The internet is the best path for sending utility demand response signals to lighting control devices on customer premises that turn lamps down to save power when demand peaks, concludes a report released last month by the California Energy Commission. Researchers did not evaluate \u201csmart\u201d meters\u2014the presumed gateway for demand response signals\u2014due to a lack of compatibility between the controls and the smart grid. \u201cWith the internet, it\u2019s all automated,\u201d explained Cori Jackson, California Lighting Technology Center director. Compared to the current system, in which building managers get e-mails from utilities and then personally turn down lights, she said internet-based communication \u201celiminates human error.\u201d The study also concluded that \u201cwidespread availability of personal computers with internet connections\u201d enables \u201cautomated demand response\u201d that\u2019s \u201cfaster and more cost-effective\u201d than competing technologies. It found energy savings from internet-based lighting control of up to 65 percent. The findings stem from a $3.7 million study on lighting technology the CEC funded under its Public Interest Energy Research program. The California Lighting Technology Center conducted much of that research. Center researchers examined a variety of communications technologies, including telephone, pager, power line, satellite, and broadcast signals. Oddly enough, \u201csmart\u201d meters were missing in action in the study among the various communications options for getting demand response signals into customer premises. That\u2019s despite that state regulators have approved $5 billion in utility spending to install the digital power meters premised, in part, that they would serve as communications gateways for automatically transmitting demand response and energy conservation signals to customer premises. However, Jackson said researchers conducting the field tests used the other systems because to date utilities are not sending demand response signals to customers through their smart meter systems since time-of-use rates have not been widely put in place. Moreover, lighting control manufacturers have developed systems that are not necessarily attuned to smart meters. Specifically, the researchers field tested lighting control devices made by Lutron, Universal, and Convia ALCS. Using the Lutron devices, utilities can send demand response signals through the internet to a computer loaded with Lutron software. The computer then dims or shuts down the lights to save energy by sending signals to the ballasts through control wires within the building. Most of the current Lutron applications are in new buildings where control systems are put in place when lighting is installed, Jackson explained. Meanwhile, the Universal control system uses the electricity supply line to send on\/off and dimming signals to the individual light ballasts. Another control system produced by Convia ALCS uses a wireless signal. According to the study, the greatest savings occurred with Lutron, \u201cwhere annualized energy use declined by 65 percent.\u201d Convia and Universal yielded \u201cannualized energy savings of 40 percent and 8 percent respectively.\u201d Jackson estimated that today the lighting control systems have less than 5 percent penetration in the commercial building lighting market. The report is Lighting California\u2019s Future: Integration of Lighting Controls with Utility Demand Response Signals.