Fixture retrofits sweep GE facilities

May 08, 2006

In August 2004, before his company launched its “ecomagination” environmental initiative, Jack Fish, vice president of global manufacturing, GE Consumer and Industrial (, asked his team to devise a plan for cutting energy costs by 20% in answer to forecasted energy price increases.

Conversations with plant managers and GE Lighting unit executives kept returning to lighting retrofits, which the Lighting unit had been promoting externally as the fastest way to slow down Watt-hour meters and thereby cut wasteful spending on energy.

“An overall cost-of-light calculation used by the Lighting business sealed the deal,” Fish says.

The calculation points out that as little as 4% of the cost of light may be attributable to the cost of lamps, while installation and maintenance typically accounts for 8%. Depending on local electricity and labor rates, the nature of the facility, and type of lighting, as much as 88% is energy.

Initially, about 50 GE Consumer & Industrial plants were identified for retrofits. Soon thereafter, the results caused interest to mushroom across GE Industrial locations around the globe. Ten plants have been converted as of January.

The retrofit plan now encompasses Consumer & Industrial, Plastics, Advanced Materials, Security, Sensing, Inspection Technologies and GE Fanuc. In many of the plants targeted for retrofits, older technologies such as standard high-pressure sodium or standard metal halide lamps are the previous lamps of choice.

Primary to each upgrade are six-lamp T8 High Bay linear fluorescent systems featuring GE’s UltraMax electronic ballasts. These reduce wattage by more than 50%, from 465 watts to 220 watts per fixture at the ballast.

This energy-saving choice also significantly upgrades the quality of light. With the new T8 lamps, the color-rendering index (CRI) climbs to 80 from 22 for standard high-pressure sodium lamps or 65 for standard metal halide lamps. The horizontal foot-candle measurement (how wide light spreads out as it’s projected from a fixture) more than triples.

Over the next two years, 148 GE Industrial manufacturing plants and warehouses worldwide (110 in the Americas, 36 in Europe and two in Asia) will undergo lighting retrofits.

Energy savings analyses conducted at 65 of the 148 facilities indicate each location, on an average annualized basis, will reduce energy consumption by 1.4 million kWh and realize approximately $86,000 in energy-cost savings. Estimates for the completed 148-facility retrofit include reducing annual energy consumption by 210.5 million kWh and energy costs by $12.8 million.

In addition to the projected energy cost reduction, GE plans to pursue an accelerated tax deduction incentive allowed by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“Very few GE Consumer & Industrial plants were using energy-efficient linear fluorescent lamps,” Fish says. “We simply weren’t taking our own good advice. Now, though, we’re on track to achieve a 50% reduction in lighting energy consumption at these plants. That’s two-and-a-half times our initial savings target.”

Another forecasted environmental benefit tied to the 148-facility retrofit is the production of 155,700 fewer metric tons of CO2, which equates to the ongoing elimination of pollution from nearly 30,000 average-sized cars or the good that comes from planting more than 70 square miles of trees.
GE’s ecomagination initiative intends to aggressively bring to market new technologies that help customers and consumers meet pressing environmental challenges, to deliver comfort, convenience and electrical protection and control.

“This lighting initiative is the epitome of ecomagination,” says John Rice, a vice chairman of GE and president and CEO of GE Industrial. “It’s a story of how environmental awareness can become contagious…a world-class lighting ecomagination testimonial in the making.”

For more information contact Dave Schuellerman,, (216) 266-9702.