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Lighting the way on energy efficiency

October 9, 2008 |  2:54 pm


If California hopes to slash greenhouse gas emissions, driving a lot less is probably Job No. 1. Considering the long-term challenges on that front, let's look at Job No. 2: Energy efficiency. After all, what's cleaner than the energy you never use?

You may know that the state and its utilities have been big pushers of CFLs [compact fluorescent lights], which last longer and use less energy than a standard light bulb. Those have saved lots of watts, but technology is already moving on to light-emitting diodes, or LEDs [also known as solid state lighting].

Thanks in part to lighting test laboratories like the one run by Southern California Edison, LEDs are showing up in under-cabinet kitchen lighting, recessed can-style ceiling lights, commercial signs and retail parking lots.

"We've been doing a lot of testing of these, and our customers are real interested in what they do," said Gregg Ander, chief architect in Edison's design and engineering services arm. "Generally, efficiencies have improved with solid state lighting in the last year by 20% to 25%, and costs have come down between 20% and 40%."

Lighting accounts for up to a third of Edison's daily energy load. Air conditioners, during normal hours, suck up 25% of the power, and more during heat waves and other peak usage periods.

On Wednesday, the utility opened up its energy-use testing labs in Irwindale and passed out awards to commercial and government partners, such as Santa Clara-based Watt Stopper/Legrand, that have helped propel more efficient technologies to the market. Products tested in its lighting lab were featured in a demonstration kitchen and its "office of the future."

The utility runs a related lab that tests power-saving air conditioning technologies. There, engineers and manufacturers are working on units that will operate more efficiently in the hot, dry climates of California. Today's models were built with Chicago and Miami in mind, Ander said.

Edison also works on refrigeration -- one project involved companies reconfiguring cases for the reach-in refrigerators common to grocery stores. That product will be added to the state's rebate program next year, following the path taken by many other energy efficiency advances that were vetted in labs like Edison's.

To check out what you can do, hit Edison's Rebates & Savings page, or sign up for related classes. Read up on the testing and program reports from the state's major investor-owned utilities. After all, you and the state's other electricity customers are paying for the effort.

Check out Southern California Gas Co.'s rebates for homes and for businesses. Or see Pacific Gas & Electric's rebate programs for businesses and homes, and learn more about its energy testing center.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s rebate programs for homes are here and businesses are here. Los Angeles folks can find the Department of Water & Power's residential offerings here; and its non-residential programs here.

For more information, visit the California Lighting Technology Center and the Energy Efficiency Center at the University of California at Davis, the California Energy Commission's energy efficiency page and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

-- Elizabeth Douglass

Photo: Teren Abear, a member of Edison's lighting team, and Jane Chadesh of power management systems company Convia, at the lighting lab.Credit: Southern California Edison