Working for a brighter and greener future

IEC Standards help lighting the way forward

By Morand Fachot

The world’s lighting industry is constantly expanding, driven by many factors that include a need to check power consumption. The quest for energy-efficient lighting extends beyond lights bulbs alone to include various advanced light management systems that deliver precisely the right light to the right place at the right time in offices, homes and even on roads. Many IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and SCs (Subcommittees) are involved in standardization work that is allowing great advances in new lighting solutions.

Commercial premises, like this hair and beauty salon, benefit from innovative lighting solutions (Salon Ziba, New York. Photo: Osram) Commercial premises, like this hair and beauty salon, benefit from innovative lighting solutions (Salon Ziba, New York. Photo: Osram)

A huge and dynamic market

The lighting industry has a major global economic impact. It is very fragmented and complex and extends across three main sectors: general lighting, automotive lighting and backlighting (for broadcasting, IT and multimedia equipment). It was estimated to have revenues of around EUR 69 billion in 2010; these are expected to rise to EUR 108 billion in 2020, making this sector comparable in size to the global TV market.

General lighting accounts for close to 75% of the lighting market, according to a 2011 McKinsey report. It covers many components and elements, not just the most obvious categories of lamps and fixtures, but also, increasingly, lighting control and management systems. It is the fastest growing segment of the lighting market and is forecast to increase by 69% over the period 2010-2020.

Cutting power consumption

General lighting consumes nearly a fifth of the total global production of electricity. Efforts to curb electricity consumption have become a priority for governments around the world, making the lighting sector a prime target for savings. The quest for energy-efficient lighting has driven the development of new types of light sources in what has been a stable industry for a very long time.

Lighting for residential, commercial and industrial use has relied on the incandescent light bulb for more than 130 years and also, from the 1930s onwards, on fluorescent tubes – the most common lamp in office lighting and many other commercial and industrial applications.

Incandescent bulbs are very inefficient as at most 5% of the power they consume is converted into visible light, while the rest is dissipated as heat. Fluorescent lights are more efficient, converting over 20% of the power input to visible white light.

In addition to being inefficient, incandescent light bulbs have a short rated lifespan of 750 to 1 000 hours. Fluorescent lights can last more than 15 000 hours.

New types of lights

To check consumption of lighting installations governments have taken measures to phase out incandescent lamps and support the introduction of energy-efficient lamps. These come in two main types: CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) and LED (light-emitting diode) lamps.

CFLs are based on the same principle as conventional fluorescent lamps but the tubes are folded or shaped into a spiral to provide compact size and allow them to fit in fixtures and luminaires designed for incandescent bulbs. CFLs are much more energy-efficient than incandescent lights. To provide an equivalent amount of visible light they use only around 25% of the energy an incandescent bulb would need. Another advantage of CFLs over incandescent bulbs is their longer rated service life, between 6 000 and 15 000 hours.

The other significant recent breakthrough in lighting has been the introduction of LED-based solutions (also called SSL, solid-state lighting). They have been described as a disruptive technology and "the only fundamentally new lamp technology to enjoy commercial success in the last 100 years". LED lamps rely on a semiconductor light source, they use up to a tenth of the energy needed by an incandescent bulb to give an equivalent amount of light. They have a very long service life that can exceed 30 000 hours, cutting maintenance costs drastically for many applications such as industrial, street, public or airfield lighting.

LED lamps, are also very flexible: they can be used in lighting management solutions with dimmers and sensors for commercial, industrial or public lighting and, increasingly, in homes. Their main drawback is their cost, which is still significantly higher than that of incandescent lamps or CFLs as their production process is complex. However, their price is predicted to drop by nearly 38% between 2012 and 2015, and a further 10-15% by 2020.

IEC TC 34: Lamps and related equipment, and its SCs prepare International Standards regarding specifications for lamps (including LEDs) and glow starters, lamp caps and holders, lamp controlgear, luminaires and miscellaneous related equipment not covered by a project of another TC.

Managing lighting assets for improved savings and comfort

Advanced light management systems make it possible to go beyond adequate lighting to deliver precisely the right light to the right place at the right time. This flexibility results in greater comfort and wellbeing for users.

Lighting in many residential, office, commercial and industrial spaces is still based on installations designed a long time ago when energy was relatively cheap and abundant. They lack flexibility and don't really take into account individual requirements.

Retrofitting energy-efficient lamps or installing new light fixtures are just two of the steps that can be taken to cut energy consumption in lighting. The other most effective additional measure is the introduction of lighting management systems to both control (switch on and off) and regulate (the need for or level of) lighting. Lights can be switched on and off automatically at pre-set times. This can be done with TDS (time-delay switches), which operate for a certain time and can either be manually actuated and/or remotely electrically initiated. International Standards for TDS are prepared by IEC SC 23B: Plugs, socket-outlets and switches, part of TC 23: Electrical accessories.

The brightness of lamps can be adjusted with dimmers, which are electronic switches. SC 23B prepares International Standards for this type of switch. Lights can also be activated by special devices that react to a situation – for instance if a presence is detected or there are low levels of light. Such devices can be found indoors – in working spaces, corridors or lifts – or outdoors in security lighting or new urban lighting installations relying on LED lamps (which, unlike conventional outdoor lights, can be switched on and off frequently and dimmed).

A single lamp or luminaire can also combine several sensors – for instance dusk-to-dawn and motion sensors. These sensors rely on semiconductor and optoelectronic systems. IEC SC 47E: Discrete semiconductor devices, prepares International Standards for these.

Urban lighting: upgrade or replace?

Lighting for public spaces is undergoing a radical transformation with the introduction of new lighting solutions. Public institutions also manage extensive lighting assets for outdoor use.

These are large consumers of electricity and many authorities are looking at ways of cutting their energy and life-cycle maintenance bills. The choice they face is between refurbishing, renewing or replacing parts of, or whole installations, with the decision down to costs, and sometimes taken according to short-term constraints rather than long-term considerations.

Urban lighting is complex as it must meet many needs such as helping pedestrians and road users find their bearings and move around safely, illuminate architectural landmarks or outdoor areas, such as parks or sports grounds, provide light at entrances and all around buildings, etc. To fulfil these needs different types of fixtures are needed, such as recessed or low and high column or catenary luminaires for orientation or road lighting, spots or floodlights to illuminate facades, wall luminaires, traffic lights, etc.

The operating costs for the energy consumed, servicing and maintenance of urban lighting installations may represent a significant burden in the long term and authorities everywhere are looking at ways of cutting these.

Operating costs, rather than initial capital costs, are often the deciding factor in the refurbishing, upgrading or replacement of lighting assets.

Smart lighting for smart cities

Outdoor urban lighting, for streets and paths, and other applications still uses mainly HID (high intensity discharge) lamps like low- and high-pressure sodium vapour lamps and metal halide lamps. These lamps offer the advantages of having long service lives when properly powered, and high luminous efficacy, but present a number of shortcomings in terms of light quality, power consumption and flexibility. Low- and high-pressure sodium vapour lamps have poor colour rendering as they appear bright yellow or intense pink orange when warm. Metal halide lamps provide a whiter light and are used for wide area overhead lighting of commercial, industrial and public spaces.

However HID lamps cannot be dimmed and may see their service life more than halved if switched on and off frequently. A number of cities and local authorities are looking at phasing out these lamps and replacing them with LED-based solutions. Key drivers for the change are the dramatic fall in the price of LED lamps, public policies pushing energy efficiency and investments in smart city infrastructure that will integrate smart street lighting systems.

Smart street lighting systems are equipped with control nodes that, in combination with various sensors, allow for the remote on/off switching and some level of dimming control. IEC SC 47E prepares International Standards for components used in a variety of sensors. As for IEC SC 23B, it prepares International Standards for HBES (home and building electronic systems) switches that can be used for the operation of lamp circuits and dimmers. Pike Research, a market research and consulting company that provides analysis of global clean technology markets, estimates that more than USD 100 billion will be spent in the next 10 years to support smart city development and that "the power and communications ability of a smart street lighting system can provide the backbone for many smart street applications".

The company forecasts unit sales of LED street lights to grow by 24,9% a year between 2012 and 2020, from fewer than 3 million to more than 17 million units.

Balancing tight budgets and saving needs

However, switching from the current system to the more advanced LED lights, even if smart solutions are not introduced, is a complex procedure. Unlike luminaires found in households and many offices, which allows CFLs or LED lamps to replace incandescent light bulbs, LED systems cannot be installed in existing street fixtures designed for HID lights, as they require electronics and ballasts of a different kind. Furthermore, luminaires for current lamps do not have reflectors or lenses that can control glare from LED lamps or provide the right beams and must be replaced. Therefore, the whole conversion appears quite costly.

However, an important factor to be taken into account is the extremely long life of LED-based street lighting solutions. Reduced maintenance, replacement and power costs make LED street lights attractive solutions in the longer term.

A major economic stake and a cleaner solution

The ban on sales of incandescent lights in dozens of countries across the world, and their limited lifespan, mean that a huge market for replacement energy-efficient bulbs has emerged. The global market for lamps alone is forecast to reach USD 40,4 billion by 2017, according to a November 2011 GIA (Global Industry Analysts) report.

The latest Country Lighting Assessments for 150 countries released by UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) and its partners in June 2012 gives details of the economic and environmental benefits of a switch to energy-efficient lights.

The yearly savings in electricity for a global phase-out of inefficient lights would amount to around 5% of global electricity consumption. The construction of 252 large power plants (500 MW each) could be avoided, resulting in savings on unnecessary investments of approximately USD 210 billion. Additionally, 490 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year would be prevented.

The work done by many IEC TCs and SCs in preparing International Standards regarding specifications for lamps, luminaires and all related equipment is proving instrumental in helping the industry introduce reliable energy-efficient lights and in bringing countless economic, energy and environmental benefits to the world.

Commercial premises, like this hair and beauty salon, benefit from innovative lighting solutions (Salon Ziba, New York. Photo: Osram) Commercial premises, like this hair and beauty salon, benefit from innovative lighting solutions (Salon Ziba, New York. Photo: Osram)
Advanced light management systems for the right light to the right place at the right time (RAU Architects, Amsterdam. Photo: Philips) Advanced light management systems for the right light to the right place at the right time (RAU Architects, Amsterdam. Photo: Philips)
Retrofitting London's Tower Bridge with LEDs saved 40-45% energy (Photo: GE) Retrofitting London's Tower Bridge with LEDs saved 40-45% energy (Photo: GE)