Edison Revisited: Should we use DC circuits for lighting in commercial buildings?

TitleEdison Revisited: Should we use DC circuits for lighting in commercial buildings?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsThomas Ba., Azevedo I\^csL, Morgan G
JournalEnergy Policy
ISBN Number0301-4215
KeywordsDirect current distribution, energy efficiency, Light emitting diodes
AbstractWe examine the economic feasibility of using dedicated DC circuits to operate lighting in commercial buildings. We compare light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescents that are powered by either a central DC power supply or traditional AC grid electricity, with and without solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery back-up. Using DOE performance targets for LEDs and solar PV, we find that by 2012 LEDs have the lowest levelized annualized cost (LAC). If a DC voltage standard were developed, so that each LED fixture's driver could be eliminated, LACs could decrease, on average, by 5% compared to AC LEDs with a driver in each fixture. DC circuits in grid-connected PV-powered LED lighting systems can lower the total unsubsidized capital costs by 4-21% and LACs by 2-21% compared to AC grid-connected PV LEDs. Grid-connected PV LEDs may match the LAC of grid-powered fluorescents by 2013. This outcome depends more on manufacturers' ability to produce LEDs that follow DOE's lamp production cost and efficacy targets, than on reducing power electronics costs for DC building circuits and voltage standardization. Further work is needed to better understand potential safety risks with DC distribution and to remove design, installation, permitting, and regulatory barriers. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.