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A New Call for Cold-Cathode Lighting

July 1, 2006
A California rebate program has created more demand for cold-cathode lighting.

When the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced a three-year, $2 billion funding plan for energy-efficiency programs in September 2005, it called the effort “the most ambitious energy and efficiency campaign in the history of the utility industry in the United States.” The CPUC campaign is designed to help energy customers maximize use of the large number of energy-efficiency programs available in California.

These initiatives help not only energy customers and utilities but also the state. After all, less consumption means lower energy bills for consumers. Investor-owned utilities benefit because lower energy demands from customers mean they must generate less power and will consequently need to build fewer power plants. The state, through the CPUC, has an interest in ensuring that utilities have enough power to meet the demand of all users in the Golden State.

Beyond the cost of building more power plants, environmental concerns must also be addressed. The CPUC, in a statement announcing the program, estimates new energy-efficiency programs will “eliminate the need to construct three large power plants over the next three years and reduce global warming pollution by an estimated 3.4 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2008, which is equivalent to taking about 650,000 cars off the road.”

Edison has an IDEEA

With efficiency in mind, Southern California Edison (SCE), Rosemead, Calif., introduced the Innovative Designs for Energy Efficiency Applications (IDEEA) program in 2004. This initiative looks beyond the utility industry for new ideas to promote energy efficiency.

“SCE has been involved in the promotion of energy efficiency and energy conservation since 1911,” said Steven Long, nonresidential program manager at SCE. “But we had never solicited outside parties for such a program before. In 1998, the CPUC started this idea of the third-party program. They handled most of the responsibility for the projects while utility companies like SCE administered purchase orders. We are now soliciting and administering our own programs through third-party implementers.”

Since 2004, SCE has openly solicited suggestions for energy-efficiency initiatives from manufacturers, distributors, importers and many other nonutility parties. SCE's IDEEA program is an avenue to introduce new and promising technologies, innovations in program delivery, targeting niche markets, and ideas for more effective marketing and rebate programs.

Several of these submissions are chosen each year for pilot programs. If a pilot proves successful, then SCE will try it mainstream. “We see the IDEEA program as a sort of program design R&D shop, an innovation incubator,” said Bill Grimm, a manager for nonresidential energy-efficiency programs at SCE.

Cold-Cathode Lighting Catches SCE's Eye

One current IDEEA program provides rebates to purchasers of cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). Although cold-cathode technology is not new, this technology has only recently begun to replace incandescent lighting in some applications. Many customers are still unaware of cold-cathode fluorescent lamps and the benefits they can provide when compared with incandescent or regular fluorescent lighting.

Cold-cathode fluorescent lamps are similar to normal fluorescent (“hot cathode”) lamps in many respects. Unlike traditional fluorescent lamps, however, cold-cathode lamps can dim without special dimming ballasts. The real advantages of cold-cathode lamps are seen when comparing them with incandescent lamps. Cold-cathode lamps can operate using as much as 65 percent to 80 percent less energy than comparable incandescent lamps, and they can last 20 or more times longer.

Energy Controls & Concepts (ECC), Redlands, Calif., a company specializing in lighting-efficiency design consultation, received the cold-cathode program submitted to SCE. SCE selected this program for IDEEA and awarded ECC a $1 million contract to fund it. ECC has served as the program implementer.

The cold-cathode lamps used in this program came from Litetronics International Inc., Alsip, Ill. Litetronics manufactures many different types of lamps and holds several patents for cold-cathode lighting technology. “We were glad to hear about Southern California Edison's interest in promoting cold-cathode,” said Greg Lechtenberg, regional sales manager for Litetronics. “ECC approached us about the plan, and we were more than happy to get involved. Outside of the lighting industry, not a lot is known about cold-cathode fluorescent technology. This was a great opportunity to introduce consumers to a product that will prove to be very beneficial.”

This program offered customers rebates on cold-cathode fluorescent lighting when used in applications that would produce significant energy savings and on-peak demand reduction. After customers had replaced their incandescent lighting with cold-cathode fluorescent lamps, the installation had to be completely inspected by ECC. Some of the work was also subject to SCE inspection. SCE and ECC would then approve customers to receive a rebate, in most cases for the entire cost of the lamps.

A Call for New Submissions

Jonathan Baty, ECC's vice president of technology, is encouraged by the cold-cathode program and says Southern California Edison wants more people to use cold-cathode fluorescent lighting systems. Grimm said the cold-cathode program and the rest of last years' IDEEA programs finished last month. Of those programs, three will be moving forward in 2006 and 2007 in some fashion. The cold-cathode lighting technology has been added to SCE's Business Incentives and Services Program as an itemized measure with an incentive of $2 per lamp.

Lechtenberg of Litetronics is also glad to see the program moving forward. “When something new comes along, even if it's a better product, people are reluctant to try it,” he said. “Lighting efficiency is not something people really think about unless it's brought to their attention. I think programs like this really open people's eyes to the fact that by making a few changes, they can end up saving a lot of money.”

SCE is now preparing for another year of IDEEA and the new InDEE (Innovative Design for Energy Efficiency) program solicitations. A request for IDEEA/InDEE proposals was sent out May 10. More information is available on SCE's Web site at

Through IDEEA, SCE has made it a priority to introduce and promote new energy-saving technology. ECC's Baty believes IDEEA has been extremely beneficial. “Southern California Edison's goal is to find technology that reduces operating costs and conserves energy without compromising performance,” he said. “Through IDEEA they are succeeding.”

Ryan Johnson is public relations manager for Litetronics International Inc., Alsip, Ill., a manufacturer of incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, compact-fluorescent, metal-halide and high-pressure-sodium lamps. He can be reached at (708) 653-3419 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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