Alice Steenland Opinion - 15/June/2023

To deliver the ambition of new energy efficiency directives, LED lighting is a must

Switching all conventional light points to LEDs is one of the easiest, quickest and most cost-effective ways of reducing energy consumption, says Alice Steenland from Signify

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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy

One simple change can make a big difference

Simply swapping conventional lights for LED alternatives can reduce lighting-related energy usage by 50% or more. With smart lighting management in place, energy savings can approach 80% over conventional technology.

In Europe, half of all currently installed lights, residential and commercial combined, are conventional. This represents an enormous opportunity. Replacing all conventional lights in the EU with LED alternatives could save an estimated €65 billion in energy costs, depending on energy rates, and could reduce CO2 emissions by 51 million tonnes—not just once, but every single year.

The potential energy savings are eye-opening too. By transitioning to LED lighting at scale, the EU could save enough energy to power almost 50 million heat pumps or to charge 55 million electric vehicles. Again, these are not just one-time savings, but savings that would be realised year after year.



Even on a more modest scale, switching to LEDs could free up large amounts of energy that is then available for other purposes. If Germany alone was to switch just its street lights to LED, the country would save enough energy to power 500,000 heat pumps—coincidentally, the German government’s annual target for heat pump deployment starting in 2024.

It is encouraging to see lawmakers starting to make the kinds of decisions that can result in measurable, substantial reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions. The Renovation Wave and Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings directives of the EU Green Deal offer incentives, inspiration and funding for increasing annual building renovation rates and raising the bar on energy-efficiency thresholds.

If these directives have a downside, it is that they are not mandatory. More effective, perhaps, are measures such as the European Commission’s 2023 ban on fluorescents and the recent revision to the Energy Efficiency Directive.



Among other things, the revised directive mandates an increase in the public building renovation rate from its current approximately 1% per year to 3% per year, and it requires member states to collectively ensure a reduction of energy consumption of at least 11.7% in 2030. Both the increased renovation rate and energy consumption limit are binding.

According to statistics provided by the European Commission, buildings account for 40% of all energy consumption in the EU. Of that 40%, lighting in buildings accounts for an average of 17.5% worldwide—in other words, lighting in buildings accounts for approximately 7% of all energy use in the EU. Conservatively speaking, the wholesale switch to LED lighting could cut that 7% in half, contributing at least 3% to the binding 11.7% energy consumption reduction.



Think about that for a moment: simply switching light points from energy-inefficient conventional variants to energy-efficient LED variants can account for more than a quarter of the total energy consumption reduction mandated in the EU for 2030.

This is an improvement that can be made quickly, unobtrusively, and cost-effectively because it does not require breaking open existing infrastructure to any great degree. In the most simple cases, conventional light points can be swapped out one-for-one with LED light points, slashing lighting-related energy consumption immediately without requiring any further action.

The second annual European Energy Efficiency Day is coming to Brussels on October 12th, 2023. The stated goal of this hybrid conference is to discuss energy efficiency as a cost-effective and socially fair decarbonisation solution to achieve the EU Green Deal.

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