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California Warms Up…to Cold Cathode

Posted By Ryan Johnson, Friday, September 01, 2006
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013

In September 2005, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced "the most ambitious energy and efficiency campaign in the history of the utility industry in the U.S.,” when introducing a three-year, $2 billion funding plan for energy efficiency programs. This campaign is designed to help energy customers utilize the large number of energy efficiency programs that are available in California.

These initiatives help energy customers, energy providers and the state. Naturally, less consumption means lower energy bills for consumers. The state, through the CPUC, has an interest in making sure that the utilities have enough power to meet demand. The utilities benefit because lower energy demands mean the investor-owned utility companies have less power to generate and, therefore, less need to build more power plants.

Beyond the financial toll involved in the building of more power plants, there is also an environmental concern that is being addressed. The CPUC, in a statement announcing the program, estimates that 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) introduced the Innovative Designs for Energy Efficiency Applications (IDEEA) program in 2004. This initiative looks outside of the utility industry for new ideas to promote energy efficiency.

"SCE had been involved in the promotion of energy efficiency and energy conservation since 1911,” says Steven Long, the non-residential program manager at SCE, "but we had never solicited outside parties for such a program before.”

"In 1998,” Long added, "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. Now, we are 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 non-utility parties. SCE’s IDEEA program is an avenue for introducing new and promising technologies, an innovation in program delivery, targeting of niche markets, or ideas for more effective marketing and rebate programs.

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

Last year, 13 of the 140 proposals submitted for IDEEA were selected for the program. One pilot program helps dairy farms install new fan technology, which reduces energy costs while keeping the cows cool (helping them produce more milk). Another program involves the development of an 80 percent efficient power supply for desktop computers. This IDEEA initiative is promoting this new technology prior to the adoption of the new computer efficiency standard by Energy Star.

A Focus on Cold Cathode Lighting

One current IDEEA program provides rebates to purchasers of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). While cold cathode technology is not new, it was only recently that this technology has been utilized to replace incandescent lighting in many applications. Many customers are still unaware of cold cathode and the benefits it can provide when compared to incandescent or regular fluorescent lighting.

Cold cathode fluorescent is similar to normal fluorescent (or "hot cathode”) in many respects. Unlike traditional fluorescent lamps, however, cold cathode lamps have the ability to dim without any special dimming ballasts. The real advantages of cold cathode are seen when comparing CCFLs to incandescent lamps. Cold cathode lamps can operate using as much as 65–80% less energy than comparable incandescent lamps and can last 20 times longer, or more.

The cold cathode program was conceived by Energy Controls & Concepts (ECC), a company specializing in lighting efficiency design consultation. SCE selected this program for IDEEA and awarded ECC a one million dollar contract. ECC has served as the program implementer for this enterprise.

The cold cathode lamps used in the program were provided by Litetronics International, Inc. "We were glad to be a part of Southern California Edison’s plan to promote cold cathode,” says Greg Lechtenberg, regional sales manager for Litetronics. "This was a great opportunity to introduce consumers to an emerging lighting technology.”

This program offered customers rebates on cold cathode fluorescent lighting when it was 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 100 percent inspected by ECC with a percentage of the work 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, vice president of technology at ECC, is encouraged by the "very successful” cold cathode program. He notes that Southern California Edison "wants more people to adopt CCFLs.” Grimm says three of the IDEEA programs will be moving forward in 2006–2007 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 $2.00/lamp.

Lechtenberg was glad to see the program moving forward, stating, "When something new comes along, even if it’s a better product, people are reluctant to try it. 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 on May 10, 2006. Through IDEEA, SCE has made it a priority to introduce and promote new energy saving technology. Baty feels that IDEEA has been an extremely beneficial undertaking, saying, "Southern California Edison’s goal is to find technology that reduces operating costs and conserves energy without compromising performance. Through IDEEA they are certainly succeeding.”


Read more by Ryan Johnson

Tags:  Featured  September-October 2006 

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