THE MIDWEST ENERGY EFFICIENCY ALLIANCE HAS A NEW PROGRAM TO ENCOURAGE MIDWESTERN COMPANIES, UTILITIES AND MUNICIPALITIES TO ADOPT THE LATEST ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY.
Energy efficiency is an important priority in the Midwest. In fact, the Midwestern Governors Association has set a goal of meeting at least 2 percent of regional annual retail sales of natural gas and electricity through energy efficiency improvements by 2015, and by continuing to achieve an additional 2 percent in efficiency improvements every year thereafter.
But with so many options for how to increase energy efficiency, many businesses and homeowners find this process a daunting task. To help meet this target, many organizations have initiated education and assessment programs to evaluate energy use and potential savings in both energy usage and cost. One of those groups, the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA), is a collaborative network of energy stakeholders set up in 2000 to promote greater energy efficiency.
MEEA, a regional non-profit organizaton whose members include state and local governments, runs a number of different programs. These include programs educating the general public about energy efficiency, covering subjects such as how to save on winter heating bills, and training building operators on how to increase the energy efficiency of commercial, industrial and residential properties. MEEA's 13-state region includes all of the MGA member states.
One component of MEEA's work to date has been to focus on expanding the use of energy efficient lighting. "Lighting makes up 20 percent of electric costs in your typical home in the U.S.,'' says Chad Bulman, program manager at MEEA. "It's very easy to replace an energy-wasting light bulb, so for very little cost and inconvenience, you can make a big difference with lighting."
Since 2000, MEEA has introduced 8 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) into the Midwest's marketplace by working with sponsors to offer rebates to consumers, aiding the widespread acceptance of this technology. MEEA is now turning its attention to lighting technology that is even more energy efficient.
In March of this year, MEEA launched Midwest LEDers, a program to increase awareness of solid-state lighting. Solid-state lighting, also known as LED lighting because its light is generated from light-emitting diodes, delivers energy savings of 40 to 90 percent over CFLs. The LEDers program, set up with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, is intended to encourage Midwestern companies, utilities and municipalities to use solid-state lighting.
Through this program, MEEA also provides community outreach and staff training on LED technology and helps companies buy costeffective products by providing access to a network of vendors and manufacturers. It also evaluates potential sites where LEDs could be utilized and then provides calculations of the likely energy savings.
"Our membership in the Midwest is paying a lot of attention to LED lighting and looking for information on how they can use it in their efficiency programs, but we are also seeing a lot of apprehension," says Bulman. He explains that, with the technology developing rapidly, some LED products on the market perform a lot better than others. "We want to arm our partners with the knowledge they need to make the first intelligent steps into LED lighting."
The benefits for companies and municipalities
Costs are coming down, but LEDs are still expensive compared to CFLs. LEDs are currently less suitable for the residential market because it would take many years to recoup the current purchase costs through energy savings alone. But in commercial or outdoor settings, which have lights in hard-to-reach areas, LEDs can be the cheapest option because they last much longer than CFLs, making the maintenance costs much lower. "With LEDs, you install them in the fixture and you can essentially ignore them for years," says Bulman.
Because LEDs are a directional source of light rather than a glowing ball of light, they can be trained on a specific point. According to Andy Lynch, business development manager at Brook Electrical Distribution Company, which distributes LED products from many different manufacturers throughout the Midwest, this could be a big bonus in applications such as street lighting. "Large cities such as Chicago could significantly reduce light pollution by using LED lighting," he says.
Bulman believes LED prices will come down soon, meaning that the technology will also be viable for the residential market in the next few years. In fact, he believes LEDs will account for an increasing proportion of the new lighting products launched over the next few years. "We don't argue for any particular lighting technology, but now that we have another game changer in the picture, it will be interesting to see how things play."
For more information on improving energy efficiency, visit MEEA's Web site, www.mwalliance.org or contact Chad Bulman at 312-784-7275.
We encourage sharing these stories with colleagues, peers, and friends in order to broaden awareness of Midwestern efforts to capitalize on the region's energy potential.
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