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Looking on the bright side

Perhaps the most telling sign of the transition to low energy lighting across the world was the recent re-opening of the Thomas Edison Monument in New Jersey, US, (pictured in construction). It's no longer lit by his own incandescent bulbs, but LEDs. It’s easy to see how this could be seen as a fitting nod to technological and sustainable progress.

Back here in the UK, people are using a third less energy to light their homes than 16 years ago – something credited in a large degree to the phase-out of the old-style bulbs. Since lighting makes up a quarter of peak residential electricity demand, this is good news indeed. The FT was quick to nod to our stats that suggest we could save a collective £1.4billion from our bills by replacing the filament bulbs hanging  in our homes.

The Europe-initiated market transformation of lighting is not letting up. The most inefficient halogen bulbs known as C-class will begin to be phased out after 2016. National Grid predicts that even though the amount of light sources in our homes is set to go up, it’s likely that lighting electricity demand could still halve by 2020 due to the rapidly-increasing efficiency of products. But as the changes to Edison’s monolith suggest, dealing with the energy consumption of public lighting is also extremely important. We have looked at the moves towards LED street lighting in New York and Scotland in previous blogs, but now, the Green Investment Bank (GIB) has stepped in with a new, low and fixed-rate ‘Green Loan’ to help local authorities tackle one of their biggest costs.

The collective energy bill for the UK’s 7 million street lights is £300million, but fewer than a million bulbs are low energy at present. This new offer may help to sway councils away from the false economy of business as usual, a case that the head of GIB, Shaun Kingsbury, makes very clearly: “Bad lighting does not come cheap, it carries an electricity bill which can be cut by up to 80 per cent with a move to low energy LED lighting. Making the switch saves councils money, increases community safety and dramatically reduces the UK’s carbon footprint.” And if that doesn’t convince you, check out what our trial of LED lighting concluded.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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