2020 Hindsight – The Energy Revolution

First it was energy efficient LED lighting, efficient solar panels, intelligent inverters and storage systems and software that must be driven from our mobile smart phones with fancy names like blockchain and crypto mining and when we have a few moments and stop, those of us in the energy industry realize we are in the midst of an energy revolution. And like a revolution, there is often blood; winners and losers, pioneers who found their pot of gold and those that didn’t make it or don’t know they are not about to make it.

Around the world, the regulated model of energy is struggling to cope with the change that is upon us. Legacy centralized power systems are making way, or in the case of a revolution, being mothballed by decentralized organic renewable energy networks. Technology and Software are meeting the challenges. Companies like Delta are listening to customers; hearing their concerns and investing in Research and Development like never before. And if you thought that innovation was slowing up, welcome to the next generation of thinkers. Our children who have grown up with smart phones, interconnected digital and human relationships without the perceived barriers that enable them to launch billion dollar start-ups from their bedrooms are our next generation of energy efficiency researchers and thinkers. Elon Musk gave us slate roof tiles that were actually solar panels. Imagine clear class with nanotech circuitry that enable the glass to both insulate, let light into a building but also generate energy from the building. No longer does a building need to sacrifice aesthetics for the expense of energy.

The caliber of a company to adapt to its environment will be the company that will survive in this energy revolution, taking these ideas from the next generation of energy thinkers and transforming them into real products. And the challenge is ensuring that to meet the sustainability objectives; those products need to last, otherwise producing more, adding to the ongoing challenges of e-waste really isn’t good or smart for the planet.

From an LED Lighting perspective, we’ve seen an influx over the last 10 years of energy efficiency for the sake of optics and now with 2020 Hindsight. Lighting companies that tried to hold onto their legacy technologies who underestimated the rise of LED missed the incredible learning curve required to develop reliable power supplies and LED Driver technology. Companies that thought LED was simply an array of chips, forgot to focus on the optics required to deliver an optimal lighting result, with reductions of glare, choices of colour temperature and CRI. Companies that then thought they could optimize their existing investment in old luminaire aluminium bodies and retrofit LED chips didn’t take into account the thermal characteristics required. And then with the smaller light source, they missed a significant opportunity to reduce their input costs by combining all aspects of this technology revolution by adopting mechanical optimization.

And then the killer is the software and smarts that can be added to LED. And those companies that find themselves locked into legacy thinking: thinking that says their communication protocol is the one will survive, is a very similar mindset to the way of thinking that said LED was only a fad. Sadly it seems another revolution is on the way. Customers desire choice. Customers steer away from companies that are insecure and that insecurity shows when they become defensive about their proprietary technologies. Customers like never before are doing more on-line research before their purchase. But the opportunities lie in listening properly to our customers to understand their perspectives. This energy revolution is exciting, but I guess depends on which side you are on.

Author:  Adam Carey MIES is a Member of the Illuminating Engineering Society Aus NZ and leads the Smart Lighting Business Unit for Delta Electronics in Australia NZ.

05 July 2019