While the South African lighting industry is currently experiencing an infrastructure-development-driven boom, Illumination Engineering Society of South Africa president (Iessa) Gustav Kritzinger, says that constraints to industry growth exist in the form of energy uncertainties and the possible lack of power connectivity.
He says that the fact that there are energy constraints has, however, led to a substantial move towards the use of more energy-efficient lighting systems. This trend is predominantly driven by the use of electronic control gear, in place of the conventional electromagnetic control gear, he adds.
In terms of energy efficiency there is a significant drive towards electronic control gear, the use of high-intensity discharge lamps, compact fluorescent technology and the emergence of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) lighting, specifically in the commercial, but also in the industrial environments. However, LED lighting does have limitations, and is not yet suitable for many industrial environments. "LED technology is developing at a very fast rate. Within the next five to ten years, LED lighting could become a new standard in lighting for commercial, industrial and exterior lighting," he adds.
Kritzinger's unconfirmed estimate of the value of the local lighting industry is about R5-billion a year. He says that this would include all types of light fittings such street lighting, floodlighting, industrial and commercial lighting, control gear, lamps, the domestic and decorative ranges and other specialised lighting. "Lamps and commercial lighting each contribute about R1-billion to the industry, while industrial lighting is estimated to be worth less than R500 000 a year," he elaborates.
He says that because the local market is small, the economies of scale does not support local research and development. He explains that the local lighting market is driven by multinational lighting companies such as Phillips and Osram, and that innovation, research and development occurs internationally, with South Africa following these trends. "The lighting industry in South Africa is only worth about R5-billion a year, while internationally, the lighting industry is worth billions of euros or dollars," he states.
Kritzinger says that the technology changes in the industry are driven by the industry, as well as consumer demand, displaying a willingness from all stakeholders to implement energy-efficient systems. A new South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) standard regarding energy efficient lighting systems, particularly on interior lighting has been published. In addition, in July 2008, government gazetted legislation to reduce current and future energy use in the lighting industry.
"However, the gazetted legislation does not clarify the date by which these targets must be achieved. Further, there are a number of discrepancies and uncertainties around the current legislation, in terms of the technology requirements," he states.
He says that the society has had several interactions with government prior to the legislation becoming gazetted, where Iessa had been requested to submit its recommendations. He states that none of the society's recommendations were incorporated into the new legislation. Kritzinger comments that this is unacceptable and that this shows that government does not fully comprehend what is required to establish an energy-efficient lighting industry in South Africa. He comments that the lack of appropriately qualified personnel, at decision-making level in government, leads to situations where the advice of industry bodies is ignored.
Kritzinger states that the area with the biggest potential for growth in the lighting industry would be the retrofit market, of which the installation and technology is not clearly defined by current legislation. The retrofit market includes the commercial and public environment markets, such as schools, office buildings and hospitals, and entails the upgrading of existing installations. The old equipment needs to be removed, converted into energy-efficient products and then reinstalled, at a lower capital cost than a new installation.
"This is a significant potential market, which was not a priority in the past, because there were no pressing power availability issues. There is some upgrade work being conducted, but because of the unclear legal and technical framework, upgrading is an uncertain area. For an existing installation to be converted into an energy-efficient one, does not necessarily mean that it will comply with the compulsory safety specifications of the product as well as the legislation. Iessa is currently tackling this issue with the SABS," he adds.
Skills Development and Education
Kritzinger comments that the lighting industry has lost a lot of its expertise during the past few years, owing to people leaving the industry. He says that the demand for appropriate skills and skills training in the industry is high.
Iessa, through its dedicated development committee and in conjunction with industry specialists, has developed a number of training courses spanning a range of levels. The courses include a basic light-fitting course to more specialised courses such as an outdoor lighting design course. The institute also runs a yearly lighting school, which runs over a week, where a basic light-fitting skills as well as more technical aspects such as photometry are taught. Photometry is the study of the intensity distribution of different types of light fittings, which is essential knowledge in designing lighting systems. The courses are published and advertised in different media, as well as by email invitation, to invite as many participants as possible.
Iessa's courses are held mostly in Gauteng, and at Iessa's Cape Town and Durban branches. The courses are held at independent public venues and are run for between one day and five days. The society does not offer sponsored courses, but it does identify disadvantaged individuals, whom it sponsors, to facilitate broad access to its courses.
Iessa has an active secondary school level programme, to make learners aware of the importance of lighting, and the opportunities it offers as a career choice. Further, the society has adopted the Ithemba Institute of Technology in Soweto, as a sponsored education facility, where Iessa delivers talks and courses on a regular basis, to ensure that the lighting industry is promoted.
BBBEE in the Lighting Industry
Kritzinger states that from a manufacturing point of view the industry has made significant inroads into becoming broad-based black-economic empowerment (BBBEE) compliant. However, he states that, there is room for significant improvement in the industry to become more BBBEE compliant. The improvements would lie in acquiring educated and qualified young, black lighting practitioners, of which there are very few in the industry.
The industry is run largely by the multinationals and this makes new and innovative energy-efficient technologies available for the South African market, which does comes with a bigger initial capital cost to consumers. Kritzinger states that these technologies have been tested, proven and implemented worldwide. He says that the initial capital cost makes the South African market much slower to respond to new technologies. There has to be a mindset change, and consumers have to start thinking about the life-cycle costs of these products, what the potential energy-saving contributions of these products would be and how these products would make for a better artificially lit environment, concludes Kritzinger.