How Lighting Can Support Economic Recovery and the Goal of a Net Zero Economy

The world is facing an unprecedented crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic and the immediate focus is rightly on saving lives and slowing down the spread of the virus. But as the slow process of beating the virus evolves, our attention naturally begins to turn towards recovery from the damage the crisis has inflicted on the global economies. Many things have changed during the lockdown and the reduction in traffic, cleaner air, and reduced travel have highlighted the value of measures we can take to mitigate climate change. What is clear is that the strategy to recover from the crisis must build on a green agenda. 

LIA Whitepaper – The Net Zero Economy

The UK based Lighting Industry Association (LIA) has published a white paper calling for action to drive economic recovery while, at the same time, supporting the commitment to a net-zero economy. At the core of the paper is the need to adopt smart technologies in lighting to green our existing building stock in an ambitious renovation program.

Image of building in support of the Net Zero Economy. Image courtesy of LIA.

Adopting Smart Technologies in Lighting helps to Green the existing Building Stock in an ambitious Renovation Program.

Governments across the world are preparing recovery and support packages and this money must be spent wisely. It must benefit people and address the short-term impacts but should also help accelerate our transition to a sustainable, climate-friendly, and resilient economy.


“Investing in Safer, more Comfortable and more Efficient Buildings will Benefit People, the Environment and the Economy. Lighting and Controls have a major Part to play in the Delivery of Smart, Energy-Efficient Buildings”.


Despite bans on older lighting technologies in recent years and the benefits of LED lighting, there remains a market for the less efficient lighting technologies and many banned lamp types are still available from companies exploiting loopholes in the regulations. With improved education about the benefits of LED lighting, this trend can be reversed, and the unnecessary waste of energy avoided.

While LED replacement lamps are more efficient than earlier technologies, the most efficient lighting is found in luminaires which have integrated LED light sources. Such luminaires both increase the efficiency and the longevity of their service through managing the critical temperatures at which LEDs operate efficiently.

The Value of Smart Lighting Systems post COVID-19

Lighting has an important part to play in the value of a building refurbishment program. The digital nature of LEDs has spawned the rapid development of intelligent controls which brings sensors and communication capabilities to lighting systems, bringing benefits that are greater than the sum of their parts.

On average, in any given commercial building, energy accounts for around 1% of the total cost to the business. The running of the building itself accounts for 9%. The remaining 90% is devoted to the people and the accumulated knowledge and skills that make a workforce productive. Therefore, maximizing energy efficiency is just the tip of the carbon emissions iceberg.

LED lighting is highly efficient. Add presence detectors, daylight linking, timeclock events, and personal control and the impact can be upwards of an additional 60% over the energy savings already provided by LED lighting. However, by gathering the data generated by the sensing networks of lighting systems and combining it with additional data such as weather conditions, longitude and latitude, time of the year, and sharing that data with other building services, smart lighting systems can unlock benefits to building operations, and more importantly to the wellbeing and comfort of the building occupants as well as their productivity.

In commercial and public buildings, the use of automation, personal control, and data analytics can help realize not only further energy savings but reduce the spread of disease and its effect on health and the economy. Automation allows building occupants to avoid touching shared surfaces such as light switches or blind controls. Occupancy data analytics can tell a facility manager which areas of the building are used and how often over time, allowing the efficient planning of workplaces. That data in turn can be shared with the climate control system of the building to optimize its efficiency.

The technology to harness all this potential and bring about greater change is available today. The advent of smart portable devices combined with the maturity of wireless technologies makes it possible to deploy these solutions in any space, from a single private office to a whole building. However today this kind of installation is the exception and not the norm. Generally, only the newest buildings strive to offer these capabilities, and therefore significant energy-saving opportunities are being missed along with the additional benefits in existing buildings.

The Value of Upgrading Emergency Lighting

In recent history, there have been numerous incidents involving fire and smoke where the emergency lighting installed in high rise residential, mass transit, retail and commercial buildings was found to be ineffective. The failure of the emergency lighting to provide its intended life-saving benefits is due to poor quality equipment being installed and/or poor routine testing and maintenance of the emergency lighting luminaires.

The benefits of specifying the latest reputable emergency lighting equipment in building renovations can include energy-saving from reduced charging load required by modern smart chargers and, more importantly, the introduction of intelligent addressable central testing systems which will ensure the emergency lighting is automatically tested in accordance with international standards. All failures can be reported immediately providing details of the location and type of failure.

Light as a Service – a New Business Model linked to Energy Savings

A relatively new business model is ‘light as a service’. This enables businesses to free up capital for expansion or development while a lighting supplier installs the new fixtures with no upfront cost. The lights are maintained by the lighting supplier and the finance comes from the energy savings. This enables the adoption of the best energy efficiency technologies and embeds circular economy assurances into a lighting system as the asset remains with the
lighting supplier who can upgrade, re-use and recycle the products at the end of their useful life.

Regulations, Incentives and Climate Change

The current UK regulations sets a requirement for lighting efficiency of 60 luminaire lumens per circuit-watt. This is easily achievable today with the use of the latest technology in LED lighting. However, as described earlier this ignores the major additional savings afforded by current lighting control technologies. In terms of energy efficiency alone, the use of smart lighting systems allows us to take energy savings to new levels. Even more so with the use of systems that allow the integration of data across multiple building services.

Recommendations for the Global Industry

• Empower the use of smart lighting systems with capabilities such as presence detection, daylight linking and timeclock events for both new construction and during renovation work.

• Require the use of smart technologies in new and existing buildings so the wheels of the construction industry get moving and set itself up for a more productive economy in the years to come.

• Review taxation policies to encourage the uptake of energy-efficient products and incentivize property owners and landlords to upgrade the efficiency of their buildings.

• Consider how circular economy product design and services such as ‘light as a service’ can be incentivized.

• Develop a metric for a product’s circularity i.e. a score for the ability of a product to be more durable, use fewer precious resources, less embedded energy, less in-use energy, upgradability, re-useability and ease of recycling. Link this score to reduced WEEE costs and tax incentives to encourage uptake of products designed for a circular economy.

• In the upcoming review of business rates, consider incentives for businesses raising the energy efficiency of their properties.

• Regional refurbishment plans to rejuvenate poorer areas and reduce their energy consumption.

• Set a minimum energy class C for all buildings and relax listed building regulations to allow greening of historic properties.

• Reduction of energy cost to businesses that adopt energy efficiency measures- high use = higher cost, low use = lower cost.

• Obligations placed on energy companies to fund energy efficiency schemes were a major driver of energy efficiency. There are still many millions of inefficient light bulbs in use in people’s homes. One proposal is to consider a take-back scheme to remove these inefficient lamps from service and replace them with highly efficient LED lamps.

• Classification of buildings as smart and energy-efficient- link to incentives.

• Requirement for all public buildings to be smart and efficient.


Sources: LIA White Paper, setting out how ‘Lighting Can Support Economic Recovery and the Goal of a Net Zero Economy’. The above text includes selected relevant fragments from the paper only in support of this article.Please refer to the official LIA website to download your whitepaper.

Images in this post are courtesy of LIA.