The DesignLights Consortium Amps Up its Networking Initiatives

August 16, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

LED_bulbJust about everybody understands that LEDs provide great savings. Smart lighting systems take the benefits a step further – a big step – by intelligently linking the system for more efficient lighting and serve as a basis for non-lighting management functions. Last week, Energy Manager Today posted a blog about the potential of smart lighting systems.

LEDs clearly are winning in the marketplace. The goals now are to make networked LED systems more readily available and to clearly explain the overwhelming but slightly less obvious set of benefits.

It is a complex arena. One organization working to move the category forward is the DesignLights Consortium, whose efforts are organized under Commercial Advanced Lighting Controls (CALC) initiative. “The overall goal of CALC initiative is to advance adoption of networked lighting controls in the market,” said Andrea Shapiro, DLC’s Marketing and Communications Senior Associate. “Underneath that initiative, we are working on a variety of projects. We recently released a Networked Lighting Controls Qualified Products List that contains two products so far, and we are hoping to have more products listed shortly. One of the main purposes of the QPL is to equip energy efficiency programs and utilities with the information they need to create incentive and rebate programs for networked lighting control systems.”

The DLC says that the paths to the ultimate goal – accelerating adoption of advanced networked lighting control systems – will be reached by reducing and eliminating market barriers, enabling the industry to scale up with programs and, in turn, enabling those programs to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology.

In late June, the DLC launched the Qualified Products List for Networked Lighting Control (NLC), which is a part of CALC. At the time, the consortium – which is a 20-year-old project of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships – announced that the RAB Lightcloud system was the first product to be qualified for inclusion on the list.

Last week, the platform from Enlightened – which specializes in Internet of Things (IoT) platforms for commercial buildings – also was qualified. It claims to be the only product to meet DLC specifications in all configurations. Shapiro says that it is likely that more products will be qualified by the end of the summer.

The DLC sees a great opportunity for growth. In a Q&A at the LightNOW blog posted last month, DLC Program Manager Gabe Arnold suggested just how deep the opportunity is:

Lighting controls, and especially Networked Lighting Controls, continue to be a greatly underutilized opportunity for DLC Members and the lighting market as a whole. DLC Members report that Networked Lighting Controls are used on less than 1% of the lighting projects seen by their programs every year. This represents tens of thousands of projects each year that are missing lighting control opportunities.

A DLC presentation used Navigant Research findings to illustrate how close to the starting line these efforts are. The numbers are not new – they date from 2014 – but it is unlikely that the situation has changed radically. Navigant found that the percentage of network lighting penetration in commercial buildings ranged from a minuscule 0.67 percent in the institutional and assembly sector to a still small 2.43 percent in the educational sector.

Even assuming a doubling during the past two years — which probably is a generous estimate — penetration still is very small. It is no wonder. The organization cites lack of knowledge and experience, the complexity of such implementations, an absence of standardization, high costs and questions about the value proposition as obstacles. Any one of these can sink a project.

The bottom line is that the category is new, the technology is rapidly changing and business cases still are coalescing. None of these are fatal flaws. They simply mean that it will take time for this fundamental change to occur.

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