Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Cleveland’s LED lighting plan - BOLD...but SENSIBLE? -
Submitted by briancummins on Thu, 05/20/2010 - 19:36.
Mayor Frank Jackson and his Administration havebeen saying that their proposed deal to award a 10-year, exclusive contract for all of the City’s energy-efficient LED lighting needs to Sunpu Opto from China is a bold move. Someone close to Cleveland’s LED lighting story summed it up well –
Q. How many City of Cleveland officials does it take to replace a light bulb?
Next Monday May 24th, Cleveland City Council may vote on the ordinance that would do just that. This past Monday, the unofficial vote count was 10-yes; 8-no, 1-absent. But there was no official vote called because 13 votes were needed to pass the ordinance as an “emergency measure,” and the votes weren’t there.
This deal, if passed, will lock in the City for a decade with Sunpu Opto for LED products like streetlights, traffic lights, light bulbs and tube lights. Ten years is an eternity in the fast-evolving LED technology, as advances are made and new products are introduced every six months, according to U.S. Department of Energy LED/Solid-State Lighting (DOE) experts.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and the Credibility of Who Would Provide Them
How do we support a deal like this and justify the monopoly on City business? “Jobs, jobs, jobs” is the City Administration answers. In addition to the jobs mantra, the other repeated response - even while many questions and details remain unanswered - is that there will be plenty of performance measures and pricing guarantees - guarantees from a company that currently has no sales, no apparent customers, and no products yet tested in the U.S.
And what more do we know about Sunpu Opto and its business? Top DOE officials and other industry experts have not heard of the company. There is no record of the company participating in any of the DOE sponsored industry conferences in the past three years – designed to share technical knowledge, product development and certification information. When Council Members asked to see a business plan and Sunpu Opto’s plans for growth, we were told the Administration does not have that information.
When asked for a client list and supporting documentation regarding the credibility of the company we received patent and company certification information mostly in Chinese with no translations. The two U.S. customers on the client list were contacted. One has no record of Sunpu Opto in their accounting, vendor or procurement systems and the other cannot be reached.
What about the products? The City claims no one else has the full range of products, because only Sunpu Opto can supply LED tubes that can simply drop into existing fluorescent fixtures as well as proving the promised jobs. The truth needs to get a little more technical.
Last week, Jim Brodrick, an LED expert at the DOE, posted a warning to any would-be purchaser that the DOE has tested a dozen different LED T8 replacement tubes (replacements for four foot florescent tubes), and the bottom line is they simply don’t perform as well as energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, plus they cost a lot more – they’re not economically or technically competitive replacements yet. And as reported in the Plain Dealer, putting LED tubes into fixtures designed for fluorescent bulbs raises safety concerns.
“…What this means is that, amidst all the heated market activity, buyers and specifiers need to be very careful when it comes to LED [fluorescent replacements]. That’s why DOE has just published a fact sheet on the topic, which serves as a useful tool to help buyers cut through the hype and get to the heart of the matter…”
Mayor Jackson nevertheless insists that,
“[the deal will] allow the City to spend its dollars wisely on a product(s) that uses less energy and saves the city money.”
he also insists,
“Their [Sunpu Opto] technology is superior…than other companies whether foreign or domestic”
Commissioner Ivan Henderson of Cleveland Public Power has stated,
“This is what the lighting industry says is the future...it is coming, it is coming, but in fact it is really here, it’s here already.”
But the Administration’s claims are contradicted by a simple examination of Sunpu Opto’s own claims about its products. Taken at face value, the information Sunpu Opto provided shows that its bulbs and tubes produce only half as much light as traditional lighting products. (more about this in a moment.)
And, the Administration will not require LM 80 testing, which measures how quickly LEDs dim over time. Nor will the contract require federal Energy Star® ratings, which are afforded to products that meet certain minimum performance thresholds.
In fact, Commissioner Henderson is on record stating there will be no performance requirements for the products in the contract.
Henderson also argues that Energy Star qualification is not a legal requirement and that “good” products can be produced without the rating. Perhaps that’s true to some degree, but how can the Administration claim that Sunpu Opto has the best quality if its products aren’t even Energy Star qualified. Most municipalities and other LED purchases actually require that the LED products they purchase meet Energy Star requirements. It is the one sure label to look for that ensures product performance is measured according to standards and that minimum specifications are achieved.
On a separate but related note, how can the Administration downplay the importance of the Energy Star program for this contract, while at the same time requiring builders and new development/ construction projects in the City to be Energy Star rated? Let's be bold and let's do it with standards we can measure.
The Administration also seems irresponsibly unconcerned about how much light the Sunpu Opto products provide. The Sunpu Opto 60-watt “equivalent,” for example, actually gives off only half as much light as a regular 60-watt incandescent bulb. The Sunpu Opto LED tube gives off less than half as much light as a fluorescent tube – and is less energy-efficient on top of that.
The Administration appears unconcerned about having City employees and the public going about their business under dim light conditions – and Commissioner Henderson had no problem asserting to City Council that the Sunpu Opto LED tubes provide the same amount of light as fluorescent tubes, even when confronted with Sunpu Opto’s own 1100 lumen rating versus a fluorescent tube’s rating of 2500 lumens (lumens are a measure of how much light bulb or tube gives off).
Status of LED Lighting Technology
It is clear that LED lighting technology has moved out of its infancy and now is developing rapidly. High quality LED traffic signals, streetlights, and product display lighting are available on a broad scale. Some LED products, however, such as replacement LED light bulbs and tubes are not yet suitable for broad replacement of traditional lighting. According to DOE analysis, these products simply are not yet economical or effective.
The DOE’s most recent new program supporting LED adoption is the Solid State Street Light Consortium. This initiative is aimed at leveraging “the efforts of multiple cities pursuing evaluations of LED street lighting products.” Although the program’s focus is on streetlights, Edward Smalley, of Seattle City Light and leader of the Consortium, informed me that it will provide an excellent forum for municipalities to discuss LEDs of all types.
The Consortium members will collect, analyze, and share information and lessons learned related to LED street light demonstration projects. Why is the Administration reluctant to take advantage of this valuable resource? One that will only grow in importance as more cities join in the effort to share and learn from the program.
An Alternative to a No-Bid Contract -
The DOE stated earlier this month that next generation LED products are being introduced every six months. Given these rapid technological advances, new developments in testing criteria, and a deluge (two-thirds of what is tested do not meet claims) of products with unsubstantiated claims of quality and offers of low prices, what should the City do?
The answer is obvious and indicated in the new Solid State Street Light Consortium: rather than using a closed, non-competitive, no-bid process that locks the City into a single supplier for all LED products for 10 years (products that are in different stages of development), the City should take the opposite approach – issue wide-open, public requests for quotation/qualifications (RFQs) to LED suppliers.
The RFQs can relate to those LED products, like street lights and traffic lights, that have already proven themselves in the marketplace, have received UL (safety) listings, and have undergone performance testing (known as LM 79 and LM 80). The RFQs should also seek photometric files as substantiation for product claims – technical data that is standard for reviewing product performance measures.
For other LED products, such as bulbs and tubes, the City shouldn’t be a free-spending guinea pig for these. It should follow the development of the products and jump in when they offer better, more economical performance than traditional lighting technologies. This is the only way the City can assure itself, and its citizens, that it is getting the best products at the best prices using city or federal tax dollars.
The only sensible way forward is to demand an open, fair and transparent bidding process – as required by our City Charter – based on specifications, not on generalizations and superlatives we’ve heard from CPP. Over the last few weeks, we’ve learned much about lighting and lumens from local experts and from impartial third-party LED experts at the DOE and within the LED industry.
If this deal is approved, it will be a travesty for Clevelanders and a further blow to the credibility of Cleveland officials. As elected and appointed officials, we owe it to our constituents to be wise and find the best value when we spend their tax dollars.
Brian J. Cummins
Cleveland City Counciman, Ward 14
Member, Utilities Committee
Member, Community and Economic Development Committee
Note: Cross posted at:
References and links:
City of Cleveland
TV 20’s special report on LED Lighting initiative: http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/media-gallery/video?id=409
City of Cleveland’s LED Lighting Initiative Fact Sheet, http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/clnd_images/PDF/Mayor/LED%20Lighting%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
Letter dtd May 7, 2010, by Mayor Frang G. Jackson, http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/clnd_images/PDF/Mayor/Cleveland%27s%20LED%20Lighting%20Initiative.pdf
Peter Tien: Identified as sole owner of Sunpu Opto USA) . Mr. Tien introduced the City of Cleveland to Sunpu Opto and also is working with the City in developing a waste-to-energy plant.
• Princeton Environmental Group, http://www.princetonenvironmental.com/; • Kinsei Sangyo Company,http://www.kinsei-s.co.jp/index2.htm
Department of Energy’s Solid-State Lighting Program
Articles and links: