Speaking at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in New York recently, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, delivered his first major policy speech since taking office. In it, he outlined a number of steps he would like to see taken to help the country reach energy independence and reduce its carbon footprint, and promoting the use of environmentally friendly lighting was among the top priorities.
Cheaper LEDs key step in reducing carbon emissions
One of the focuses of Moniz's speech was the need to reduce costs for energy efficient technologies like LEDs. Citing the fact those reductions have already been taking place, he pointed out that utility companies may have to start reassessing their strategies.
"A harbinger of what is coming is when energy incumbents start to seriously reexamine their business models in the face of what is happening," said Moniz. "It was only a few years ago when nobody cared. The message is the future may not be always 10 years away. I believe these technologies are beginning to establish their positions."
MIT shows how Moniz's vision can be realized
Moniz needs to look no farther than his former university to find simple steps that can help deliver the kind of energy future he envisions. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Efficiency Forward program has been a prime mover in transforming the way energy is used on campus in the three years since its inception.
By installing LED lighting systems, occupancy sensors and other energy efficient products throughout university grounds, as well as constructing Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED) certified buildings, MIT has been able to reduce its energy footprint by 34 million kilowatt-hours per year, according to an article in MIT's Energy Futures magazine. That number represents 15 percent of total energy usage on campus, and it is expected to lead to lifetime savings of approximately $50 million for the university, while also keeping up to 200,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere on an annual basis.
By working in concert with NSTAR, a Massachusetts utility company, MIT was able to invest more than $13 million in energy conservation over Efficiency Forward's three-year existence, and university officials have already recognized the many rewards.
"The team implementing Efficiency Forward has been tireless in its pursuit of smart, efficient measures all across our campus," says Israel Ruiz, MIT's executive vice president and treasurer. "We are appreciative of our collaboration with NSTAR and the valuable contributions from our faculty, students, and staff to make the program such a success… We are thrilled to have been able to make such a contribution to moving the dial on energy efficiency – both on campus and in the region."
Implementing MIT's experiment nationwide
MIT and NSTAR's program provides a roadmap for how energy efficiency can become more widely adopted throughout the United States. By distributing 10,000 LED light bulbs on campus and replacing refrigerators in dorms with newer, more efficient models, the program showed how small steps can quickly add up. The construction of new buildings on campus that utilized most of the efficiency technologies on the market today, including commercial LED lighting, also proved that huge energy savings can be realized through smart building and contracting techniques.