The power of partnership in driving sustainable progress in a connected world

Reading time: 6 minutes
8 December 2014

LONDON: In an article for “COP20 - CLIMATE CHANGE The New Climate Economy”, Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting explains how connecting systems and people is the key for sparking inspiring initiatives ahead of the UNFCCC conference in Lima (Peru) - and how LEDs can drive this clean revolution.

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, things move fast. Which is generally good news, as it stimulates innovation, economic activity and choice. The Internet of Things – the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing internet infrastructure – is expected to usher in an era of advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services that will revolutionize the way we live.

At the same time our world is facing very significant and growing resource constraints. This is heightening concerns about the secure and reliable supply of affordable energy, the impact of global climate change and loss of biodiversity, constraints in the availability of materials, and access to food and water.

While the energy efficiency of society improves by, on average, close to an estimated 1% per annum as a result of building better buildings, some infrastructure renovation and the evolutionary switch to more efficient appliances, the demand for energy continues to grow by 3.5% per annum, driven by population growth, urbanization and the rise of the middle class in growth geographies.

In short, we have a problem – this is not sustainable.

Connected lighting – benefits beyond illumination

We already have many solutions that can enable smart and clean energy use, close the materials loop, prevent environmental damage, and so help build a sustainable future. Switching to LED lighting, for example, will offer huge savings in energy use and maintenance costs, especially when combined with intelligent lighting control systems, while at the same time making people feel safer, more secure and more comfortable in public spaces, inside buildings and at home.

Lighting accounts for 19% of global electricity consumption and around 6% of worldwide CO2 emissions. A global transition to widely available efficient solutions in all lighting sectors (residential, commercial/industrial and outdoor) by 2030 could reduce electricity demand for lighting by more than 30% and avoid over one gigaton of CO2. The ongoing transition would by then save over $120 billion annually in avoided electricity bills to consumers, through a reduction of over 1,000 TWh of electricity every year. It would also save $230-425 billion in avoided investment in power plants. Not to mention the wider economic benefits such as increased productivity and job creation.

So, it’s clear where we have to go. The question is, how do we get there, and – equally important – how fast can we move? Because unlike the Internet of Things, things are not changing nearly fast enough.

Connecting to drive change


At Philips, we believe partnerships are key in this respect. We see how difficult it is for national governments to arrive at practicable global ‘common interest’ agreements. To truly ramp up the adoption of connected, energy-efficient solutions, top-down drivers of change must be complemented by a bottom-up sectoral approach, in which public and private partners join forces in partnership with sub-national leaders. There is a real need for stronger collaboration between the public sector, which has the task of setting policy and regulatory frameworks, and the private sector to drive technology standards, new financial solutions and targeted incentives to accelerate.

en.lighten and the Lighting Efficiency Accelerator

A good example is the lighting sector, where, inspired by Philips’ leadership, the industry is pro-actively driving the global switch to energy-efficient lighting. The en.lighten public/private partnership between UNEP, the Global Environmental Facility, Philips, Osram and China’s National Lighting Test Center was set up to accelerate the global market transition to environmentally sustainable lighting technologies by developing a coordinated global strategy and providing technical support for the phase-out of inefficient lighting.

Some 55 emerging and developing countries from all over the world became a partner of en.lighten and committed to phase out inefficient incandescent lamps by the end of 2016. And the en.lighten initiative will be expanding beyond its original scope (the phase-out of incandescent lamps for the residential sector) to the acceleration of advanced technologies such as LEDs and lighting controls, and the phase-out of additional obsolete and inefficient technologies in the commercial, industrial and outdoor sectors.

In the run-up to the UN Climate Summit on September 23 in New York City, 11 additional countries joined the initiative as en.lighten is expanded as a Sustainable Energy for All Lighting Efficiency Accelerator. The Lighting Efficiency Accelerator is part of the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, a flagship program of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative led by UN Under-Secretary-General Kandeh Yumkella, with strong support from the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank. The initiative is aimed at doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. The other four ‘EE Accelerators’ are in the areas of vehicles, appliances, buildings and district energy systems.

A growing number of sub-national governments (cities, states and regions) have joined the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, which is also receiving support from sub-national governments through The Climate Group, ICLEI and C40, thus quickly creating global support. Through the ‘EE Accelerator’ we aim to give our national leaders the confidence that significant GHG-reductions and sustainable development progress are possible (while providing a range of multiple socio-economic benefits) by working in partnership, thus inspiring them to sign-on to the IPCC-advised GHG-reduction levels at COP21 in Paris in December 2015.

Eliminating barriers

For some municipal authorities, barriers to adoption remain. One such barrier is funding, particularly in these times of budgetary constraints. The good news is that we are seeing the emergence of new performance-based business models that offer solutions involving limited (or no) up-front cost. For example, Philips has developed a new concept to deliver ‘lighting as a service’. Business customers pay only a service fee for the light they actually use, while Philips retains ownership of the fixtures. For the duration of the contract, the company installs, maintains and upgrades the lighting system as needed. And it re-uses, refurbishes or recycles the equipment at end-of-life, thus closing the materials loop. A model like this is, of course, wholly consistent with a competitive circular economy centered on resource effectiveness.

Lighting the road ahead

Controllable and responsive, the latest connected LED lighting can adapt to the ebb and flow of urban activity in real time – to stunning effect. The one thing we can't afford is to delay its deployment. Governments worldwide can lead by example by making their own public buildings, schools and streets smart and energy-efficient.

Looking ahead, the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator provides a platform for progress. Ultimately, its success will depend upon the degree to which it can provide ‘inspiration, aspiration and perspiration’. Inspiration that sparks the imagination, driving the development of innovative new solutions. Aspiration that sets out a clear roadmap and timetable for lasting improvement. And, last but not least, perspiration in the form of sheer hard work and determination on the part of all partners and stakeholders to accelerate the global energy efficiency drive and create genuine momentum in tackling global climate change.

Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting


Want to read more about COP? Over the next two weeks we are releasing pre and post-COP briefings as well as producing COP20 coverage in our news and blogs and on Twitter. Our States & Regions events in Lima can be tracked on hashtag #statesandregions. 

Check out our infographic on understanding COP negotiations in Lima and Paris.

And in case you missed it, here's a brief background to the COP20 in Lima and our our CEO Mark Kenber's op-ed "If we fail in Lima, we will fail in Paris".

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