In May 2016, the DesignLights Consortium® (DLC) released V.1.0 of its Networked Lighting Control Systems Specification, which formed the basis of a new Qualified Lighting Products List (QPL).
The intent was to provide utilities and energy efficiency programs a resource to qualify networked lighting control systems so they could be covered in commercial sector lighting rebates. At the same time, lighting professionals gained access to a resource enabling them to evaluate and compare otherwise highly individualized products in a standardized format. DLC developed the specification and networked lighting controls QPL as part of a larger market transformation effort that also includes contractor and distributor training along with an energy savings database and estimating tool.
In June 2017, the DLC released V2.0 of the specification, expanding its coverage and reported capabilities. During the year, a small number of utilities and energy efficiency programs announced the first rebates for networked lighting controls or otherwise began requiring QPL listing for existing rebates. This number is expected to grow substantially as utilities experiment with different approaches and the DLC produces energy savings estimates from collected building data.
In this article, we will review this program’s purpose and results to date, highlighting recent changes and developments.
Comprised of 83 Members representing some 100 utilities and energy efficiency programs, the DLC is a non-profit dedicated to accelerating adoption of energy-efficient lighting.
The DLC’s most well-known program is the Solid-State Lighting QPL, a list of LED products tested and verified as satisfying stringent performance and efficiency criteria. More than 260,000 products are currently listed. Utilities and energy efficiency programs across the United States and Canada use the QPL to qualify LED products as being eligible for commercial sector lighting rebates.
Lighting rebates can significantly reduce the installed cost of new lighting in existing buildings, improving payback by 20-25%, according to BriteSwitch. At the high end, rebates can absorb as much as 70% of the lighting product cost. In 2016, commercial lighting rebates covered 79% of the United States. With billions in annual funding, lighting rebates are a major market demand driver.
While lighting controls are common in rebate programs, prior to the QPL, nearly all rebates did not recognize networked lighting controls. Along with other factors, this inhibited adoption in existing buildings. The DLC estimates that networked lighting controls are installed in 1-2% of buildings, typically larger buildings.
The proliferation of LED lighting, along with falling integrated sensing, microprocessing, and networking costs, drove new interest in networked lighting controls. Wireless communication extended reach into existing buildings and exterior applications. Systems developed to reduce complexity, commissioning, and installed cost. Now it’s a major product trend in the industry, with cost-effective solutions available for luminaire-, room-, and building-/enterprise-based control in buildings of almost any size.
Utilities are often charged by regulators to save energy beyond what is mandated by current energy codes, resulting in their interest shifting to higher-performing LED products and networked lighting controls. A networked lighting control system consists of an intelligent network of individually addressable luminaires and control devices. Potential advantages include cost-effective application of multiple control strategies, programmability, building- or enterprise-level control from a single point, zoning and rezoning using software, and measuring and monitoring.
For utilities to incorporate networked lighting controls into their rebate programs, however, they need support to qualify products, justify rebates based on reliable energy savings estimates, and train contractors and distributors who may be unfamiliar with the technology. The DLC market transformation program was designed to meet these needs and is already seeing results.
“Advanced and networked lighting control systems have long been a complicated and confusing topic,” said Gabe Arnold, PE, LC, Technical Director, DLC. “There’s been little standardization, a myriad of options, constantly changing technology, and constantly changing offerings from manufacturers. This confusing landscape has contributed to avoidance of the technology and has stymied large-scale adoption and the energy efficiency opportunities it can provide. In partnership with Member utility programs, the DLC seeks to change the current paradigm—where less than 1% of projects seen by utility programs incorporate networked controls—to a new future where 90% or more of projects incorporate networked controls.”
The Networked Lighting Control Systems Specification is based on “required” and “reported” system capabilities. Required capabilities must be verified for listing. Reported capabilities are not required but included to help specifiers select appropriate solutions. As shown below, V2.0 extended coverage to include exterior systems while expanding reported capabilities to include color tuning, application program interface (API) and characteristics, startup and configuration requirements, and more as shown below. (An API is a group of processes, protocols, and tools that specify how software components interact; they are becoming more important as a method for connecting lighting control and other building systems.)
In addition, the system must be protected by a minimum five-year warranty covering all components addressed in the specification. And the system must be commercially available. All capabilities are described in detail on the DLC website.
As of August 2017, the networked lighting controls QPL listed 19 systems from 15 manufacturers, including the below Lighting Controls Association members:
|Company||Brand||Name of Control System||Scope/Scale of System (Room, Whole Building, Enterprise)|
|Acuity Brands||Acuity Controls||nLight Air®||Room level solution and whole building level solution|
|Acuity Brands||Acuity Controls||nLight®||Room level solution; Whole building level solution;
|Acuity Brands||Acuity Controls||XPoint Wireless||Room level solution; Whole building level solution;
|Cree, Inc.||SmartCast® Technology||SmartCast® Technology||Room level solution;
Whole building level solution
|Daintree Networks, Current powered by GE||Controlscope||Controlscope||Whole building level solutions;
Enterprise level solution
|Eaton||LumaWatt Pro||LumaWatt Pro||Room level solution; Whole building level solution;
|Lutron Electronics||Quantum||Quantum Total Light Management||Room level solution; Whole building level solution;
|Lutron Electronics||Vive™||Vive™ wireless||Room level solution; Whole building level solution|
|OSRAM SYLVANIA Inc.||ENCELIUM||ENCELIUM||Room level solution; Whole building level solution;
|Philips Lighting||SpaceWise||SpaceWise||Room level solution;
Whole building level solution
|Philips Lighting North America Corp (Rosemont)||EasySense||EasySense Advanced Grouping SNS200||Room Level solution, whole building level solution|
|RAB Lighting||Lightcloud||Lightcloud||Room level solution; Whole building level solution;
Information adapted from the networked lighting controls QPL as of August 8, 2017. Courtesy of DLC.
“For utilities and energy efficiency programs, the new specification and networked lighting controls QPL enable them to build new programs and rebates and scale their support of the technology to achieve greater energy savings,” Arnold said. “It provides an easily accessible list for their customers and partners to identify the systems that are eligible for rebates. For building designers, specifiers, contractors, and end-users, the new QPL provides a valuable tool to identify and compare potential control systems for their projects based on their capabilities and characteristics.”
According to Arnold, as of August 2017, more than 20 utilities and energy efficiency programs now require networked control systems be on the QPL, and about a dozen of these created new rebates for the technology. This dozen includes Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), EVERSOURCE, Mass Save, National Grid, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Wisconsin Focus on Energy, and others. Arnold added that most DLC Members and many other utilities are looking at how to incorporate the QPL into their rebate programs. The DLC’s goal is to develop a unified, market-friendly incentive strategy that would simplify the rebate process and streamline it across multiple program territories, but for now, utilities are experimenting with approaches.
Baltimore Gas & Electric, for example, takes a simple prescriptive approach. The utility provides a rebate of $50-80 for a DLC-qualified troffer. Customers can gain another $40 per luminaire if they incorporate DLC-qualified luminaire controls.
Massachusetts’s Mass Save Performance Lighting Program offers both a performance and a prescriptive rebate. It awards $2/W saved for projects that use DLC-qualified luminaires and exceed energy code. The rebate doubles if at least 80% of the connected lighting is controlled by a DLC-qualified networked control system. Through its Lighting Systems and Sensors prescriptive rebates program, Mass Save alternatively offers a prescriptive rebate of up to $95/DLC-qualified LED luminaire when combined with a DLC-qualified networked control system.
PG&E’s LED Accelerator Program bases its networked lighting control rebates on energy saved. It awards $0.17 per kWh and $150 per kW if DLC Premium luminaires are installed. The rebate increases to $0.24 per kWh and $150 per kW if DLC-qualified networked lighting controls are also installed.
Wisconsin Focus on Energy created a rebate based on a new approach. Customers can receive either a $0.125 or $0.25 per square foot rebate if a DLC-qualified networked control system is installed, depending on the application. An additional $0.05 per square foot can be earned if the system features energy monitoring capability and the customer agrees to share energy data with the utility or energy efficiency program.
“We see the utilities serving a critical role in accelerating the adoption of the technology, both near and long term,” Arnold said. “As they did with the introduction of the LED, many utilities will offer higher-than-normal rebates at the early stages to jumpstart the technology adoption. This will in turn help drive greater volume, and with this greater volume will come lower costs, more utilities and rebates, and ultimately widespread adoption.”
Energy savings estimate and training
The energy savings database includes data collected from manufacturers and energy efficiency programs for more than 120 commercial buildings. The first report will be published by the end of September 2017. This report provides estimates of energy savings for layered controls by building type. If the dataset allows more granular filtering, also by space type, geographic region, control strategy, etc. This information will provide credible third-party guidance to lighting professionals estimating energy savings from advanced controls. It will also give rebate programs critical information they need to justify and create new rebate programs around networked lighting controls.
Arnold said the data collection effort is ongoing. The more data, the more information and reliability, which will contribute to more rebates. If you have data to contribute, write to info at designlights dot org.
Additionally, the DLC is developing channel training about networked lighting controls specifically aimed at electrical distributors and contractors. The training’s goal is to get these players both familiar and comfortable with the technology, emphasizing newer networked control systems, which are relatively simple and lower-cost than previous systems. The training will be available through several utilities in the spring of 2018 as a pilot program before becoming widely available both as face-to-face sessions and as an online program by end of spring.
“Our training aims to address the reasons behind the historically low adoption rate for controls and to interactively prove to the students that the new class of networked control systems solve the old problems of complexity, confusion, and high cost of installation and commissioning,” said Arnold. “These courses will help them become powerful advocates of the technology, allow their customers to get the most out of a lighting retrofit or new build, and avoid leaving on the table the savings and benefits that controls can provide.”
For lighting practitioners, the result will be an exciting opportunity to deliver state-of-the-art lighting control systems to existing building projects—backed by rebates, third-party energy savings estimates and training.
“From the new QPL resource that supports product identification and selection, to a new training platform for education, to new rebates that reduce the cost, we encourage lighting practitioners to work with their local utility or rebate program and take advantage of these new resources,” Arnold said.
Learn more at designlights.org.