The DesignLights Consortium (DLC) commissioned a study titled “Economic Potential of Networked Lighting Controls in Commercial Buildings: Tapping the Added Value of HVAC Connections”. This study explores how to capture the full potential of LEDs and companion lighting controls technologies to maximize energy savings for commercial and industrial facilities while meeting the ambitious decarbonization and electrification targets of states and cities across the U.S. The DLC’s mission is to make a positive climate impact through the adoption of new technologies that save energy.

The study assesses the incremental energy efficiency potential for NLCs and controls-ready systems in existing buildings compared with the installation of standard LED luminaires. It also quantifies:

  • Additional energy efficiency and demand reduction potential that can be unlocked when integrating NLCs with other building systems to better manage HVAC, and
  • Additional demand reduction potential when NLCs are leveraged to reduce peak loads via demand response.

The analysis found that these capabilities, when considered together, can yield substantial energy and demand savings, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and societal benefits.

A key focus of the study was how to better design energy efficiency policies and programs to incentivize these savings. The study showed that, while “midstream” and “downstream” energy efficiency programs do already promote NLC lighting equipment, the current approach is not conducive to achieving integration with other building systems.

The study’s computer model used Connecticut and Arizona as examples of variable local and regional conditions in two parts of the U.S. While the term “networked lighting controls (NLC)” is used throughout the report, the precise control system assumptions and capabilities vary by building size.

This study demonstrated the economic wisdom and substantial demand reduction benefits of adding NLCs to planned and future LED lighting upgrades, especially the value of pairing networked LED lighting with HVAC systems. Capturing the full potential of NLCs will require changing energy efficiency programs and policies to support and prioritize NLCs over uncontrolled lighting solutions that provide short-term benefits but lose the long-term savings needed to meet our decarbonization goals.

Further, state and utility programs must focus on breaking down the technical and cost barriers associated with effective NLC installation. As first-generation LEDs are now reaching the end of their useful lives and lighting replacements and upgrades are underway, efforts should focus on strategies to unlock the potential of NLCs and incentivize them to increase their availability and desirability in the commercial lighting market.

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