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2023 U.S. Commercial Lighting Energy Regulation Updates

2023 U.S. Commercial Lighting Energy Regulation Updates

New energy regulation updates will require occupancy sensors in open office floor plans
Published on November 2, 2022

Last updated on March 2, 2023 3:34 pm

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Energy regulation in the U.S. is overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC). These agencies set the national policy that the commercial lighting industry must follow.

What’s new for 2023? In May 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy announced:

“…beginning in April 2023, all new buildings and major retrofits constructed by the Federal government must comply with the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).”

—U.S. Department of Energy

Why energy regulation matters

In practical terms, energy regulations aim to reduce energy consumption. The goal is the limit human impact on climate change. The latest global trend focuses on achieving net-zero emissions status. That means running entirely on renewable energy.

Many states have outlined plans and dates for achieving net-zero emissions status. The U.S. has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

States leading the way on energy policy

Four states have codes that override and exceed Federal energy regulation:

  1. The California Building Standards Commission (Title 24)
  2. Vermont Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES)
  3. New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC)
  4. Washington State Energy Codes (WSEC)

California’s Title 24 currently imposes the most stringent set of regulations. 

On the other end of the spectrum, states like Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama are less restrictive. These states currently abide by the IECC’s 2015 standards. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently published a report detailing renewable energy goals and projections for each state.

U.S. map showing energy regulation policies by state. Many states still follow IECC 2015 standards, next year the DoE will require states to meet 2021 standards
U.S. Map Showing Energy Standard by State. Source: cove tools.

Commercial lighting standards for 2023

Regulatory changes for 2023 are likely to bring four terms to the forefront of commercial lighting standards. Below are the most significant energy regulation updates set for 2023 across the country.

Lighting Power Allowance

The Lighting Power Allowance (LPA) is the maximum allowed watts per square foot. In California’s Title 24, the LPA is being reduced from .65 to .6 watts per square foot in 2023.

Open Office Occupancy Controls

Occupant sensor controls are typically used in open-plan office spaces, cafeteria dining spaces, and fast-food dining spaces. Under regulations like Title 24, controls must be configured so general lighting can be controlled in “zones,” with floor areas not greater than 600 square feet. General lighting in each controlled zone should turn off after 20 minutes of occupants leaving a particular zone.

Automatic Daylighting Controls

Automatic daylighting controls refer to a photosensor and switch or dimming control unit.  The photosensor is mounted to the interior wall, ceiling, or light fixture within the daylighting zone. It sends a signal to the control unit when the preset lighting threshold is reached to reduce electrical light levels in a particular zone.

Daylighting zones include: 

  • primary side-lighting
  • secondary side-lighting
  • top-lighting

Primary and secondary side-lighting zones are illuminated by windows, while top-lighting zones are illuminated by skylights.

Example diagram showing how evenly distributed skylights can create daylighting zones

Automatic Receptacle Control

Automatic Receptacle Control, also known as plug-load control, is required to reduce building energy use. The government control limits energy consumption at electrical receptacles during non-occupied times, which reduces what the government deems “unnecessary energy usage and cost and supports sustainability.” In addition, some states require these receptacles as part of code requirement.

Receptacle controlling methods include:

  • Schedule-based or timer-based receptacles that can switch off at programmed times
  • Occupancy-based sensor which must turn off electrical outlets within 20 minutes of all occupants leaving a space
  • System-based signal from another control or alarm system which must turn off electrical outlets within 20 minutes after determining that the area is unoccupied.

Demand Responsive Lighting Controls

Demand Responsive Lighting Controls utilize control mechanisms to dim lighting levels during periods of high grid-wide demand, primarily to aid utilities in maintaining grid stability. According to the Demand Responsive Lighting Control Declaration of California’s Title 24, (Part 6, Section 110.12(a)1B)

“…requires that all demand responsive lighting controls be certified by the manufacturer as being capable of responding to signals from an OpenADR 2.0b Virtual End Node [utilities or state controlled software].”

California Title 24 Demand Responsive Lighting Declaration, Part 6, Section 110.12(a)1B
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[…] when combined with smart building technologies and networks that use occupancy sensors and demand-response lighting in commercial applications. As an added bonus, these fixtures and systems can achieve certain […]