Working together to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy

Lights Labour's Lost


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Edition: 2006
561 pages


When the incandescent lamp was first commercialised the main mode of transport was the horse, trains were powered by steam, balloons were the only means of flight and the telegraph was the state of the art for long-distance communication. Much has changed in the intervening 127 years, but much has also remained the same. In 1879 the incandescent lamp set a new standard in energy-efficient lighting technology, but today good-quality compact fluorescent lamps need only onequarter of the power to provide the same amount of light. Yet most of us continue to rely on the “horse” of the incandescent lamp instead of the “internal combustion engine” of the compact fluorescent lamp. Nor is this the only way in which lighting energy is being wasted. We illuminate rooms when we’re not there, we over-light spaces, we squander available daylight and we underutilise the most efficient street lighting and non-residential building lighting technologies.

This might not matter were it not for the severe challenges we face in securing a clean, sustainable and affordable energy system. Electricity generation is the main source of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and lighting uses one-fifth of its output. Despite having many higher-efficiency and lower-cost alternatives, we continue to use less efficient and more expensive lighting technologies.

Is this because we are inherently attached to these older technologies, or is it simply because we stick to what we know when unaware or unsure of the merits of the alternatives? In each of the main lighting end-use sectors (commercial buildings, households, industrial lighting, outdoor lighting and vehicle lighting), this book shows that not only do more cost-effective and higherefficiency alternative choices exist, but that they could be deployed very quickly were the current market barriers to be addressed. Doing this would allow our economies to be stronger and cleaner without sacrificing anything in our quality of life. Moreover, the policies that can bring about this change have been tested and found to work. What is needed is more comprehensive and vigorous implementation in each economy and lighting sector.

This book shows us why and how we should do so.