US DOE says SSL will save 569 TWh of energy annually by 2035

Jan. 31, 2020
The Energy Savings Forecast of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications report from the US Department of Energy says the transition to LED sources will in 2035 save energy equivalent to the output of more than 92 1000-MW power plants.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released its biennial research that models the uptake of LED-based sources across the lamps and luminaire sectors, specifically in the US market. Energy savings directly attributable to the transition to solid-state lighting (SSL) and more specifically to LED-based lighting will result in annual energy savings of 569 TWh (terawatt hours or 5.69 ×1011 kWh) the equivalent of the output of more than 92 1000-MW power plants.

The DOE has long updated its SSL energy-saving model every two years. The agency’s researchers project data along three scenarios of SSL adoption, comparing what would have happened if SSL hadn’t emerged as an alternative to legacy sources, compared with the SSL adoption path that matches current trends, and compared with the best possible path that would result from advanced DOE R&D goals being met or exceeded.

The latest report states that electric lighting in the US during 2017 consumed 6 quads of energy with a quad equaling 1015 BTUs (British Thermal Units) or around 293 TWh; 6 quads represents 16% of the electrical energy consumed in the US.

In 2017, the DOE research suggests that 19% of the US lighting market had transitioned to LED sources. That level of LED adoption equated to savings of 1.1 quads of energy.

Looking out at 2035, the DOE believes that high-lumen-output applications such as street and area lighting will near saturation and that the largest growth sectors will have been low- and high-bay applications that got off to a slow start. Based on current rates of conversion, the DOE said annual energy savings in 2035 would target 4.8 quads. But the agency believes the result will be nearer the best-case scenario with additional efficacy gains and broad use of programmatic and autonomous controls that could yield an additional 1.3 quads in savings.

Comparing this projection to past DOE reports shows the validity of the best-case model. When we last covered the biennial report in 2016, the DOE was projecting annual savings of 5.1 quads in 2035. Now the best-case scenario projection is up to 6.1 quads.

Still, the more staggering data is the cumulative savings that will be attributable to the move to LEDs. The DOE said based on current trending, the US will save a cumulative 62 quads of energy between 2017 and 2035. In the best-case scenario, however, that cumulative total would climb to 78 quads. The agency expects that. The 78-quad figure equates to $890 billion in avoided energy costs.

Of course, the DOE report has a self-serving angle to it. The agency has used that type of data to justify the US government’s investment in SSL R&D. Frankly, it’s almost a surprise that such a report was even published under the current administration in Washington, DC.

In reality, there is little doubt that the DOE SSL program has been an unusually good investment for US tax payers and citizens. Moreover, DOE regulatory policy helped drive a more rapid uptake in LED technology. Unfortunately, we can’t ascertain now how the recent rollback of energy-efficiency policy might impact the projections in this latest report.

You can access the full content of this latest DOE report on the agency’s SSL website (note the link is to a PDF).