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Energy Efficiency: One Light Bulb at a Time

Sergio Villalón Antuñano - Philips
Country Manager


Wed, 02/19/2014 - 15:41

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During 2011 and 2012, the Sustainable Lighting Program substituted 45.8 million incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving light bulbs. Philips worked closely with the Mexican government to introduce the use of this new technology among Mexican families. During the first stage of the program, the company was directly responsible for replacing 22.9 million incandescent lights for more than 5 million families across Mexico. “We replaced those incandescent lamps, which use an average of 100W, with compact fluorescent lamps, which use an average of 23W. This meant that every home that had an average usage of 400W immediately decreased that to less than 100W,” explains Sergio Villalón Antuñano, Country Manager of Philips Mexico, General Director Lighting Sector. He emphasizes the importance of the program for the Mexican government, globally recognized for running the largest replacement program of its kind in the world. The government then conducted the second phase of the program, which oversaw the replacement of an additional 20 million incandescent bulbs through retailers. “We have a large presence in Mexico, so our products accounted for a significant percentage of that replacement, reaching 10 million energy-saving light bulbs during the second phase. Overall, in two years, more than 30 million incandescent lamps were replaced by Philips energy-efficient lamps,” says Villalón Antuñano.

The fact that 2013 is the last year in which incandescent lighting will be used in Mexico further illustrates the authorities’ commitment to the shift towards energy efficiency. Villalón Antuñano highlights the benefits that will come from no longer using this type of lighting. “No more incandescent light bulbs from the beginning of January 2014 means no more mercury vapor, and no more inefficient products.” Interestingly enough, Philips encountered an unexpected challenge during the Sustainable Lighting Program. “The major challenge was actually convincing people to make the light bulb exchange, even though it was free,” claims Villalón Antuñano. Communication challenges prevented Philips from being able to fully explain the benefits to the Mexican population. Many did not believe the promised results until they saw their next electricity bill, and that was when the word started to spread.

“The main opportunity for energy efficiency in lighting is in the public lighting sphere, due to a current lack of maintenance of public lighting in most states and municipalities, added to the fact that the products used are often obsolete, as the budget available for such resources is usually scarce. If we were able to change 100% of public lighting points we would make substantial energy savings, enabling us to diminish the amount of electricity needed from power generation,” he says, quoting the example of Mexico City, which recently changed lights that consumed 250W to Philips 140W products on Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s main boulevard. The savings were massive and enabled the recovery of important public spaces. The authorities also extended the replacement program to include other main streets and squares. Nuevo Leon, Aguascalientes and Jalisco, among others, are examples of other states that are also in the process of changing their obsolete public lighting.

In terms of its sustainability strategy, Philips has a number of different targets. For example, all components used in its lighting solutions have to be completely reusable, recyclable and have minimum environmental costs. “As a result of such initiatives, Philips is recognized as the 23rd best company in the world in terms of sustainable practices,” says Villalón Antuñano. Energy efficiency is what drives a big part of the company’s R&D, across all its divisions. Villalón Antuñano states that more than 7% of the company’s total revenues are funneled directly to R&D, and that in the past two years this has increased, given the speed with which LED lighting is taking off.

Opportunities to improve Mexico’s energy efficiency remain abundant. Villalón Antuñano believes that the government has to continue fostering these practices through sustainable lighting programs and allocate more resources towards public street lighting in municipalities. “Public street lighting is very important because it is one of the only ways in which a municipal president or a governor can demonstrate that they care about the population. Having this type of lighting creates a lot of benefits for everyone. It is a commitment to energy saving, it facilitates the recovery of public spaces and it improves safety.” Philips has the goal of becoming the number one LED lighting provider in Mexico. In order to do this, the company has coined the concept “livable cities”, in which it targets specific cities with which it has been working closely to recover public spaces, and lights up an iconic landmark. For example, Merida’s Cathedral is now completely lit by LED lighting, both inside and outside.

Next year, Philips will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in Mexico, but the company has been developing lighting solutions for over 120 years. “Throughout its history, Philips has been focused on energy efficiency, but we take a sustainable approach across all our divisions, not just in lighting,” states Villalón Antuñano. Philips’ mission and vision is to deliver its innovative products and solutions to up to 3 billion people worldwide by 2025. “Integrating our products from the health and lighting spheres to make cities livable for people is our main ambition. We want our innovations to change people’s lives, and we want our brand to deliver innovation directly to people,” Villalón Antuñano concludes.

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