Electricity Conservation News and Tips
from Please Conserve

Market growing for energy-efficient LEDs

While growth rates among applications will vary, the global market for LED luminaires is expected to grow to $8.3 billion by 2014, according to researchers at Strategies Unlimited, Mountain View, Calif.

Several factors are behind that growth. Rapid improvements in performance and price of commercially available high-brightness LED packages, heightened awareness of energy efficiency, phasing out of incandescent bulbs and fiscal stimulus by countries around the world have all combined to create conditions for adoption of white light LED technology that otherwise would have faced the low-volume-high-cost conundrum.

Quality issues that affected the market penetration of previous energy-efficient lighting technologies continue to affect this market, but the resolve to reduce energy consumption is likely to propel this technology to wide commercial adoption.

Being the most efficient light source technology for applications requiring a directional beam of light and batteries, consumer portable applications were the largest segment of the LED luminaire market in 2010. The quality of LEDs has improved to a point that performance is no longer an issue. The issue now is the price of designing LEDs into luminaires.

Color and color-changing application in architectural and entertainment applications together had revenues of more than $1 billion in 2010. Residential lighting, the fastest growing segment of the market, starting from a small base, is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 44 percent through 2014.

Global revenues for LED luminaires in commercial/industrial applications are expected to hit more than $1 billion in 2011. The outdoor area lighting applications, which benefitted from fiscal stimulus and the need for energy conservation, are expected to grow at a 38 percent rate through 2014.

Solar powered lanterns will be a low margin-high volume application assisted by nongovernmental organizations and governments trying to save fuel subsidies. The revenues for this sub-segment are forecast to grow at a rate of 58 percent for the same period. LED exit signs have become a mature market in the U.S. and are in the initial stage of market penetration in white light application in egress signage lighting outside the U.S. China is the largest market as well as the largest supplier of LED luminaires.

For more information about the “LED Luminaires, Market Analysis & Forecast,” visit:

Innovative energy technology transforms heat into electricity

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is recognizing two companies for innovative new products that recycle wasted energy and turn it into usable electricity in homes or small buildings. Micro combined heat and power (CHP) systems are an emerging technology that can help change how we use and produce energy in our homes while protecting people’s health. When offsetting purchases of coal-generated electricity in cold climates, this emerging technology can reduce energy use and curb carbon dioxide emissions by 20 to 30 percent.

As winners of the 2011 Energy Star Emerging Technology Award, the Freewatt micro CHP system made by ECR International, Utica, N.Y., and the Ecopower micro CHP system made by Marathon Engine, East Troy, Wis., are helping home and small building owners, particularly in the Northeast region, produce their own electricity, reducing their utility bills. These technologies capture wasted energy from space or water heaters and turn it into usable electricity from a single fuel source.

Although the technology has been successfully used in larger applications for many years, micro CHP systems have only recently been commercialized for small scale use in residential homes, apartment buildings and small office buildings. This year’s winning micro CHP systems met strict criteria for efficiency, noise, emissions and third party-verified performance. In addition to submitting laboratory test results, products were monitored in the field for a minimum of one year to be eligible for recognition.

For more information, visit

LED trying to take hold in the outdoor light-fixture market

The federal government would like to see all incandescent bulbs replaced with more energy-efficient lighting by 2014. Most people have begun replacing traditional bulbs with new compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)—and making the adjustment to the “new look” of the energy-saving and longer-lasting bulbs. Slower to gain acceptance are LEDs or light-emitting diodes, as the bulb of the future. Many home developers know that the LED light fixtures, especially for outdoor lighting, are readily available, but in many cases too costly for the consumer, even though they are money-savers over a long period of time.

Those who sell LED lighting to developers and consumers also admit there is some concern over the fixtures, which are thrown out when the bulb goes out, even though this could take years. More waste in the landfill offsets the environmental benefits of the energy savings to some degree. But as these issues are ironed out, LED will eventually become a standard feature of lighting in home and commercial buildings, say the experts.

For now, however, the replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs is an excellent choice, especially for outdoor lighting fixtures because they are more energy-efficient and handle cold well, plus they throw out a lot of light. The key remains to keep the light pointing downward, to illuminate the human activity, rather than at an angle that wastes light and contributes to light pollution in the sky—a cause taken up by environmental activists primarily in the West Coast states.

Consumers favor solar, wind energy

The future of the U.S. energy supply is a topic of fierce debate in the political and business arenas, and consumer opinion is a vital component of the broader discussion about the pros and cons of various paths toward a clean energy future. According to a new survey from Pike Research, consumer support for renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, is extremely high.

In a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, the cleantech market intelligence firm found that 79 percent of consumers have a favorable view of solar energy, and 75 percent have a favorable view of wind energy. In terms of overall support, these were the top two highest ranked areas in a survey that asked consumers about their views on 12 energy and environmental concepts. The results are summarized in a free white paper, which is available for download on Pike Research’s website,

The percentages of survey respondents stating that they had either a “very favorable” or “favorable” view for each of the 12 concepts were as follows:

• Solar Energy:  79 percent
• Wind Energy:  75 percent
• Hybrid Vehicles:  64 percent
• Electric Cars:  57 percent
• Biofuels:  47 percent
• Clean Coal:  47 percent
• Nuclear Power:  42 percent
• Smart Meters:  37 percent
• Smart Grid:  37 percent
• Carbon Offsets/Credits:  24 percent
• LEED Certification:  19 percent
• Cap and Trade:  15 percent

Cap and Trade and Nuclear Power were tied in terms of the largest percentage of “strongly unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views from survey participants, each with a 19 percent unfavorable rating, followed closely by Carbon Offsets/Credits with 18 percent.

LEED Certification, the green building certification program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, suffered from a very low level of familiarity among respondents. Fifty-three percent stated that they were unfamiliar with the program, the lowest level of familiarity of any of the 12 energy and environment concepts.

Future viability of solar depends on cheaper cells

During 2010, new solar photovoltaic (PV) demand worldwide approached 10,000 MW and is expected to grow by double-digit percentages annually for the foreseeable future if production costs can be driven to market-competitive levels.

In response to interest in photovoltaics for industrial and utility scale power, SRI Consulting, Menlo Park, Calif., now part of IHS Inc., examines the economics for producing solar cells from three dominant commercial process technologies—monocrystalline wafers (Sunpower), CdTe thin-film (First Solar) and concentrating PV (Concentrix)—in its new techno-economic analysis report entitled “Solar Photovoltaic Technology.”

In the U.S. and other regions, utility commission renewable power portfolio requirements dictate that specific amounts of grid power be sourced using technologies that do not produce greenhouse gases. As a result, several utilities are now considering supplementing conventional power (nuclear, coal and natural gas) with a combination of wind power, biomass power, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic power.

Demand growth for PV power in the early 2000s averaged 40 percent per year, driven by a combination of technology advancements and generous government subsidies, especially in Spain and Germany, in the form of feed-in-tariffs. The global economic recession of 2008-09 all but eliminated growth, but early 2010 saw demand begin to turn around.

Photovoltaic power is well suited to distributed demand applications where its devices can be mounted on residential homeowner rooftops (< 5 kw capacity), and on small commercial buildings (< 50 kw). Advancements in both manufacturing technology and engineering and design practices are also reducing the cost of “balance of system” components required for the consideration of PV power at utility scale (> 5 MW) at economics approaching conventional peaking power cost (grid parity).

“Advances in technology have significantly improved cost competitiveness, but the commercial world still relies heavily on government subsidies,” said the report’s author and IHS Principal Consultant Anthony Pavone. “Like other renewable energy technologies, societal concerns over greenhouse gas-caused climate change provide the justification for these subsidies.”

Although the integrated product chain can be considered as starting with mined silicon metal and terminating with a combination of PV modules sold to end-use customers, and turnkey power plants sold to utility customers, the heart of the business is in producing PV cells, mounting them in modules (sometimes called panels) rated at 70 to 400 watts, and installing arrays of modules to satisfy customer requirements. A globally competitive producer requires a capacity base of 500 MW/year, and that a utility scale PV plant will have a capacity of 10 to 50 MW.

Two forms of cell architecture, silicon-based wafer and thin-film technologies, dominate the business, with 80 percent and 20 percent market share, respectively. SRI’s study estimates the production economics for a PV utility power plant with a 50 MW capacity using the two manufacturing approaches. These economics, although not cost competitive with most conventional baseload power generation (4 to 8 cents per kwh), are close enough to compete with peaking electric power in most business environments, and with base load electric power in high-cost power regions, including Denmark, Italy and California.

“As PV technology improvements reduce cost faster than conventional technologies reduce cost, the world is likely to soon see an environment where PV subsidies are no longer necessary,” said Pavone.

For additional information, visit

Three-quarters of U.S. lighting to be energy-efficient by 2020

The United States accounts for approximately 20 percent of the world’s total electricity consumption for lighting at an annual cost of over $40 billion. The largest share of this lighting electricity is used in commercial and public buildings, followed by residential lighting, industrial sector lighting and outdoor/street lighting. According to a recent report from Pike Research, Boulder, Colo., fluorescent and light emitting diode (LED) lighting technologies will play an increasingly important role in the U.S. market, making up over three quarters of that market by 2020.

“Fluorescent lighting technology is becoming more and more important in many key applications,” says Pike Research senior analyst Mike Wapner. “Fluorescent lighting is already very energy efficient, it has increasingly cost-effective dimming options, and it’s been around long enough for people to have familiarity and confidence with its performance in a variety of lighting situations.”

Wapner adds that while technical, market and other barriers will somewhat hamper the growth of LED lighting in the beginning of this decade, adoption will start to accelerate by the 2014-15 timeframe. Penetration of the outdoor stationary sector will grow first, partly because color rendering is less important in these applications (thus allowing use of the least expensive LEDs). When compared to the overall lighting industry, LED sales volumes will still be relatively low in those years, but high prices will lead to large revenue figures. The long life of LED products will also mean that most sales will go into new construction and retrofit situations, and there will be relatively little replacement business.

Even though technological, policy and market trends appear to be driving the U.S. lighting market away from incandescent lighting, they will not totally disappear any time soon. Many types of “specialty” incandescent lamps are exempted from U.S. regulations that will phase out the most common bulbs. Incandescent lamps are also inexpensive to manufacture and there is still nothing restricting their use in much of the world, Wapner says.

An executive summary Pike Research’s report,
“Energy Efficient Lighting for Commercial Markets,” is available for free on the company’s website,

When electronic gifts come your way, know how to get into a savings mode

Electronic and digital gadgets are the most popular gift items during the holiday season, but they are certainly on the wish list of consumers at other times of the year.

With so many electronics available to the consumer, it would be wise to understand the conservation tips and money-saving mode you should be in when a new electronic device finds its way into your home.

Virtually everything we own these days has a “sleep” or power-down mode, but many devices are fine left unplugged when not in use.

Digital and analog televisions, desktop and laptop computers, cable or satellite set-top boxes, compact audio and DVD players, cordless telephones, home theater systems, stand-alone DVD or DVR players, telephone answering systems, VCRs and video game players are becoming common in most households all over the world.

Monitors of our energy use, such as Energy Star, estimate that many of us spend as much as $100 or more a year on “phantom power” – or power that is needed just to keep a device plugged into the wall, even if it is not used for days at a time.

A website titled provides an energy calculator as part of its guide to consumer electronics. The calculator allows you to input the number of hours you use an electronic device; the number of hours it is in idle or “sleep” mode; and the number of hours it is completely off, or not on the electricity load at all (unplugged).

When you tally all of your devices, the calculator gives you a monthly cost and a yearly cost. You can gauge what you are paying for one device to be in sleep mode most of the day, or you can figure out your yearly bill total for how you use every electronic device you own.

Energy Star calls these devices “energy vampires” for the way they suck energy from your system and money from your wallet.

The best place to start to defeat those vampires is in the easiest places – by unplugging chargers from outlets after phones, digital camera battery packs, handheld vacuum cleaners or power tools are fully charged.

Using the power management features, or sleep modes, on electronic devices is also a good way to save power. The sleep mode on a computer uses less power than a screen saver.

Many electronic devices have automatic shutdown modes. Most TVs offer that option, which comes in handy for those who tend to watch late-night television only to nod off a few hours before actually turning off the TV. Many video-game players also have the automatic shut-off, since many kids tend to leave electronic devices on when not in use for long periods of time.

A power strip to cluster many devices that can all be turned off at the same time is another common piece of advice. A device called a Smart Strip by Bits Limited is now available and has the capability to cut idle currents to monitors, printers, desk lamps and other items when you turn off your computer’s power.

As consumers are learning more about how to conserve energy and save money in this green era, handling electronic devices properly can go a long way.

In terms of educating the public, electronics are close to equal footing with energy savings related to water. When you tell someone that they spend $2,500 a year on water, and that using less hot water could reduce that amount dramatically, that will get people’s attention.

In the same manner, wise use of the home’s electronic devices can save hundreds of dollars over several years.

Carbon capture a market reality by 2020

With the U.S. coal industry reeling from a series of mining disasters, many business and government leaders are seeking ways to mitigate the costs—economic, environmental, social and human—of electricity from coal. Among the most high-profile approaches for addressing at least some of these costs lies in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

However, according to a recent report from Pike Research, CCS faces a number of challenges including uncertainty about the costs of technology, the lack of a pipeline network to transport CO2 to geological storage sites and, most notably, the absence of a price on carbon emissions.

“There will be an extensive, expanding CCS industry in place by the early 2020s,” says managing director Clint Wheelock. “How large and how vibrant that industry will be depends on how CCS is prioritized by corporations and governments over the next decade.”

The addition of CCS systems to power plants will likely add between 50 and 70 percent to the cost of producing electricity. To date, no commercial-scale integrated power plant with CCS exists. The intensive short-term financing, radical policy shifts and R&D advances that would be required for multiple deployments of CCS in the next five years, Pike Research believes, appear unlikely.

Nevertheless, the forces behind CCS projects are strong, and growth is likely to be significant in the longer term. By 2020, according to the report, global revenues for CCS systems could surpass $1 billion annually under a moderate forecast scenario. In a more aggressive scenario that includes a strong push for CCS by government and industry, that figure could be as high as $42 billion in the same timeframe.

An executive summary of Pike Research’s report, “Carbon Capture and Sequestration,”is available for free download at

Christmas is green already, but how about environmentally green?

Green is probably the most prominent color associated with the holidays, but are the holidays environmentally green?

It was a question that first came under scrutiny during the mid 1970’s energy crisis when large holiday light displays were viewed as a waste of energy.

Those celebrating the holidays with the traditional outdoor lights were asked to turn them off at a reasonable time, and shopping centers, municipalities and other organizations making big splashes with significant outdoor displays also were asked to tone things down.

In today’s green-conscious environment, companies that offer large holiday displays for cities, businesses and charitable organizations have a definite conservation view in mind.

It  is not uncommon for companies, such as Brandano Displays, Inc., which has built large holiday displays for communities and businesses since 1976, to take environmental conservation into account on every project it develops.

Prior to 1990, most holiday lighting attractions made use of disposable decorations and displays that would last about three years. More common now are displays that are considered “extended-life” that can function properly for 10 years or more, thus cutting down on steel, wire and plastic parts being disposed in landfills.

A large company like Brandano Displays went as far as making sure that the power consumption in their displays was minimized and that painting and welding procedures were updated to cut down on disposable waste. In turn, all production papers, cardboard, plastics and steel were being recycled.

Because most traditional holiday displays called for literally hundreds of thousands of lights laced in trees and foliage, companies began to steer away from that by creating displays that would reduce the number of lights by up to 60 percent. Power consumption has taken on a science of its own in regards to holiday displays, as the spacing between bulbs can be set up to use less power, and high-efficiency lighting is used where feasible.

Delivery of large displays also has a new focus, as there is much attention paid to eliminating packaging waste of paper, wood, cardboard and plastics.

Last, but not least, and possibly the easiest advice to follow is that cities and organizations should reduce the hours and days in which their large holiday displays are lit.

It is more typical now to find a holiday display reduce hours or not even be lit on nights that are considered to have low attendance.

Energy Audit

An energy audit is a great way to discover places for you to save energy – and money. The first step in an energy audit is to talk to your power company. Many offer free audits that attempt to weed out energy wasting habits. Second, consider energy management software. These programs track your usage and help you identify areas of waste. Take a demo of the Energy Lens program at:

If neither of those steps satisfy you, you may want to call in a pro. Many consultants these days conduct energy audits that identify air leaks, wasteful equipment, places that need more insulation,and such. Look online under “energy consultants” to find one near you.