Delivering energy efficiency with LED lightbulbs
By Kathy Hackleman
Over the next couple of months, rural electric cooperative members across Pennsylvania and New Jersey will receive a small package in their mailbox, a gift from their local rural electric cooperative. It’s not a box full of dollar bills — but it’s close.
Inside each box, there are four Energy Star-certified, 60-watt-equivalent soft white (2700 Kelvin) light-emitting diode (LED) lightbulbs with a five-year warranty. Not only are the lightbulbs free — they will actually save you money in energy costs for the next 23 years (the expected life of a bulb used an average of three hours per day).
Now, all you have to do is install them. Sure, you may be tempted to wait until an old incandescent bulb burns out. “Waste not, want not,” is what you might be thinking. But you’d be wasting money by keeping these LED bulbs on the shelf.
“Technology has improved so much in recent years that the installation of LED bulbs improves lighting efficiency by 80 percent over traditional incandescent bulbs,” says Frank Betley, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA) and Allegheny Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Allegheny), the wholesale supplier of electricity to Pennsylvania’s 13 cooperatives and one in New Jersey. “Eighty percent is a huge difference, something anyone would definitely notice on their electric bill if they switched over to this technology.”
Switching out one incandescent bulb for an LED bulb can save an average of more than $6 per year. With that understanding, electric cooperatives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are launching a membership-wide initiative to take advantage of the energy efficiency qualities of LED lighting. Widespread participation can make a significant impact by helping to reduce power supply needs, driving down energy costs for all.
That impact is enough that, once cooperative members receive their free bulbs, they are encouraged to remove four incandescent bulbs — even if they are still working fine — and replace them with the new LED bulbs.
“That seems counterintuitive,” Betley notes, “as we tend to believe that it is more efficient to use something until it wears out. In this case, the exact opposite is true. You will begin saving money the minute you install the new LED bulbs.”
The LED is one of the most energy-efficient lighting technologies available today. In partnership with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), electric cooperatives across the United States have been researching the benefits of LED lights for a decade.
“When you make the switch, you will see an increase in your home energy efficiency and a decrease in your energy costs,” says Brian Sloboda, program and product line manager with NRECA’s Business and Technology Strategies unit. “During the past 10 years, technology has improved, bringing longer life, more colors and more controllability options. LEDs do not contain gas or filament of any kind, making them different from fluorescent and incandescent light sources. Instead, the entire LED is made up of a semiconductor, which is solid in nature and makes LEDs more durable, and much less expensive to operate.”
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) believes LEDs have the potential to change the future of lighting. DOE officials estimate that by 2027, widespread use of LEDs across the country could save the equivalent annual electrical output of forty-four 1,000-megawatt power plants, with a total savings of more than $30 billion at today’s price of electricity. By 2035, DOE officials expect that LEDs will represent the majority of lighting installations, comprising 86 percent of installed stock across all categories (compared to 6 percent in 2015).
Impact on power costs
Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is one of the easiest and fastest ways to cut energy bills. With such potential, cooperatives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are taking advantage of economies of scale to maximize the impact LEDs can have on power costs.
“If you take the amount of money saved per bulb and multiply it by all the bulbs used by the more than 600,000 cooperative consumers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you can begin to see the impact this could make on power supply costs,” Betley observes. “The reality is that deploying this technology is an investment that will lower power costs over time — and lower them significantly.”
Through Allegheny, cooperatives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey own a
10 percent share of Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, a nuclear power plant. They also own the Raystown Hydroelectric Project in Huntingdon County. These sources, along with some long-term hydropower agreements with the New York Power Authority, provide about two-thirds of the power required by the cooperatives. The remainder of the electricity needed for cooperative members is purchased on the open market, where prices fluctuate.
“Deploying the energy-efficient LED lightbulb technology will reduce the amount of energy needed by the local distribution cooperatives,” Betley explains. “If cooperatives can reduce their power needs due to consumer efficiencies, this reduces Allegheny’s need to purchase more expensive energy from the market, thereby bringing down the costs for local distribution cooperatives. The cooperatives can then pass those savings along to their members.”
In the mail
You can begin to cut your energy bills as soon as your box of four energy-efficient LED lightbulbs is delivered to your mailbox, which should take place in the next few weeks. The box will be clearly labeled as holding LED bulbs. To begin saving money on your electricity bill immediately, replace four old incandescent bulbs with the new LED bulbs immediately.
“We have been working on the lightbulb initiative for close to a year,” says Ben Ricci, PREA/Allegheny manager alternative energy & competitive markets.
Ricci reports, “Once we decided to propose the project to the board, we had to determine how the bulbs were going to be deployed. It turned out that mailing them directly to members is the most efficient way.”
Charleston, S.C.-based Service Concepts, Inc., originally created by electric cooperatives to serve electric cooperatives and now a division of AM Conservation Group, Inc., was selected to manage the program as it has extensive experience in implementing various types of energy efficiency programs for cooperatives, including lightbulb projects.
“We also had to select the specific lightbulb we wanted,” Ricci explains. “It needed to have a warranty, a long lifespan and an acceptable color temperature, be equivalent to a 60-watt bulb, and be Energy Star-certified. We are pleased that we are now approaching the deployment stage and that members will soon be able to save money on their lighting costs.”
Rachel Barker, director of sales and marketing at Service Concepts, Inc., says the LED bulbs are the most efficient bulbs now on the market.
“They use less energy to produce the same amount of light, last about 2 1/2 times longer than CFLs and about 20 times longer than incandescents,” she reports. “In addition, they do not use mercury to operate, give off less heat than other bulbs when operating, provide instant full brightness, and their plastic housing has proven to be more durable than CFLs or incandescents.”
The lightbulbs will be mailed out on a staggered schedule, beginning later this month and continuing into July. The insert card in the package will have contact information if there are questions or issues with the bulbs.