By BizLED Bureau
Mar 3, 2016: Like multiple other companies, Independence LED Lighting has just scratched the massive potential of energy savings and job creation. Beyond the Fortune 100 and small business accounts, Independence LED has seeded the public sector with installations at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, NC, the US Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, and over 30 US Navy ships for Military Sealift Command (MSC). The company shifted its LED manufacturing from China to Pennsylvania in 2010.
In an interview with BizLED Bureau, Charlie Szoradi, Chairman at Independence LED Lighting, and who advocates a ‘War on Energy Waste’, explains how starting to install LED lighting in government buildings can help fund multiple initiatives and also build a long-term foundation for American Energy Independence.
Please explain what you mean by a ‘War on Energy Waste’?
You should only go into war if you believe in your core that the cause is worth the fight, and that you can win. Reducing waste is core to my belief structure to build American energy independence and energy security. All Americans should be able to rally behind this cause rather than creating a partisan issue on waste reduction and sustainability. Cutting waste puts more dollars in the hands of business owners to grow stronger and helps government balance our budget, support our veterans, and create more jobs across America. I have seen first-hand the benefits of cost-effective energy savings in the lower utility bills for each of our clients. Plus, the ripple effect of job creation is growing every month with each lighting retrofit. Clean technology energy reduction is far more cost-effective than renewable energy production. The return on investment (ROI) is typically much higher to reduce waste (for example, 50% for LED lights) than to create more power (example 10% for solar and wind power). This is a winnable war given the technology that is available today.
Should a ‘War on Energy Waste’ be waged by just the US or countries across the globe?
This is a global opportunity to fight waste. According to the US Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=87&t=1) America uses 18% of the world’s energy, but we have less than 5% of the population. We have a lot of room to cut the waste. Since we use so much energy in America, we can lead by example to demonstrate to other countries that we are able to build what I call energy fitness. We are stronger with less energy fat in our buildings and more competitive in a global market. Buildings consume about 40% of total energy and over 20% of it is often used in the ceilings for lights. LED lights cut 50% or more of the energy fat. This frees up dollars for businesses and the governments around the world.
How can a ‘War on Energy Waste’ be won?
Successful wars have the right strategy and the right tactics. The strategy is pretty simple: Go for the most cost-effective measures first to win some early battles. In the case of building efficiency, lighting is the “low hanging fruit,” making it a great place to start. The tactical sub-sets include hunting down the existing lights that have the most fat on the bone. In many cases, these are the older types of lights like incandescent, metal halide, and T12, and T8 fluorescent tubes. The fattest of the energy hogs are the lights that are running the longest, like 24 x7 areas of commercial and industrial buildings used for exit stairs, hallways egress, and ‘back-of-the-house’ areas. Other long run time applications include hospitals, parking garages, convenience stores, data centers, distribution centers, police stations, etc. Start winning the high ROI battles on the path to winning the war. Documenting the early victories with case studies helps build momentum and rallies the troops.
There is considerable amount of data supporting LED lighting retrofits to provide a considerable ROI for military institutions in the state of South Carolina. Is there any strategy in place to implement it in other states of US?
My recent writing on the War on Energy Waste (http://independenceled.com/war-on-energy-waste/) was a challenge to the presidential candidates that were visiting South Carolina in the February, 2016 primaries. South Carolina has eight major military installations, so it was a springboard to demonstrate the savings opportunity. The US Department of Defense has several hundred thousand individual buildings and structures located at more than 5,000 different locations. So, the energy cost savings scales across the entire US and beyond.
Federal buildings are installed with traditional fixtures, which consume major energy and an unnecessarily high portion of the government’s budget. What would you suggest as the first step in initiating ‘War on Energy Waste’?
The approach to go after the ‘low hanging fruit’ applies across the public and private sectors. Measurement is the key to management, so the federal, state, and local government should start by counting their lights in the areas that are running 24×7. Instead of taking on deep dive total building energy retrofits for a few locations, and leaving others as inefficient energy hogs, the government should issue Request for Proposals (RFPs) to get bids to replace the long run time lights ASAP. If the government includes a condition for Made in America lights then the added benefit of the energy reduction is more job creation in the US.
Energy Waste is a broader concept with potential for huge savings. As the private sector is taking the initiative towards LED lighting, will you collaborate with manufacturers to create deep impact in domestic lighting?
Collaboration with allies is key to success in any war. Many of our allies may appear from the outside as competing LED manufacturers. However, the range of interior and exterior lighting types is so vast that one company cannot provide the best value products for each of the thousands of conditions. We have many strategic manufacturing partners so that we can deliver total solutions for customers.
Inspite of data supporting the shift towards beneficial LED lighting, why do you think that there has been very little movement from the government in this respect?
Incumbents win re-elections in many cases, because of the familiarity from the voters. In lighting, LED technology is the disruptive challenger to the incumbents. Government facility managers are not opposed to positive change by nature, but they are not spending their own money on the utility bills each month. They are spending our tax-payer money, and they have little or no urgency for change. Even if they want change, the bureaucracy of government creates friction in the system. By contrast, owners of private companies have less friction in the decision making process and readily welcome savings that reduces expenses and translates into higher net profit. Here is an example of this difference: Three years ago, our US made LED lights were chosen by the first Veterans Affairs Medical Center at about the same time that the owners of over a dozen office buildings started retrofitting with our lights. The office building owners saw the savings on the first property and started rolling out retrofits each year for many more properties with our technology. We expected the same with the Veterans Affairs opportunity to help reduce waste in the 150 major medical centers across the US. As you may know, the VA is mired in management challenges and like many government agencies, they are very slow to act relative to the private sector.”
Mass scale production of LED lighting will create jobs and long-term savings but factors like budget constraints may hold the program. What is your take on such scenario?
The job creation and savings potential is massive given that we have almost 90 billion sq. ft. of real estate in the US alone and over 2.3 billion fluorescent tubes. Wars cost money.However, this is a winnable war, because it saves money. Here is a bright light to overcome the darkness of budget constraints. Property and business owners as well as non-profit and government entities now have many choices for $0 upfront cost financing options. Just as auto manufactures figured out that leasing cars was a viable means for owners to purchase cars over time, lenders are increasingly offering payment structures that are net cash flow positive for lighting retrofits. We have to make noise! This is not a war that will be won by any one company. We have strength in numbers. US LED lighting manufacturers, Energy Auditors, Electrical Contractors, and Value-Added Resellers (VARs) can join forces and help spread the word about the savings and job creation through energy-efficient lights. They can send articles like this to contacts in the public and private sector and participate though http://www.waronenergywaste.com/ that we helped launch.
According to you, the US government can save over a billion dollars every year just by switching over to LED lights. Please explain.
The order of magnitude is tremendous based on data from the General Services Administration (GSA) and LED performance metrics. The military and Veterans Affairs Administration occupy more than 2.2 billion sq. ft. of buildings which is two thirds of the total 3.4 billion sq. ft. of federal government property. At $1 per sq. ft. to retrofit with LEDs, the annual energy savings is typically $0.33 per sq. ft. or higher. The government could save over a billion dollars every year just by changing the lights and save more than $10 billion over the decade-long life of the LED technology.
LED lighting in buildings is the first step to win ‘War on Energy Waste’. How can a ‘War on Energy Waste’ create more jobs in the US?
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are over 87 billion sq. ft. of commercial real estate in the US. With $1 per sq. ft. to retrofit and one new job created for every $150,000 in lighting retrofits, the employment ripple effect is over 580,000 new jobs. The employment includes counting lights to prepare savings analysis, utility rebate administration, installation, project management, engineering, and product production. Many of the jobs involve science, technology, engineering and math so the clean-tech work is foundational for 21s tcentury careers. The national energy savings will exceed $287 billion over the next decade and yield over 3.4 trillion lbs of CO2 emissions reduction, the equivalent of taking about 30 million cars off the road.