Low-energy lighting’s time has come in the UAE

Dubai at night - blink and there'll be another skyscraper

It is impossible to miss the spectacular array of lights as you come in to land at Dubai or Abu Dhabi airport.  These are exciting cities, developing at a phenomenal pace, and in the fortunate financial position to benefit from the best technology available right now. There is no doubt that the greatest seismic shift in the lighting sector for 60 years – namely LED surpassing fluorescent lamps as the medium of choice, is well and truly underway.

David Clements, managing director of Future Designs

Due to a combination of government initiatives, the buildup to the 2020 Dubai Expo, technology, cost, volume, enterprise and innovation, the Middle East is set to become one of the most exciting and dynamic regions for the lighting industry.

Given that 20 per cent of the world’s dwindling energy resources are consumed by artificial lighting, it’s not surprising that cities across the globe as well as governments, companies and individuals are rethinking their approach to lighting.

In Europe an estimated 120 million streetlights emit at the very least 20 million tonnes of CO2 annually (the same amount emitted by one in every four cars on UK roads). In 2006 Oslo took steps to slash its energy usage by 50 per cent by implementing an intelligent outdoor lighting system, the first in Europe, to remotely control and monitor its streetlights. London followed in 2011, announcing that more than 14,000 streetlights in the Borough of Westminster would be converted to lights that can be dimmed at quieter times. Westminster Council hopes to save £8.4 million ($12.9 million or €11.8 million) over the 20-year lifespan of the lights. Iin Los Angeles, the largest LED streetlighting retrofit ever undertaken is underway, targeting 140,000 of the city’s 209,000 streetlights. Fully implemented, the project is expected to save an estimated $10 million (€9.1 million) in energy and maintenance costs, while avoiding at least 40,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

And now the United Arab Emirates has set out its long-term Green Economy for Sustainable Development initiative, which seeks to create a sustainable environment for economic growth. Dubai alone aims to reduce its demand for energy by 30 per cent by 2030. 

Although the cost of the energy is not necessarily the driving force in the Middle East, there is certainly a greater awareness of the importance of environmental and maintenance issues. Lighting is always the most visible form of energy use within a building, accounting for up to 50 per cent of the total energy bill.

Currently the capital expenditure required for LED is greater than the outlay for fluorescent, but the rules of supply and demand will inevitably mean that fluorescent components will multiply in cost as the demand dwindles, and at that point there really is no case whatsoever to use anything other than LED.

Another key factor is the demand from the architectural and design communities to use LED in their schemes. The UAE style can be more dramatic and bold, and of course, LED is exciting to work with and often unlocks a plethora of opportunity and creativity, with the ability to develop seamless lighting solutions. 

A huge bonus for our clients in the Middle Eastern market is that major organisations in the European markets, in particular in London have already committed to LED, which reduces any perceived risks. The market will therefore benefit from the mistakes we have already made – and overcome.