Switching on to efficient lighting

The worldwide transition towards more energy efficient lighting has begun. To accelerate the phase-in of advanced lighting technologies that will help save energy, reduce carbon emissions and provide light to millions of people who currently lack access – governments, public and private sector representatives met at the Global Forum on Efficient Lighting to agree on plans to scale and accelerate impact.

energy efficient lighting

Image copyright: UNEP.

Scaling the transition to energy efficient lighting will have major implications. According to UNEP, if commercially available efficient lamps and lighting devices were deployed worldwide, this would result in the avoided construction of about 280 new coal-fired power plants and would also help reduce electricity bills globally by US$120 billion each year.

To put it in perspective – if all light sources were switched to LED lamps, global electricity consumption for lighting would be reduced by more than 50 per cent, equivalent to the yearly CO2 emissions of Germany! 

However, the electricity used for lighting is expected to increase by one-third by 2030, equivalent to the yearly consumption of France and Germany combined, if ambitious targets are not adopted.

UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, said, “Replacing the world’s 670 million kerosene lamps with cleaner, safer, solar-powered lighting represents a major opportunity to deliver across multiple fronts, from cuts in global carbon emissions, health risks from indoor air pollution, support for green technologies and the generation of green jobs.”

The UNEP en.lighten initiative addresses the challenge of accelerating global market transformation to environmentally sustainable lighting technologies by providing technical support for the transition to energy-efficient lighting. To date, 66 developing and emerging countries have joined the en.lighten initiative and committed to establishing policies and standards to phase out inefficient incandescent lamps by the end of 2016.

Participants also recognized the urgency and importance of bringing modern lighting services to the 1.3 billion people around the world who lack access to the grid. If solar LED lanterns were used in place of kerosene and candles, the health and safety of billions of people would be improved, while displacing 90 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The expansion of the effort to transition to efficient lighting globally is the cornerstone of the Lighting Accelerator in the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative Action Agenda. The recommendations and actions resulting from the Global Efficient Lighting Forum are a key contribution in achieving the SE4ALL efficiency goals.

In addition to the global meeting of governments on energy efficient lighting this year, West African countries also met this year to agree on a 2020 Regional Efficient Lighting Strategy through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). According to UNEP, ECOWAS countries could save more than US$ 4 billion per year if a full transition to efficient lighting was realized. UNEP furthermore estimates that the shift to energy efficient light sources in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors would result in savings of 2.43 terrawatt hours of annual electricity consumption, which translates to over twelve kilotonnes of carbon emissions and almost 4 billion liters of kerosene. 

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