Progressive utility sets the pace and the rate for LED

A recent seminar hosted by Progress Energy gave participants a valuable insight into the utility’s perspective and expectations for LED lighting, writes BRIAN OWEN.

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Bob Henderson from Progress Energy, a North Carolina-based utility, recently spent a day with the industry, focusing on utilities and explaining how Progress has worked with LED technology in area and outdoor lighting to develop an innovative model rate schedule.

“[This was] likely a first, for customer-owned lighting employing the technology,” says Henderson, adding, “This will reduce the costs for customer owned lighting, balancing the economic payback equation and thus making more sense to convert to LED.”

Bob Henderson
This has been a major barrier also noted in the market transformation to LED traffic signals, where municipalities derived the environmental benefits and kudos, but not the dollars due to bulk rates that were not renegotiated with the utilities. Incentives and rebates were developed, much similar to last year's announcement from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Over 30 participated in the LED Outdoor Lighting Workshop, hosted by the IES Raleigh Section with 20 onsite attendees and 13 attendees by webinar.

Henderson outlined the utility’s process as well as the technical requirements for moving forward with LED lighting, giving participants valuable insight into the utility’s perspective and expectations.

As a part of the process, Progress conducted a public survey. Henderson related some of the results, highlighting that as light level went down, the public perceived that visibility went up. He explained that this is due to one light source in incumbent technology versus multiple light sources aimed with optics with LED.

With respect to colour, the original issue with lighting was light levels, safety & security in the utility’s viewpoint, but not necessarily public preference. When surveyed, respondents showed some preference for lower “warmer” colour temperatures, but when told that the 6000K lights were 15% more efficient, those surveyed preferred 6000K.

Vision was also a topic of discussion. Henderson recounted that when seeing object coming in from the side in peripheral view during driving, we will turn our head to keep it in the fovea vision, but we never see objects entering the road with peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is through the rods in the eye, which are more sensitive to high temperature or blue light, which could be greatly improved with LED. Currently, this is not taken into consideration in recommended practices, for example by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), as it is deemed as not relative. Henderson added that Europe has some studies going now that are considering this as relative. The shortening of driver’s reaction from peripheral vision before turning your head is currently being researched. European recommended practices give credence to this. The IES Roadway Lighting committee has also agreed to begin to study this.

With respect to “dark-sky” issues, Henderson mentioned that in the recent IES statement that responds to the International Dark-Sky Association’s (IDA) draft position paper, “light at night” is different from “outdoor lighting.” Henderson noted that there is a lot we do not know! Much additional research is needed, especially in the real world applications, before drawing any conclusions. There is not sufficient evidence at present to justify any modifications to current recommended practices. NEMA and DOE have challenged the IDA’s draft position paper, which recommends using nothing above 3000K. Henderson noted that LED maker Cree has recently modified its 4300K white LED by reducing the “blue pump” and changing the phosphors. This makes the 4300K version around 6-8% less efficient than the 6000K LED, compared with the 15% fall-off for the previous 4300K version.

Henderson summarized Progress Energy’s position by stating: “Until further research is undertaken and conclusive, proving validity to health concerns, Progress will continue to maximize energy efficiency.” With respect to LED outdoor product selection, Henderson noted that Progress has an approved list of fixtures. An interesting point as to the “utility mentality” with respect to product selection was recounted by Henderson, stating, "We like to buy one product to kill 4 birds."

Henderson recounted that during the luncheon, there were 10 tabletop LED outdoor product exhibits from manufacturers, which were very well received. Many new LED outdoor products are now available compared to even this time last year.

It was also noted that responsibility for lighting the roadway ends at the driveway line or sidewalk. Henderson commented that, from the public survey results, one of the only negative reactions to directed light from LED was that some residents mentioned that the light on their driveways and front sidewalks had been eliminated, however this is not the intended purpose of roadway lighting.

Also discussed was the policing tendency to over-light as a reaction to crime, but there is now a better understanding for the need of light quality over light quantity.

In an interview with Bob Henderson following the event, he said, “The utilities and their support suppliers thought it was well worth their time and were thankful that they attended to hear the presentations and get the support information. They indicated it will reduce their workload as they move forward in the future. SCE&G (South Carolina Electric and Gas) said they were thankful for us paving the way with South Carolina (SC) regulators on this issue. Now they have a rate pattern that has been approved by the SC Public Service Commission. They liked the new rate structure ideas and other things that will impact their decisions to add LEDs.”

Henderson received compliments on the value of the technical information that was presented, commenting “Utilities must be technically sound on the products that are offered because we have to live with the results. If they do not last, it can cost us big time.”

“Offering LED fixtures is difficult for many utilities because it is different from HID. There are new issues to deal with. They are expensive, so how do you deal with that? There are also questions from utilities about induction lighting,” stated Henderson adding that the question is “ Which is better?”

Henderson will be giving a presentation on this topic at the state-wide North Carolina Energy Division Symposium in Raleigh, NC. He will be sharing some of this same rate design information with the LRC and NYSERDA at the end of the month at a similar meeting of all the Investor Owned Utilities in New York State.

Bryan Purcell, Toronto Atmospheric Fund Program Manager responsible for the Toronto LightSavers program commented, “This seminar offered a great summary of all the issues municipalities and utilities should be aware of if they are interested in promoting or installing outdoor LED lighting. The presentation on utility rate structures and billing options for LED streetlights was particularly valuable.”

Henderson will have an encore presentation of this event by way of a webinar rebroadcast planned for May 5th, 2010 from 9:00 am. to 3:30 pm. They already have participants signed up for the rebroadcast but there is still room for others to join in reports Henderson. The link to register for the rebroadcast is There will be a live call-in telephone conference line after the May 5th rebroadcast from 3:30 pm. to 4:30 pm. where Henderson will answer questions.

Henderson and Progress Energy produced a highly organized presentation with charts, images and technical reference papers, essentially a “how to” manual. This will also be made available on an interactive CD. This valuable resource is provided to every participant.

“We did something unique, possibly for the first time in the industry.” said Henderson, adding “ A utility shared all their work that they performed to address the issues to take the LED product from an idea to a reality for their customers; all in one day and in one place.”

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