The wide-scale adoption of LED street lighting in China is gradually moving forward

Reading time: 4 minutes
1 July 2015

BEIJING: On December 11, The Climate Group, in collaboration with Philips Lighting and Prince Albert Foundation held an LED (Light-emitting diode) Scale-up workshop in Beijing, China.

The main goal was to present The Climate Group’s ongoing consultation process, summarizing many of the common challenges faced by cities considering LEDs, particularly around retrofits, replacements and upgrades of street lighting assets. 

Given China’s early adoption approach to LED street lighting, today there are many examples of LEDs that have been rolled out in China, with up to 3,000 companies supplying LEDs. During the workshop it was acknowledged there were a large number of early LED ‘failures’ as a direct result of poor quality products and lack of early standards.


Zhao Ying, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other representatives from China standards agencies who were in attendance, reported their work on drafting LED standards, but explained the challenges of maintaining up-to-date standards for the rapidly evolving LED technologies. China’s national standards are voluntary, but because local regional lighting standards and agencies may not always align with them, they may be developed in collaboration with local suppliers.

Given the evolution of LED technology,  the various standards agencies are finding it difficult to ensure standards remain relevant, and the setting of minimum quality thresholds and recommendations is proving particularly problematic.

A presentation from Shenzhen government outlined their positive experiences with LEDs, such as enhanced energy savings. They reported making a trade-off by selecting lower colour temperature (3500-4500K) and a slight drop in efficiency compared to higher color temperature luminaires. The representative also reported acceptable performance in bad weather during street tests – particularly heavy rain and fog, where they also experienced that it is not necessarily the color of the LEDs that is more important in bad weather, but the orientation and position of the LEDs.

Chen Song of the China Quality Certification Center highlighted his concern that many claims of LED savings from 30-40% and even up to 85-90% can sometimes be misleading. This is because many examples do not clarify whether the previous lighting solutions were very old and inefficient. He highlighted that many high pressure sodium lamps still have usable life, and the very latest HPS lamps in use are particularly efficient. Because switching to LEDs may not be immediately appropriate, the call for widespread replacement of street lighting with LEDs should reflect and acknowledge this. 


Dr Peter Curley, Technologist, The Climate Group, later outlined the additional benefits that can be exploited by using intelligent pre-set LED luminaires, smart sensor triggers and scheduled dimming of LEDs, as well as the operational flexibility and future-proofing advantages that a centralized lighting management system (CMS) can provide.

However, the key issue of financial justification of smart and centralized management control systems was raised. City representatives can see the ‘benefits’ of CMS and integrated city services in terms of operational flexibility and service monitoring, but questioned whether they really need all the additional read-outs of temperature, LED drive current and timings, given that LEDs are intended to last 3-5 times longer and require far less maintenance. Most lighting managers said lights operate without much intervention until there is a failure – and so should require far less monitoring data.

The last section of the workshop considered funding sources. Several participants highlighted that there may be limited interest in ESCOs, It was suggested that cities should seek to buy LEDs outright and operate them, rather than pursue ESCOs as they can be very difficult to monitor and payments may not always made.

Read presentations from the event:

The Climate Group’s ongoing 2014 global LED Scale-up consultation aims to help address the remaining key barriers to LED adoption.

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