Premium Light Pro

Blog: Premium Light Pro calls for SMEs to Switch the Lights

The Premium Light Pro project, run in the UK by the Energy Saving Trust, finishes at the end of July.   Much has been learnt over the past three years during which the project has reached a wide audience:

  • over 1000 public sector organisations, from large local authorities to small parish councils
  • over 250 people involved in lighting installation, design, procurement, project management and energy consultancy, reached through nationwide training events
  • key multipliers from funding bodies such as Salix Finance, and a range of European Regional Development Fund energy-efficiency grant programmes from Kent to Newcastle
  • a range of SMEs and independent businesses, through organisations like the British Independent Retailers Association
  • and over 14,000 users have accessed the project’s web information service on lighting,  which includes guidance brochures, product criteria, cost calculators, a database and best practice case studies.

This broad range of engagement has provided the project team with significant insight into the current state of the UK lighting market, and the pace of take up of LED.  There is clear consensus on the business case for LED lighting upgrades – where a large amount of older, inefficient lighting is in place, switching to LED will pay for itself, and quickly, if done well.  In terms of acceptance, LED technology feels much more the norm now for turning electricity into light, compared to the slightly futuristic and complex technology it might have seemed like a few years ago.   

But where are we at now, and where do we need to get to with lighting, to realise of its huge energy and carbon saving potential, at both national level, and for the individual organisation?  LED upgrades appear to be happening at pace where there is support and know-how.  Large numbers of local authorities have gone through the process with Salix Finance to upgrade both indoor and street lighting.  The Grocer’s Switch the Lights Campaign of 2016 showcased exemplar projects from larger organisations such as Sainsburys.  But what of the SME sector, which accounts for 99% of UK businesses? 

Stories from the field

“We’ve met a huge number of organisations through Premium Light Pro”. said Stewart Muir, who manages the project. “The switch to more efficient lighting is happening in local authorities.  As well some of the great successes we’ve heard through Salix, we had council staff at nearly all our courses who had projects in progress, with funding secured – they wanted to increase their knowledge, and check whether their scheme plans were right.”

“We also met a lot of town and parish councillors at events like the NALC conference, and through a course we put on in Northamptonshire where staff from 37 councils attended.  We heard good feedback from a number of councillors who had switched to LED lighting, both on the cost savings and the fact that upgrading allowed them to improve the suitability of the lighting for the needs of the area.  We’ve also had a lot of installers and energy managers come on our courses.  But, despite trying, and the great support we’ve had from organisations like BIRA, and the ERDF projects such as Durham BEEP and LoCASE, we have struggled to get much traction with the SMEs themselves.”

Premium Light Pro’s experience echoes the findings of a number of previous studies.  A YouGov study in 2016  found a low level of engagement with energy saving measures and behaviours in the SME sector.  A recent call for evidence by BEIS to assess the viability of a dedicated SME efficiency scheme demonstrated the extent of the energy saving opportunity, but also the barriers – time, priority of energy-efficiency in a competitive business environment, and a lack of support and know-how.

What we’re doing to address this

Addressing national carbon targets through the SME sector requires a large number of companies to take action, but the combined effect of these small wins is significant.

Two final training workshops will be run by the project in July, with free half day sessions at the Lutron Lighting Experience in London, and the Thorlux Lighting facility in Worcestershire, aimed at businesses looking to make the switch, as well as those installing and supply for them.  The course includes 2 hours of CPD training with the LIA’s Bob Bohannon, as well as demonstrations from the industry hosts.

“We’re very keen to reach more SMEs through the project, and excited to work with the LIA and two great lighting companies at facilities where we can show the options of what can be done with LED lighting – we hope this can inspire our attendees to take action, and understand the key factors in a successful lighting upgrade”, said Muir, who will also present details of Premium Light Pro’s support resources at the course.  “Just as SMEs are key to the UK economy, mobilising the sector on energy efficiency is a huge part of achieving our 2050 net-zero emissions target, and the benefits of reduced energy use through lighting are tangible.”