If you’re an energy nerd like me, one of the goals President Obama set forth in this week’s State of the Union Address probably struck a chord:

“I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”

This efficiency target, derived from excellent work done by the Alliance to Save Energy, would require us to reduce energy demand from today’s levels by approximately 20% by the year 2030. A technology near and dear to my heart, solid-state lighting, will play a huge part in achieving these energy savings.

Today, lighting is responsible for 19% of U.S. electricity usage

One of my favorite analytical reports of 2012, the Department of Energy’s Lighting Market Characterization, attempts to quantify just how much electricity is used each year to illuminate our homes, offices, factories, and roads. The results are pretty amazing – 700 TWh, or roughly one-fifth of our total electrical load, goes toward generating photons.


[Source: Department of Energy]

Transitioning to SSL is projected to reduce this usage by 46% by 2030

Another exhaustively researched DoE report, the poetically titled “Energy Savings Potential of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications,” models everything from LED price/performance curves to technology diffusion in the residential market in order to estimate how much energy will be saved by the transition to solid-state illumination sources. Even without capturing the impact of next-generation intelligent lighting controls, the DoE analysis shows a path to an aggregate 46% reduction in lighting energy usage by the year 2030.


[Source: Department of Energy]

Intelligent Lighting Systems accelerate savings

Smart lights save a lot more energy than dumb lights. Our work at Digital Lumens creating the world’s most advanced Intelligent Lighting Systems gives us access to a ton of data on how digital dimming, daylight harvesting, task tuning, scheduling, and occupancy sensing, when combined into a integrated system, can boost efficiency and shorten retrofit paybacks. Without revealing any proprietary results, it’s safe to say that if all lights were smart by 2030 the aggregate electricity savings would be closer to 70% than the 46% presented in the DoE’s model.

One quarter of President Obama’s energy savings goal can be reached by widespread deployment of intelligent solid-state lighting

President Obama’s 20% reduction in overall energy usage corresponds to about 20 Quads of primary energy; lopping 500TWh from lighting electricity use would reduce primary energy by approximately 5 Quads. Leaving the Jevons Paradox aside for the moment, this would imply that about a quarter of the national energy savings target can be reached by simply switching to intelligent solid-state lighting systems. This is optimistic, of course, though well within the realm of realistic possibility given the trajectory of adoption we are seeing.

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