Finding the Silver Buckshot: EDF Climate Corps fellows focus on lighting

Andrew Willens | July 10, 2012

Turning profits from energy efficiency can be tricky, often because there's an encyclopedic menu of investment options available to organizations but no clear method for prioritizing them. As energy guru Amory Lovins puts it, "there's obviously no silver bullet – but there's a lot of silver buckshot." This blog post is the first in a series we will run throughout the summer, highlighting the pieces of silver buckshot identified by EDF Climate Corps fellows.

Of all the ways an organization can save money through energy efficiency, one of the easiest is energy efficient lighting. After digging through our database of case studies, we found that EDF Climate Corps fellows have identified handsome savings opportunities through lighting efficiencies for more than a hundred organizations. Our fellows often recommended lighting upgrades because they require low- to no-cost investments and pay themselves off quickly.

EDF enlisted the help of a lighting expert from CREED Energy to get this year’s class of fellows up to speed at last month’s EDF Climate Corps training. While he dove deep into the intricate world of lighting with the cohort, we wanted to take a step back to highlight three simple lighting takeaways with proven results from past EDF Climate Corps fellows:

1. Turn the lights off.

More often than not, the biggest savings can be had by simply turning the lights off.  

For example, Jen Snook, an EDF Climate Corps fellow at AT&T, found that lights were on in certain spaces more than 50 percent of the time, though they were occupied less than ten percent of the time. Snook recommended AT&T install occupancy sensors, which would automatically turn off the lights when these rooms are unoccupied and cut lighting energy use by 80%. Magnified across 100 million square feet of the company’s space, this project yielded huge savings.  

2. Delamp.

Simply removing unneeded lights can also save big bucks at virtually no cost.

In the words of Rama Murugan, an EDF Climate Corps fellow at CA Technologies, "I did not believe this until I actually saw it happen. CA had energy-efficient T5 bulbs all over the place, but it had too many of them. I suggested de-lamping the facility, which presented significant 6-figure savings." In all, the lighting projects Murugan recommended would save CA Technologies $150,000 annually.  

3. Change the light bulbs.

If an organization can't afford to turn off the lights, it still has the option to "retrofit" its lighting systems by replacing certain components with more efficient counterparts. This can range anywhere from switching from incandescent to fluorescent lightbulbs to replacing incandescent lighting fixtures with ultra-efficient LED fixtures.

Nick Fassler, EDF Climate Corps fellow at HCA Healthcare, which operates roughly 160 hospitals, realized that occupancy sensors were a poor option for a medical facility – what if the lights went out in a surgery room in the middle of an operation? So he recommended a retrofit, which doesn't jeopardize quality of care and could save HCA $7.8 million in electricity costs every year.

Brian Hartmann, EDF Climate Corps fellow at Bloomberg LP, encountered a similar challenge. He realized that the bright, colorful, and abundant lighting that gave Bloomberg's headquarters its distinctive character also sucked up a lot of electricity. But a retrofit of bulbs, components and fixtures, he determined, would save Bloomberg over $1 million between the company's New York and Hong Kong offices, without affecting the lighting aesthetics it takes pride in. 

There you have it – three pieces of "silver buckshot" to fell the big savings. And this is just scratching the surface in terms of lighting opportunities. Stay tuned to our blog this summer for real-time updates from our 2012 fellows in the field – they’ll be reporting on the lighting projects they stir up at organizations across the country this summer.