City lights of Dubai from the International Space Station. Photograph: NASA.
It's all in the Energy
In 2014 the United Arab Emirates introduced legislation to reduce lighting energy use and improve the safety of lighting products. FM Magazine caught up with Gerald Strickland, Director of the recently established Middle East Lighting Association (MELA) to discuss the potential impact of the legislation on building operators and occupants.
The Middle East Lighting Association (MELA) was established in 2013. Why?
MELA was established in 2013 to initiate new and support existing efforts to implement sustainable lighting policy, standards and regulation in the Middle East region.
In the medium term the organization aims to be at the forefront of lighting industry efforts to promote efficient lighting policy that will allow regulators and stakeholders to reap the benefits of greater energy savings.
Earlier this year the UAE introduced a Lighting Directive with the purpose of phasing out the use of incandescent and less efficient artificial light sources. Did the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA) which drafted the legislation consult MELA?
Yes it did.
MELA was asked to provide input as part of a larger outreach with other stakeholders on behalf of lighting companies in the region. GE, Osram, Philips and Tridonic are founding members of our association.
Why, when your Association is so young?
Although we are young, our members have always had a keen interest in promoting energy efficient lighting by supporting the efforts of policymakers to ensure the right national regulations and standards are in place. This is good for business but it is also good for the economic competitiveness of countries that embark on energy saving initiatives, since lower or fewer energy subsidies mean more investment can be directed towards education, infrastructure and other sectors of their economies.
Energy efficient lighting is good for the environment too, since products that use less energy and have longer lifetimes are more sustainable.
And proper surveillance and enforcement of new regulations has a positive impact on consumer safety an area where our members have significant collective expertise.
ESMA’s Director of Metrology, Mohammad Al Mulla, has described the new regulations as a “birth to death system that will make sure all light bulbs entering the country are safe and efficient”. How important is government regulation of lighting products generally?
Well I guess that depends on whom you ask!
From what I would consider to be the perspective of a responsible part of the overall lighting industry, our view within MELA is that Government regulation is necessary, above all, for ensuring products supplied to the market in the region are safe. This requires regulations and the safety standards to which they refer to be clear, revised regularly and enforced through national market surveillance programmes since, in many countries, more attention is paid to creating regulations than enforcing them.
Government regulation of lighting products can also be manifested on other aspects or system such as performance, functionality, hazardous substance content and end of life treatment of lighting products. Again, our view is that Governments should be active in creating the necessary legal frameworks and appropriate enforcement mechanisms.
Mr. Al Mulla’s comment also implies it is necessary to manage the lifecycle of lighting products. What environmental considerations do architects, lighting installers and facilities managers need to take account of?
The scope of the UAE regulations currently centres on residential lighting so this includes light sources that would typically be installed in homes, apartments and villas throughout the UAE. Architects, lighting installers and facilities managers will essentially need to be aware of the new regulations and what they entail.
It is important to note that the residential lighting regulations themselves set minimum requirements for safety, performance and functionality of light sources commonly used in residential lighting applications. Many of these professionals will already be specifying the best or near best products from a quality, performance and affordability perspective, and our work would be largely unchanged; although it may be necessary in some instances to educate architects, installers and facilities managers about lower energy technologies.
Energy efficient lamps come in a whole range of shapes and sizes and provide high quality light that is comparable to that generated by incandescent lamps.
As representatives of the regional lighting industry, we are preparing to assist in enabling a smooth transition to energy efficient lighting in the UAE.
How do the UAE’s lighting regulations compare against other national or international regulations relating to low-energy lighting?
The UAE’s lighting regulations are broadly in line with other international regulations; having adopted requirements from other countries where initiatives to phase out inefficient lighting have already been implemented for some time.
ESMA was keen to ensure that the costs of compliance with the new regulations, for both local businesses and consumers, were minimized. This is another reason why the legislation adopted was broadly in line with that introduced into other regions of the world.
In fact the majority of the lighting safety and performance standards referred to in the regulations are standards that have been issued by the IEC and its various committees.
Do you believe other countries in the Gulf or the wider MENA region will follow the UAE’s lead in mandating the use of more energy efficient lighting?
Yes I believe that the benefits of mandating the use of energy efficient lighting are so compelling that other countries in the Gulf will also move to regulate the sector – indeed some of them already have.
The switch to efficient lighting in homes in the UAE will help reduce emissions by approximately 1Mt of CO2 per year. Of AED 668 million annual savings on power bills, approximately AED 452 million will be saved by households; especially in emirates that have higher tariff rates. And the remaining AED 216 million will be saved by the government through reduced subsidies.