Let there be light, for everyone

International Year of Light launched

By Janice Blondeau

Lighting plays an important role in our everyday lives. Switching a light on is such a routine task that we often take it for granted. However there are 1.3 billion people worldwide who lack access to electricity and electric lighting and a further 1 billion have intermittent access. This is the first in a series of articles on the International Year of Light and Light-based technologies.

Infograhic Light Poverty Map
Light poverty affects one person in five worldwide (Image: Philips)

UN and UNESCO global initiative

The IEC is delighted to be associated with the International Year of Light, which was officially launched on 19 and 20 January 2015. This global initiative, adopted by the United Nations under the patronage of UNESCO, will highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for sustainable development.

In a message delivered to the Year’s opening ceremony, held at UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) headquarters in Paris, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon explained that light science has revolutionized medicine, agriculture and energy while today’s optical technologies have become the lynchpin to the basic infrastructure of modern communications.

Key to sustainable development and address climate change

“As we strive to end poverty and promote shared prosperity, light technologies can offer practical solutions to global challenges,” said Ban.

“They will be particularly important in advancing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, achieving the future sustainable development goals and addressing climate change.”

IEC is at the table

The IEC, which brings together 166 countries, is determined to help bring electricity and clean and efficient lighting to the 1.3 billion people who still lack access. It recognizes that the economic development and advancement of newly industrializing countries depends on reliable access to electricity and safe and efficient lighting.

Through the work of Technical Committees and also the IEC Affiliate Country Programme IEC allows 83 developing countries, including 37 of the least developed, to participate completely free of charge.

Bringing light to rural, developing communities

In the area of off-grid lighting, the IEC has defined the quality, safety, efficiency and durability criteria that help ensure that for example solar lamps are worth the buyer’s hard-earned money. IEC TS 62257-9-5:2013, a Technical Specification for stand-alone lighting kits for rural electrification was developed with partners from academia, policy makers and private industry.

It allows testing laboratories to verify quality measures such as light output through tests that can be conducted anywhere in the world. Since it was launched, several million quality-assured solar LED lights have been sold in Africa and Asia.

International Standards for the lighting industry

For almost 70 years the IEC has been developing International Standards for luminaires and lighting installations. A great number of IEC International Standards address the needs of the lighting industry in terms of requirements, tests, safety and EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) for lamps, lamp systems and all related accessories.

Many people work behind the scenes to provide us with safe electric lighting. Industry, standardization, Conformity Assessment and CBs (Certification Bodies) all collaborate to ensure that the products we buy and use have the required safety levels.

IEC work in this area covers product and systems specifications, safety, performance, interoperability, impact on the environment (both during production and until disposal) and everything in between. Lamps, indicators and luminaires are built, wired and connected based on IEC International Standards for use in households, gardens and pools; public and private transportation; industrial complexes; hospitals, stadiums and urban environments; zoos and aquariums; film, photo and theatre production; and much more.

There is also considerable work carried out in the field of fibre optics through IEC TC 86: Fibre optics, established in 1984, and its SCs (Subcommittees). They are central to the development of the entire sector and all related industries as they prepare Standards, specifications and technical reports for fibre optic-based systems, subsystems, modules, devices and components.

Looking forward

Today the quest for energy-efficient lighting extends beyond light bulbs to include various advanced light management systems that deliver precisely the right light to the right place at the right time. Many IEC TCs and SCs are at the forefront of standardization work that is allowing great advances in new lighting solutions.

IEC is intensifying its work to enable global trade and the expansion of new lighting technologies, and at the same time the organization continues to be instrumental in the development of the whole underlying energy infrastructure.

About the International Year of Light

IYL 2015, the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health. The goal of IYL 2015 is to highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures and for the development of society. www.light2015.org/

key light The IEC has developed International Standards for luminaires and lighting installations for almost 70 years
Infograhic Light Poverty Map Light poverty affects one person in five worldwide (Image: Philips)
Postcard Intrnational Year of Ligting 2015 International Year of Light posters (Image: Offenburg University, Germany)