that has benefited from the new technology is street lighting, where LEDs are rapidly becoming the technology of choice. For example, street lights had accounted for 40% of the electric bill for city of Los Angeles; after replacing 140,000 street lights with LEDs, the city saved over $5 million in electricity costs annually. While LEDs are still more expensive than traditional lighting, it is anticipated that payback time will be around two years for office and residential sectors by 2016. At the same time, the intelligent lighting controls market is expecting to grow. Navigant Research projects that the global market for lighting controls will grow 14% per year to reach $4.3 billion in 2020. The largest markets will likely be office and education buildings.
Depending on what is being replaced, high-efficiency lighting typically reduces electricity use by 25% to 80%. Additionally, quality LED lights can last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. To illustrate the potential of energy efficient lighting, if every home in the United States replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL or LED, it would save enough energy to light 1 million homes for one year. This would result in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road.
 Navigant Research, Advanced Energy Now 2014 Market Report, page 25.
 EPA Opportunities to Advance Efficient Lighting for a Cleaner Environment Report.