Finally, the obstacles have been removed and there is clarity in the argument for the use of indoor lighting controls to slash energy usage and costs. Andy Davies, head of business development and specification at Harvard Engineering, explains…

Lighting is the single highest contributory factor on the bill, representing an average of 40% of the total. However, with new generation lighting controls able to deliver savings of up to 50%, when combined with energy saving LEDs, the opportunities for carbon emission and cost savings can be great.

Only 30% of controllable lighting sold in Europe today is controlled by anything other than an on/off switch - an amazing statistic given that there is huge pressure on those tasked with designing and running buildings to cut costs and meet energy saving targets. The obvious question is why has that massive untapped potential been left alone while managers seek to reduce their building’s carbon footprint in other areas?

This is down to the significant challenges associated with traditional control systems for indoor lighting. Installing DALI and Analogue 1-10V controls can be a messy and disruptive process involving rewiring. Once installed, it is limited in operation as it offers no flexibility for altered patterns of use.

The expense involved has also been a major factor as a specialist engineer is needed for both the installation and commissioning, which could run into thousands of pounds over several days. Also, as there is no way of monitoring the system’s performance, the lack of data weakens the argument for re-commissioning to maximise energy efficiency.

The new generation of wireless lighting controls have removed these obstacles and offer a new concept in lighting with simplified controls with maximum energy and cost savings. Radically outperforming their predecessors, they can easily be retrofitted to existing lights, takinh performance and savings to unrivalled levels.

The lighting industry expects the take-up of new generation controls in the indoor market to accelerate as facilities managers, designers and others recognise the benefits of the cost-effective solution.

Confidence has been boosted further by the success of controls for street lighting, which are widely used across the world by local authorities to help them meet carbon reduction and energy saving targets. Street and outdoor luminaires are managed, over the internet using GPS and radio frequency identifications, using an easy-to-use dashboard, which provides a two-way flow of information, sending data on energy spend and faults to the user as well as allowing the user to control each individual light. This has given local authorities greater control than ever before.

A successful example is that of Surrey County Council. With over 89,000 street lights, the Council wanted a control system to eliminate waste energy to enable it to comply with the Carbon Reduction Commitment. The council wanted to dim street lights on main roads at times of very low traffic volumes, with the ability to bring them back to full power immediately in an emergency situation.

Over the next 25 years, Surrey County Council is expected to save 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and 150 million kilowatt hours, as well as reducing energy costs by approximately £12 million.

The role that lighting will play in delivering the 21st century low carbon economy demanded by governments is widely recognised. The Carbon Trust found that installing energy saving lighting controls can reduce energy and cut costs by between 30 and 50% - a figure which can’t be ignored.

With up to 80 per cent of the buildings that will be in use in 2050 in the UK already built, there has never been a more appropriate time to assess current and future demand for lighting and its control in public, industrial, and commercial buildings. These existing sites will have to become more energy efficient to be fit-for-purpose alongside ever tighter environmental controls that we can expect to be imposed and new generation controls can help do just that.

The “lighting revolution” has happened quicker than any optimist could have thought possible. In just a few short years street lighting has changed for the better in many countries around the world - that success is now set to be replicated in commercial buildings as modern lighting control systems have proved to be one of the most effective ways of reducing electricity consumption.