Future Energy Solutions CEO Daniel Gold has an opinion on virtually everything. In our “Good as Gold” blog series, Daniel offers his perspective on a variety of wide-ranging topics. Ready for some enlightenment? Read on!
Business Energy Options When Utilities Control Most Strings
By Daniel Gold, CEO, Future Energy Solutions
A recent New York Times article, “Why Home Solar Panels No Longer Pay in Some States,” focused on the plight of a California homeowner who figured his solar panel purchase ultimately would pay for itself through energy savings.
Unfortunately, utility regulators drastically altered his projections when they allowed Pacific Gas & Electric to change its rate schedule. According to the Times article, the resident, who purchased $20,000 worth of solar panels just two years earlier, now faces paying much higher kWh rates for the electricity he gets from the utility in the evening, while the power company pays significantly less for the excess power it buys from solar panel owners.
It’s what might be called a “lose-lose situation.”
Despite what consumers may have read about power costing less than it did years ago, utilities are in the business of making profits for themselves and their shareholders. Ultimately, we’re going to pay more to power our homes and businesses.
So, what options are there to keep energy costs lower?
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A number of businesses and consumers purchase energy efficient appliances to qualify for energy rebates and tax savings. But rarely does the rebate or tax benefit cover the cost of the new appliance. Not only that, they are one-time benefits. Although the new appliances will use less energy, as energy costs rise, consumers could well find themselves back where they started…or worse. This especially is an issue when tax rebates or incentives are driving the decision, rather than the owner’s actual location-specific needs.
And, what about businesses that must “keep the lights on” seven days a week? What energy-savings are available to them?
The standard option has been incandescent lights. While they may be the least expensive form of lighting, they also are the least energy efficient to operate. And, because they burn out more quickly, they typically cost more to maintain. Halogen lighting is an “improved” version of incandescent lights that are brighter, but are more expensive. In actuality, they have a very short life and are inefficient, offering less light per kW used. Regarding actual energy savings, they don’t offer an advantage.
LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have been the prominent, recurring theme for companies hoping to reduce the amount of energy used to keep businesses well-lit. In some peoples’ minds the three letters “LED” have become synonymous as the only energy saving light fixture or bulb. Yes, many businesses can benefit from tax incentives and/or rebates by installing LED lighting, but smart business decisions cannot be made solely on the one-time benefits of those savings.
Although they put out plenty of bright light while using less power, and last longer than Halogen or incandescent bulbs, LEDs have significant drawbacks – cost and potential incorrect fixture type for the application being primary ones. A business’ savings may not cover the expense of swapping out existing “HID” or inefficient bulbs for LEDs; however, the sticker shock of purchasing LEDs is not the only deterrent to making the switch.
LED bulbs typically have a narrower, more downwardly directed and focused beam, which can act as a disadvantage over existing light sources that spread light across the area being lit. A photometric study would be required to determine if current fixture spacing is correct for LED lighting. Otherwise, an LED strategy may not fully cover the space to be illuminated. In addition, with no industry-wide standards in place for brands that supply LED fixtures, there’s a high risk of product mismatch over time. There’s also the ability for manufacturers to drive up prices for replacement and spare parts after the initial sale, which may have been discounted to act as an attraction to commit to a purchase of LEDs.
So, what alternatives are available to businesses? How about induction lights?
The U.S. Department of Energy calls induction lighting “one of the best kept secrets in energy-efficient lighting.” First demonstrated by Nikola Tesla in the 1890s, induction lighting is an “old” idea that’s been given new life in the 21st century.
According to Energy.gov, induction lights last a long time – as many as 100,000 hours, which means they can continue illuminating for up to 11 years, even if used in a 24/7 operation. The Energy Department calls them an excellent solution for hard-to-reach areas, since they require less maintenance than incandescent bulbs, and for places where reliable, high-quality, high-lumen lighting is needed.
With a demonstrable long track record of performance and energy efficiency – energy savings of up to 65 percent can be achieved – induction lighting has demonstrated its effectiveness in providing improved lighting levels, lower maintenance costs and substantial energy savings.
As the CEO of a green technology, energy-efficient lighting company, I can attest to the value, quality, and long life of induction lights. We often recommend them as primary lighting for many of our clients, while, other times, we may provide a mix of LEDs and induction lighting. Every client’s situation and needs are different so care needs to be taken in selecting the correct technology to achieve energy savings.
If a business is looking for ways to stay well-lit and use less energy, it should enlist the assistance of a lighting professional who will conduct a thorough evaluation of the business’ energy use and then recommend a system that will save money on energy costs, while not costing an arm and a leg up-front.
For businesses that want to stay ahead of the profit curve and achieve the benefits of being energy efficient the time is right to explore a new, better way of keeping the business well-lit and attractive to customers…before those inevitable rate hikes kick in.
Induction lighting may be the path to their future energy savings.
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Daniel Gold is Principal Partner and Chief Executive Officer (USA) of Future Energy Solutions (FES), a green technology, energy-efficient company based in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He assumed his leadership role at FES in 2009, taking the company from a start-up to one that today is installing energy-efficient lighting projects across the United States.