Lighting accounts for almost 40 percent of a building's energy use, so implementing energy-efficient lighting strategies seems to be a logical choice for commercial property owners looking to reduce operating costs. However, finding useful information to navigate the retrofit and upgrade process has not been readily accessible. So in August 2008, in an effort to reach out to building owners and alert them to the benefits of “energy and costs savings through lighting renovations,” the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) initiated the enLIGHTen America program, which was designed as an advocacy initiative to represent the entire lighting supply chain, not individual companies. Today, more than 40 manufacturers have joined to endorse the program, which provides information about the benefits of upgrading out-of-date lighting products and systems. According to NEMA consultant Doug Baillie, the program's message has reached its initial target audience of 600,000 building owners in its first year.

Although developed a year before the financial crisis hit, the program's launch could not have been more timely in light of the economic turbulence of the past 12 months, particularly as building owners are now looking even more closely at cost-saving measures. To continue enLIGHTen America's momentum in 2010, NEMA is broadening the initiative's reach, expanding its target audience to include facility managers, architects, lighting designers, contractors, and lighting maintenance staff. “We want to build visibility about lighting technology,” Baillie says, “and how using the latest lamps, ballasts, and controls can contribute to lighting energy savings”—a savings that could reach 50 percent or more. From the data compiled, the program estimates that the renovation market represents close to $1.5 billion next year alone. Lighting upgrades are scheduled to occur in 41 percent of the approximately 5 million commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings in the United States. Not only will upgrading to a more energy-efficient lighting system help reduce operating expenses, it also will provide better quality lighting and increase a building's asset value—a particularly important consideration in the current real estate market.

By alerting building owners and lighting specifiers to the advantages of implementing energy-efficient lighting strategies, enLIGHTen America serves as a starting point for a greater awareness about lighting's contribution to reduce a building's energy consumption. NEMA organizers are confident that green building initiatives will take hold and establish themselves in the marketplace, becoming commonplace best practices. Once we get to that point, energy-efficient building solutions will not require specially focused awareness campaigns such as enLIGHTen America. Program details are available online at