Lighting is Europe’s key to building renovation


    January 7, 2021


    Lighting is the easiest and most effective weapon in the armoury for accelerating the pace of building renovation


    LED lighting will be crucial to the success of an ambitious continent-wide initiative by the European Commission to reboot Europe’s battered economy and combat climate change.


    Buildings account for about 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption yet as little as 1% are renovated each year. This low rate presents a massive opportunity to make energy savings and deliver on the Commission’s ambition for a carbon neutral Europe by 2050. But times are a changing.


    Last October, the Commission released its Renovation Wave Strategy, which aims to double the rate of building renovation within the next ten years as part of its green economic recovery.


    Through the initiative, around 35 million buildings are earmarked for renovation, which should add 160,000 jobs in the sector and support the goal of Brussels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen Europe’s digital infrastructure.


    “We want everyone in Europe to have a home they can light, heat, or cool without breaking the bank or breaking the planet,” said Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, adding that the strategy would “improve the places where we work, live and study.”

    Signify has long recognized that lighting is the quickest, easiest and least intrusive aspect of a building renovation, in comparison to thermal insulation and plumbing which can be disruptive and time consuming.

    But lighting doesn’t just pave the way to fast electricity savings. As it’s now a digital technology, lighting is often the killer application or impetus for new digital infrastructure.

    Speed is essential

    Despite lighting holding much promise, the Commission’s building renovation strategy is simply not happening fast enough. Annual renovation rates are as low as 1% for buildings and 3% for streetlights converting to LED.


    It is to be hoped that this will change. The recent agreement by European leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, is in line with a 3% renovation rate. This should now be enshrined in European climate law.

    Two-thirds of all installed lighting is legacy technology”

    According to Frank van der Vloed, Market Group Leader for Signify’s business in Europe, “Two-thirds of all installed lighting is legacy technology. Across Europe there are 1.3 billion conventional light points that could be switched to LED. In many instances it’s as straightforward as changing a light bulb but Europe needs to get up to speed and do so quickly.”


    The savings from a Europe-wide switch to LED and connected lighting are jaw dropping. The EU would save around EUR 40 billion and eliminate around 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. The 270TWh electricity saving could power every household in Germany, Italy and Spain for a year.


    Ripe for conversion is Central Eastern Europe where there are around 100 million installed light points in commercial buildings alone, most being fluorescent light points.

    The future’s bright, the future’s connected

    A large part of the EU’s Renovation Wave and recovery plan is to implement and integrate digitalization, which it describes as “crucial in fostering new forms of growth and strengthening the EU’s resilience.”
    Connecting light points to sensors, devices and software to manage them, drives further energy efficiencies. For example, luminaires equipped with sensors can dim or brighten in response to changing daylight conditions: a process called “daylight harvesting”. Sensors can also detect when people enter and leave a room to automatically switch on and off the lights. By investing in controls it’s not unusual to realize a 30% electricity saving over and above a 50% saving gained by switching to LED technology.
    The municipality of Albertslund in Copenhagen was an early adopter of such technology. It uses Signify’s Interact Office management system to control 400 light points. Building managers save on electricity but also get valuable insights into energy use and space utilization. Office workers also benefit by personalizing the lighting around their workspace through a smartphone app.

    Connected lighting ticks the Commission’s boxes as it’s both green and digital.”

    "Connected lighting ticks the Commission’s boxes as it’s both green and digital. Prioritizing this technology in recovery initiatives will deliver impressive results and simultaneously pave the way to an era of smart buildings," said van der Vloed.

    Jobs, jobs, jobs


    Increasing building renovation to 3% will one of the biggest levers to pull in rebooting Europe’s post-Covid economy. It will create good local jobs at the expense of costly energy imports. Job creation is a viewpoint famously articulated by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol who, in June, similarly described energy efficiency as a “job machine”.  Indeed, recent reports indicate that for every EUR 1 million spent on renovation, 15-20 jobs will be created.


    “With building renovation, we have a once in a generation opportunity to strike a blow against global warming and revitalize Europe’s Covid-battered economy,” said van der Vloed, “So it makes sense that national recovery plans incorporate the quickest and easiest weapon in our armoury.”

    About the author:

    Harry Verhaar

    Harry Verhaar

    Head of Governmental Affairs

    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Integrated Communications
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals and consumers and lighting for the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact connected lighting systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. With 2020 sales of EUR 6.5 billion, we have approximately 38,000 employees and are present in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We achieved carbon neutrality in 2020, have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for four consecutive years and were named Industry Leader in 2017, 2018 and 2019. News from Signify is located at the Newsroom, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors can be found on the Investor Relations page.

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