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Government gets a grip on lighting procurement

Howells: Government doesn’t necessarily do procurement particularly well

The rapid rise of LED and the grand product claims made by lighting manufacturers can make life difficult for procurement staff – especially those in public bodies that have lost lighting expertise amid staff cuts.

Fortunately, a new guide aims to help those in central government procurement pick the right outdoor lighting. At LuxLive in London, delegates learned how the guide can help.

“Government doesn’t necessarily do procurement particularly well,” said Tony Howells (pictured), a government advisor in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. “Generally we’ve divested ourselves of technical competence… but if we’re going to spend x billion pounds, can we do that in a smarter way?”

“In trying to make local authorities and central government a better customer, we looked at every aspect of procurement,” he added.

The initiative has the support of the Lighting Industry Association, which represents manufacturers.

Joe Ernst-Herman of the Crown Commercial Service, who is responsible for managing spend of around £2bn on energy, pointed out that streetlighting accounts for some 30% of local authority energy bills, but that the new framework can really help to deliver savings.

Ian Borthwick of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), pointed to the recent publication of good practice guides for exterior lighting. He said that rapid improvement in LED technology in a short space of time has meant that this disruptive technology is still not fully understood. “It’s a complex electronic system and you need to take a systems approach,” he warned. “It’s not a conventional light source.”

Tony Howells said that a degree of competence was required in local authorities. “As a team we worked together, along with the industry,” he concluded, “to provide something unique in public procurement.”

He described the process as a “virtuous circle”, and said “this is just the start – just think what we could do in public service terms with the internet of things (IoT).” The next stage, he said, will be to look at how to deliver documents for local authorities and central government in developing IoT systems.