Earlier this year, the chair of Massachusetts' Department of Public Utilities was frank about her state’s need to come up with new solutions to unlock energy efficiency.

“We haven’t really tapped the opportunity” to bring efficiency to the demand side, said chairperson Ann Berwick.

New data from Retroficiency shows one domain where huge opportunity lies: commercial lighting.



Massachusetts and its capital city, Boston, are front-runners in energy efficiency. Boston tops the ranks of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, and the city also has an aggressive climate action plan to cut citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

But even Boston could go much further. Retroficiency developed energy models for nearly 17,000 commercial buildings in Boston that spend more than $1 billion annually on energy.

The model, which is part of Retroficiency's building genome project, found that if every large hotel, retail and office building put in advanced lighting controls, they could save a combined total of $27 million every year.

The savings did not come from switching to more efficient lighting, such as LEDs, which could save even more. Instead, Retroficiency focused on modeling the outcomes of improving controls, such as having office lights on a schedule, but it did not prescribe specific controls to achieve that outcome.

The global market for lighting controls through 2020 will grow 12 percent annually, according to a report from Memoori. The lighting controls market is expected to reach $5 billion by 2020.

But for most businesses looking at efficiency, the continued drop in LED prices makes them a more attractive choice when considering a switch to controllable lights. Installing LED lights, along with controls and sensors, can save commercial customers up to 90 percent on lighting costs.

If the buildings modeled by Retroficiency instead installed advanced lighting and controls, the savings could go far beyond $27 million annually.