Twenty-first-century electricity is evolving rapidly. Significant innovations will disrupt our energy industry just as smart phones have changed how we communicate and how electric cars are changing how we travel. Saving energy often starts with innovations in lighting, whether in your home or your car. The same is true when illuminating billboards, city streets and buildings. A good case in point is the use of innovative lighting products in Oncor's the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold office buildings, located in downtown Dallas, Texas, U.S.

Replacing old technology like analog meters on homes and businesses across a third of Texas is encouraging conservation for 10 million residents in our company's footprint. As the state's largest electric transmission and distribution service provider, we are taking energy efficiency a step further by reducing pollution and cutting electricity costs at our facilities. Available lighting now reduces energy and brightens more space using smaller, longer-lasting products.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which took effect in 2012, sparked a major shift for the lighting industry. The legislation established higher minimum efficiency levels for medium screw-base light bulbs found in lamps and ceiling fixtures. Solid-state lighting — specifically light emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) — are increasingly available as energy- and cost-saving alternatives to traditional incandescent lights.

When Oncor first purchased the property that would become our headquarters in January 2010, the nearly 40-year-old structure was anything but energy efficient. Partial demolition and reconstruction efforts began immediately with a comprehensive energy audit. From July 2010 to January 2011, extensive renovations took place marrying several old structures into one state-of-the-art building earning LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Low-energy LED and CFL lighting now illuminates all 330,000 sq ft (30,658 sq m) of offices and parking at our current corporate headquarters. That new technology, along with occupancy sensors, the use of natural light, an Energy Star roof and air conditioning system replacements lowered the buildings energy usage by about 2 million kWh a year. A two-year contract with a retail electric provider ensures that 100% of energy purchased by the company is renewable. Remodeling also added parking and charging stations for electric vehicles. Also in 2012, Oncor added a solar photovolatic array to its roof for additional savings.

LEDs not only reduce operating costs, but also prove Oncor's commitment to environmental stewardship by cutting our carbon footprint and greenhouse-gas emissions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED light bulbs save 90% of the energy used by standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 100 times longer. LED bulbs are cool to the touch and virtually unbreakable because they don't contain a filament. Using one 3-W LED instead of a 60-W incandescent bulb, for example, could save more than $400.

In addition to using our headquarters as an example of energy efficiency, Oncor is taking advanced LED lighting to the streets. Our recently expanded streetlight pilot program replaced more than 500 high-intensity discharge (HID) streetlights with LED technology. Over the last several decades, these HID lights included mercury vapor lamps, high-pressure sodium lighting and metal-halide fixtures. While each option has strong points and serves Oncor customers well, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 banned the sale of new mercury vapor streetlights and ballasts across the country when it took effect in 2008. According to our third-party evaluator, Oncor's LED luminaries have consistently and significantly outperformed incumbent products in the area of light disbursement and uniformity but delivered slightly less luminance. Projected maintenance costs for LEDs are expected to be about 50% lower than incandescent options, given that the average life cycle of current incandescent technology is about 24,000 operating hours over five years, versus LED products with a rated life span of 50,000 to 60,000 hours over a 10-year period.

We continue to evaluate when and how best to update more than 400,000 streetlights in more than 400 communities we serve across the state of Texas. For a project of this magnitude, new technology has a high initial price point. Our challenge is to determine the financial “sweet spot” where this capital-intensive transition is offset by projected energy savings.

At Oncor, research has shown LED technology lighting options offer huge benefits, both in the workplace and on Texas roadways. It's currently paying off for Oncor, saving money and reducing pollution. We embrace this new lighting technology expanding across our service area, our state and the country in the months and years to come.


Jim Greer (jgreer2@oncor.com), senior vice president and COO for Oncor Electric Delivery, oversees all distribution and transmission engineering construction, maintenance and operations, as well as system operations and measurement activities.