Even in places where power is cheap, you can save money with lighting controls pretty quickly, according to data from Lumenergi.

The company -- which makes a system for controlling and dimming fluorescent tube lights in commercial buildings -- has started to rack up a number of large-scale contracts that, ideally, will serve as proof-of-concepts for wider acceptance. Lumenergi's technology has been installed in government buildings in Nevada and California. This week, the company announced it will put its equipment into the E.O. Thompson State Office Building in Texas.

On the commercial side, a large bank in New York with a sizable number of offices may soon evaluate the technology in two of its buildings, said CEO Mike D'Amour in a phone interview. And, although the bank in question is looking at installing Lumenergi's technology in its own facilities, commercial landlords have begun to evaluate lighting controls for the office spaces they lease to others.

"They all want to differentiate themselves from the building across the street," he said. "You never tell a prospective tenant 'Look. We have light switches.'"

But exactly how much does the technology save? It can curb the power consumption in lights by about 60 percent, D'Amour reported. In California, where power sells for 11 cents a kilowatt during off-peak periods and far more in the afternoon, that means that the technology will pay for itself in about two years.

In Texas, where expensive power might cost around 9.43 cents a kilowatt hour, payback occurs in 2.7 years, according to D'Amour (that's his real name, by the way).

The payback periods do not include the 60-cents-per-square-foot tax credit offered by the federal government, D'Amour added. Under the provisions of the tax credit program, building owners can get 60 cents for new lighting, 60 cents per square foot for improving the building envelope, and 60 cents per square foot for improving the HVAC system.

"Things are moving forward fast," he said. "We are taking large orders from OEMs." In this case, the OEMs in question would be lighting equipment makers.

Lighting control will be one of the big topics later this week at LightFair, the confab taking place in Las Vegas, as well as The Networked Grid conference, which is taking place a week later in Palm Springs. (Other LightFair notes: as expected, Philips will show off its household LED bulb but, disappointingly, still is not talking prices.)

Besides simply curbing the total amount of power consumed, Lumenergi's system can be synchronized with time-of-use billing and demand response systems to curtail lighting during crucial peak periods, further boosting savings and potentially whittling down the payback period even more.

While lighting control was a somewhat obscure concept a few years ago, a variety of companies have come into the space in recent years. Lighting consumes around 22 percent of the electricity in America, and the vast majority of lights are not networked or controlled remotely. It's one of the few frontiers of local area networking left. Like Adura Technologies, Lumenergi has decided to initially concentrate on fluorescent lights, the standard light used in offices today. Adura's technology, however, relies on wireless mesh networking, while Lumenergi links directly into the existing building management system. Which system works best?

There's a good chance that both companies will encourage their big customers to talk about that soon.