An Even Brighter Future for Lighting
As saving energy becomes a higher priority, managers will look at all possible alternatives for helping their organization curtail use and control costs. Changes in incentives for investment in lighting systems, coupled with advances in lighting-system technology, have created appealing opportunities with a range of benefits.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction, which allows building owners to deduct the entire cost of upgrading a lighting system or building in the year equipment begins service, subject to a cap. The act provides accelerated tax-deduction incentives for energy-efficient lighting upgrades completed from 2006 through 2008.
The commercial building tax deduction provision is effective for property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2008. The act became law on December 20, 2006. Recently, the provision received a one-year extension, to Jan. 1, 2009.
For system upgrades, owner deductions are applicable at a rate of $0.30 to $0.60 per square foot if energy density is 25-40 percent below ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 watts per square foot. To qualify for the commercial building tax deduction for lighting projects, the interim rules of EPAct 2005 state that projects must meet the 90.1 controls requirements and have bi-level switching.
This requirement has created much discussion and controversy. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) recently clarified the requirement by stating that bi-level switching is two discrete levels of light, not including off.
Technology on the Move
In November 2004, the Consortium for Energy Efficiency launched an initiative for high-performance commercial lighting systems. The initiative’s initial focus was national coordination in defining efficient, high-performance lighting products. At the outset, the initiative addressed higher lumen, 4-foot, 32-watt T8 systems. In January 2007, CEE added a specification for reduced-wattage T8 systems to the initiative.
Finally, a newly developed hybrid lighting technology pioneered by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) could save facilities thousands of dollars annually in lighting costs, according to ORNL researchers. The technology collects sunlight and pipes it into buildings using bundles of small optical fibers, resulting in potentially significant energy savings in lighting and maintenance costs.
The system can save about 6,000 kilowatt hours per year in lighting and another 2,000 in reduced cooling needs, for a total of 8,000 kilowatt hours annually, according to estimates by Sunlight Direct, a company that licensed the technology from ORNL.
— Dan Hounsell, Editor