Most Read Articles of the Year

What a year 2018 has been! We’re ending on a high note and covering the most read content of the year. Check out the news articles below PLUS a bonus about the past, present, and future of the DesignLights Consortium® Premium classification.

Note about how we determined the top news articles of the year: No articles about our new product launches or features, time based events like elections or trade shows, or if a version of something was released but it’s not relevant anymore. For articles to be considered the average view time had to be more than 2 minutes.

#1 Do you know about HVAC and VFD incentives and what they mean for you?

Upgrading an HVAC system can be a costly project, and even adding VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) is not a small investment. This is where utility incentives can come into play. Rebates for HVAC equipment and VFDs improve the ROI on projects by allowing you to achieve higher energy savings with more efficient equipment.  Continue Reading →

 

#2 A manufacturer’s guide to understanding how to use rebates to increase sales

Rebates…UGH. They’re like your favorite worst enemy. We all know how important rebates are to the world of LEDs, but easy access into constantly changing utility programs has never been available…from an end user trying to learn about and submit for a utility rebate, to a distributor who wants to use rebates to increase his margins but is afraid to quote the wrong number, to the marketing team trying to plan their next targeted campaign or create engaging content that converts their website traffic. Using rebates can be so beneficial to these processes, but they are extremely time consuming — especially if you’re dealing in more than one utility.  Start understanding how to use rebates to increase sales →

 

#3 Don’t Wait ’til it Breaks!

Don’t wait ’til aging HVAC equipment breaks! Did you know that early replacement of your HVAC system with new energy efficient equipment can be rebate eligible? There are many reasons to consider replacing your HVAC equipment early. See the reasons  →

 

#4 Field Adjustable Light Output and Concerns

As part of the Design Lights Consortium’s® Technical Requirements V4.4 update, Field-Adjustable Products can now be listed on the SSL QPL. This policy update allows the QPL to keep up with innovations in this rapidly changing technology. Utility incentive programs response to this new policy has yet to be fully revealed, but early anecdotal discussions have given rise to some concerns. Read more  →

 

#5 Industry Impacts From the DesignLights Consortium® NLC Analysis Study

By 2035, more than a third of installed luminaires in commercial buildings are estimated to have network connectivity (DOE 2016). The DLC® analysis is important because – even with the limited availability of the data they had to work with –  utilities are going to use this study to lay the groundwork for the design of networked lighting controls incentives. Get the rundown and download the analysis →

 

BONUS! Exploring DLC® Premium: Past, Present, and Future

Three years into DesignLights Consortium® Premium, with over 130,000 (and growing) products listed, it’s worth exploring why DLC® Premium was initiated, its intended purpose, and whether it’s actually having the desired effect.  Explore DLC Premium now →

 

Exploring DLC® Premium: Past, Present, and Future

 

Three years into DesignLights Consortium® Premium, with over 130,000 (and growing) products listed, it’s worth exploring why DLC® Premium was initiated, its intended purpose, and whether it’s actually having the desired effect. Also, we’ll take a look at how utilities are handling incentives for premium fixtures, how all energy efficiency players can use the premium distinction to their advantage, and a look into what the future may hold.

 

Past

In 2015, the DesignLights Consortium finalized and released version 3.0 of its technical requirements, which included a new “DLC Premium” classification for LED luminaires and retrofit kits.

 

“The DLC Premium classification identifies products with higher performance than those that meet the DLC Standard classification. This change will enable DLC Members to identify the most efficacious products for incentive consideration. Manufacturers of these products will also be able to distinguish themselves on the QPL and also through the use of the new DLC Premium logo.”

 

At the 2015 DLC Stakeholder meeting, the discussion about the DLC Premium topic was lively and emotional. Many manufacturers expressed their displeasure with the introduction of an additional classification, primarily for two reasons: the cost of reclassifying an already DLC-listed product and the name of the new classification. Utilities, on the other hand, were trying to put a focus on products that achieved greater efficiency. In the end, the concept of DLC Premium proceeded to implementation.

In 2016, version 4.0 was released. This new standard increased the efficacy requirements for both DLC Standard and DLC Premium in an attempt to raise the bar on LED efficacy and what products were being used for energy efficiency products.

 

“…the DLC has raised the requirements for Premium as well to serve the needs of its membership. The objective for the Premium classification is to identify the top 5-10% most efficacious products in any given category.”

 

Utility Programs

Starting in 2015, utility programs began to introduce DLC Premium into program design. There have been a number of implementations and iterations since then, including the introduction of a separate QPL in California, a big Premium proponent.

 

Present

Today, from a product listing perspective, the Premium program is going strong.

 

Category# of Premium / EligiblePercent
Outdoor Fixtures and Retrofit Kits
Outdoor Pole/Arm-Mounted Area and Roadway Luminaires
Outdoor Pole/Arm-Mounted Decorative Luminaires
Outdoor Full-Cutoff Wall-Mounted Area Luminaires
Outdoor Non-Cutoff and Semi-cutoff Wall-Mounted Area Luminaires
Bollards
Parking Garage Luminaires
Fuel Pump Canopy Luminaires
Landscape/Accent Flood and Spot Luminaires
Architectural Flood and Spot Luminaires
Stairwell/Passageway Luminaires
54,691 / 184,80730%
Indoor Fixtures and Retrofit Kits
Wall-Wash Luminaires
Track or Mono-Point Directional Luminaires
Vertical Refrigerated Case Luminaires
Horizontal Refrigerated Case Luminaires
Display Case Luminaires
1×4, 2×2, and 2×4 Luminaires for Ambient Lighting of Interior Commercial Spaces
Direct Linear Ambient Luminaires
Linear Ambient Luminaires with Indirect Component
High-Bay Luminaires for Commercial and Industrial Buildings
Low-Bay Luminaires for Commercial and Industrial Buildings
High-Bay Aisle Luminaires for Commercial and Industrial Buildings
78,829 / 216,66336%
TOTAL 133,520 / 402,47033%

 

Of eligible fixtures currently on the DLC, not including lamps which are not eligible for the Premium distinction, 33% have a high enough efficacy to qualify for Premium. Only 7.2% of qualifying fixtures met this threshold in Spring 2016. Advances in LED technology since the Premium concept was announced have produced an overall increase in efficacy. Without any updates to efficacy requirements since 2016, the percentage of products qualifying for premium has far exceeded the ‘5-10%’ objective.

 

Utility Programs

Utility programs have primarily implemented the DLC Premium concept in two ways. First, some programs have required DLC Premium fixtures to qualify for a rebate or incentives at all, either for specific categories, or for their entire program. Second, programs have offered differentiated incentives levels for DLC Standard vs DLC Premium.

The list of utility programs that use the DLC Premium distinction in program design includes:

  • MassSave (including Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil for electric)
  • National Grid – Rhode Island
  • Eversource – New Hampshire
  • National Grid – Upstate NY
  • PSEG/Long Island  (although not currently differentiating)
  • NYSEG
  • Rochester Gas and Electric
  • JEA – Jacksonville, FL
  • Ameren Illinois
  • Bright Energy Solutions – MN, IA, SD, ND
  • Pacific Gas & Electric
  • Southern California Edison
  • San Diego Electric & Gas
  • Efficiency Nova Scotia

 

This is a somewhat disappointing list compared to the the number of utilities that offer commercial/industrial LED incentives. However, the list does represent approximately 15% of all US commercial and industrial customers. Additionally, these utilities cover markets with high electricity costs and are some of the largest programs by rebates paid annually. Ignore DLC Premium at your own risk!

 

But how meaningful is it?

Let’s focus on the programs that offer higher incentives for DLC Premium over DLC Standard, I have aggregated the incentive offerings into popular fixture types. For these three categories, the following table lists the lowest and highest incentive differences between DLC Standard and DLC Premium.

 


Fixture Category
Lowest increase ($)Highest increase ($)Notes
Troffers$5$10Varies by # of lamps
High/Low Bay$5$50Varies by utility
Outdoor$5$100Varies by utility and lumens

 

I took a quick look at pricing for these product types on some distributor websites and offer a few observations:

  • Premium Troffers don’t look like a great deal, depending on how you attribute the lifetime savings for the new LED fixture
  • The additional rebate could be impactful for Premium High Bay fixtures, especially with the additional energy savings and high lumens from more efficient fixtures
  • Outdoor premium fixtures seem to be a better deal as well, especially at higher lumen levels

But let’s dive into an almost real world example:

Let’s assume we are looking at a building in Massachusetts (my old home!). An LED upgrade there would qualify for a rebate from MassSave. We’ll check out the middle of the road upgrade from the above table — High Bays.

Assumptions for the existing condition:

  1. Nominal 400W metal halides are used indoors
  2. Annual burn hours (hours of use) are 4,000
  3. The average cost of electricity for a commercial building in Massachusetts is $0.14 per kWh

Assumptions for the LED upgrade:

Rather than pick a random fixture out of the DLC QPL, I created some representative fixtures from the existing list. To determine a wattage for Standard and Premium fixtures, I looked at the entire DLC catalog for High Bay fixture that were around 19,000 lumens. From that subset of data, the average wattage was:

Standard DLC High Bay @ 19000 : 158 watts  (average out of 11,000 fixtures)
Premium DLC High Bay @ 19000 : 135 watts  (average out of 9,000 fixtures)

I’ve listed the the energy savings, rebate and payback for these two fixtures.

 

Scenario

Standard DLC High BayPremium DLC High Bay
Existing annual kWh18321832
New annual kWh632540
kWh saved annually12001292
$ saved annually$168$181
Rebate$200$250
Fixture Price$350$390
Payback (months)10.79.2

 

In this scenario the difference between Standard and Premium is pretty compelling and DLC Premium is a win-win for everyone! The customer receives a higher rebate, immediately offsetting the additional cost of the premium fixture. Additionally, the premium fixture provides more energy savings, which turns into a shorter payback period and a greater lifetime financial benefit. The manufacturer and distribution chain get higher revenue, and the utility is able to realize higher savings to meet its energy efficiency goals.

However, there are a lot of variables, which can make this scenario more or less compelling.

  1. Electric rates – Higher rates mute the difference compared to the overall electric cost, lower rates make the difference more compelling, but elongate the payback period
  2. Rebates – MassSave and other programs have both higher and lower rebates for this scenario and differ for other scenarios and applications
  3. Pricing – Different relationships in pricing between the two types of products can warp this model

It’s important to do your own homework here and understand where DLC Premium can be a great tool for selling efficiency. More on this below.

Other Premium Incentive approaches

So far I’ve focused on the most common approach utilities have taken in regards to DLC Premium incentives, prescriptive adders. However, it is worth mentioning a few other approaches. As mentioned earlier, some only incentivize premium fixtures, making standard fixtures ineligible. One utility is using a higher “watts reduced” rate for DLC Premium fixtures. Another program utilizes Premium in refrigeration lighting only. Lastly (and inexplicably), one program offers rebates for both Standard and Premium in its prescriptive program, but only incentivizes Premium in its upstream/midstream/instant rebate program, but those rebates are significantly lower than its prescriptive program.

 

Recommendations

Based on all the information and analysis above, I’d like to offer a few recommendations on how to best utilize DLC Premium:

Manufacturers:  Do your homework to understand where DLC Premium enhanced rebates are offered and use that information to educate your agents/reps, distributors, and other specifiers that Premium fixtures should be considered. Analyze your pricing to determine where and in what scenarios Premium will give you an advantage. Include Premium differentiation language in your marketing to raise awareness that your products qualify for higher incentives, rewarding purchase of higher efficiency products.

Agents/Rep/Distributors: If you are in an area that offers enhanced rebates for DLC Premium, understand the rebate scenarios for your local programs, and screen that against the DLC Premium list to identify fixtures that would offer compelling ROIs. Work with your manufacturer on pricing, detailing the opportunities your area.

Utilities: Take a hard look at implementing DLC Premium. It should promote the purchase of higher efficiency fixtures in your program. The purchase of higher efficiency fixtures creates higher energy savings per project which expedites progress toward efficiency goals.

 

Future

Looking forward, I will be curious to see what happens with DLC Premium, with a few scenarios in mind:

  1. Efficacy updates. DLC 5.0 is reputed to have some efficacy updates, but it’s unclear whether it will have any impact on DLC Premium. If the DLC and member utilities do adjust Premium efficacies in an attempt to return premium to the “5-10%” state, what will happen?  Are there consequences to the dramatic uptick in the number of fixtures that meet Premium requirements?
  2. Introduction of new DLC Premium opportunities. As utilities look at their program designs, the creation of new Premium incentives, would generate more opportunities for clever manufacturers/agents/distributors to capitalize.
  3. Decrease in DLC Premium opportunities. Honestly, the California programs, which have been big users of the Premium concept, appear to be marginalizing the concept of paying more for higher efficiency. Only one category of lighting has higher incentives for Premium fixtures. We’ll see what the new year brings.

I hope this helps catch everybody up. Please feel free to comment below with questions or to get clarification on this topic.

By Mike Cham, CTO, Encentiv Energy

 

Sources:
All data in this article was sourced from Encentiv Energy’s database.
*Full disclosure: I am the CTO of Encentiv Energy, and I eat my own dog food.