October 30th, 2015 by Richard Lord
Frenchman Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting, didn’t mince words when he spoke at the Business for Environment conference in London in September 2015.
“We absolutely need to save more energy than we do today and we need to do it faster,” he said.
There’s an absolute sense of urgency to this quest because of two striking facts.
The climate is changing and our demand for energy is increasing because the global population is growing, people are moving from rural areas to cities, there is a rising middle class, and an ageing population.
Demand for energy is growing twice as fast as the rate that we are currently saving energy.
The good news is that there are financially viable technologies available to save energy.
Eric Rondolat said “if we changed all the light sources in the world today and we replaced them with energy efficient lighting (Light Emitting Diode / LED) we would save 8% of the worldwide electrical consumption, and if those lights are connected and monitored to optimise their electrical consumption 30% more electricity could be saved.”
In Los Angeles, Philips Lighting added a wireless integrated chip similar to the one found in smart phones to the LED streetlights to connect them to a software mainframe so they can be geolocated and remotely monitored and serviced. This technology can anticipate maintenance and increase uptime while delivering a better light. The improved lighting also reduces the number of accidents on the street.
There are 300 million light poles on Earth today and only 10% of them have energy efficient lights, and only 1% are smart, connected lights so there’s a fabulous potential to save energy, he said.
Eric Rondolat said that in the age of the smart phone and driverless cars there are still 1.2 billion people in the developing world that do not have access to electricity so they don’t have access to electrical light.
Instead they use wood fires, or kerosene or candles for illumination and because of the pollution caused, these light sources kill 1.5 million people per year.
Philips Lighting is producing a solar lantern that costs one-third of the yearly expenditure a person would pay for wood or kerosene to light their home.
Mr Rondolat was proud to be leading a company that had a stated goal of ending light poverty by 2030.
“If we can lift this population out of darkness we will also boost economic growth,” he said.
The growth in the western economy occurred at the same time that homes and businesses connected to the electricity grid. Lighting was the first service acquired and it fuelled enterprise.
In about the 10 minutes it took to give his presentation, Mr Rondolat said the world population had grown by 1600 people, and about the same number of people had moved from rural areas to cities, and 400,000 kWh of electricity has been consumed worldwide while at the same time pumping 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“We need people and leaders to take definite measures to act faster on climate change while increasing the goals we have for energy savings,” he said.
If we renovate our infrastructure we will at the same time create jobs, and if we bring solar energy technologies to the developing world we will help kickstart their economy.
By increasing our capacity to save energy from 1.3% of consumption to 3% we would save €2 trillion by 2030 to be able to reinvest that money elsewhere and create 6 million jobs by 2020.
If the need to combat climate change is not already a totally compelling argument, then the benefits of saving energy through lighting technologies “should wake-up the most cynical businessman and politician to make them act because action is what is needed before it is too late,” he said.