Light up, light up!

IEC support for the International Year of Light

By Janice Blondeau

Switching on a light is such a routine task that we often take it for granted, however for millions of people worldwide, this is far from the case. The IEC is delighted to be associated with the global initiative, International Year of Light, adopted by the United Nations under the patronage of UNESCO.

International Year of Light  (IYL) logo
The IEC is associated with the International Year of Light, adopted by the United Nations under the patronage of UNESCO

The International Year of Light (IYL 2015), officially launched in Paris on 19-20 January 2015, highlights to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures and for sustainable development.

Lighting and energy access

The IEC is determined to help bring electricity and clean and efficient lighting to the 1,2 billion people who still lack access. The economic development and advancement of newly industrializing countries depends on reliable access to electricity and safe, efficient lighting.

In the area of off-grid lighting, the IEC has defined the quality, safety, efficiency and durability criteria which help ensure that solar lamps are worth the buyer’s hard-earned money. The IEC Technical Specification for stand-alone lighting kits for rural electrification was developed with partners from academia, policy makers and private industry.

It allows testing laboratories to verify quality measures such as light output through tests that can be conducted anywhere in the world. Since it was launched, several million quality-assured solar LED lights have been sold in Africa and Asia.

Keeping the lights on

A great number of IEC International Standards address the needs of the lighting industry in terms of requirements, tests, safety and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) for lamps, lamp systems and all related accessories. This e-tech article showcases the work of some Technical Committees and Conformity Assessment Systems in the area of lighting and light-based technologies.

IEC work in this area covers product and systems specifications, safety, performance, interoperability, impact on the environment (both during production and until disposal) and everything in between.

Using energy more efficiently

For almost 70 years the IEC has been developing International Standards for luminaires and lighting installations. Lamps, indicators and luminaires are built, wired and connected based on IEC International Standards for use in households, gardens and pools; public and private transportation; industrial complexes; hospitals, stadiums and urban environments; zoos and aquariums; film, photo and theatre production; and much more.

General lighting consumes huge quantities of electricity, nearly a fifth of the total global production. At a time of growing concern regarding rising energy costs and environmental issues, efforts to curb electricity consumption have become a priority for governments around the world, making the lighting sector a prime target for savings. The work done by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 34: Lamps and related equipment and its Subcommittees (SCs) in preparing International Standards regarding specifications for lamps, luminaires and all related equipment has been instrumental in helping the industry introduce reliable energy-efficient lights and in bringing countless economic, energy and environmental benefits to the world.

Fibre optics from strength to strength

Fibre optic cables have revolutionized communications, from long distance phone calls to cable TV and Internet. Business and industry have used fibre optic technology for years to move large amounts of data quickly.

Manufacturers and suppliers of optical fibres and their components can rely on the IEC to provide the tools necessary to ensure the quality and reliability of their products. IEC TC 86: Fibre optics, its three SCs and their Working Groups (WGs) are central to the development of the entire sector and all related industries as they prepare Standards, specifications and technical reports for fibre optic-based systems, subsystems, modules, devices and components.

No light, no safety, no automation

In industry, light plays a central role in many domains, not just for lighting premises. Lighting fulfils a growing range of tasks in the industrial environment, improving safety and enabling automation in many areas. The industrial environment is likely to be full of potential hazards for the humans working within it. Lighting has always been important in ensuring workers have a clear view of the equipment they operate and of their surroundings.

IEC TC 34 develops International Standards for these lighting installations, including new technologies such as LEDs or OLEDs (organic LEDs), as well as for lighting systems used in some safety systems. Lighting use in industry has moved beyond a mere "passive" role to a more active one with lighting systems, often in combination with a variety of sensors, becoming ever more important in ensuring a safer working environment.

IEC International Standards for electrosensitive protective equipment apply to these devices. These are developed by IEC TC 44: Safety of machinery – Electrotechnical aspects. They include International Standards for electrosensitive protective equipment using active optoelectronic protective devices, vision-based protective devices or passive infrared protective devices.                  

Large lighting team

Many people work behind the scenes to provide us with safe electric lighting. Industry, standardization, conformity assessment and CBs (Certification Bodies) all collaborate to ensure that the products we buy and use have the required safety levels.

Without testing and certification, Standards remain just words on paper. Proper and safe lighting conditions not only rely on IEC International Standards, but also on two IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems, IECEE and IECQ.

Testing and certifying lighting products

IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components has been providing a global platform for testing and certifying lighting products for many years. The IECEE CB Scheme ensures compliance with the impressive list of IEC International Standards developed for the lighting industry.

Testing and certification in this area address performance and safety issues for a wide variety of products and their accessories. Lamps and luminaires in general, single and double capped fluorescent lamps, floodlights, LED modules for general lighting, cords, lamp holders, switches, insulation, temperature control, wiring and earthing are some examples of the elements that undergo testing.

Let there be LED

A theme of IYL 2015 is raising global awareness about how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. This global initiative ties in very smoothly with another, put forward by IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, namely the IECQ LED initiative. In proposing the LED initiative, IECQ also recognizes the fact that LED-based lighting solutions are slowly and surely becoming the norm in shops and malls, in offices, at home, for lighting displays and a great number of industrial uses.

The IECQ LED initiative takes the tried and proven IECQ AC Scheme and tailors this for the LED Lighting industry; it includes manufacturing control measures that are specific to manufacturers of LED component parts, assemblies and modules. Already, keen interest is seen from various lighting industry associations and councils, including the Global Lighting Association. The LED initiative is soon to become an IECQ LED Scheme.

Offshore lighting

Offshore oil platforms, refineries, shipyards, gas and oil tankers operate 24 hours a day. Most human activities may go at a reduced pace but night-shift crews need powerful and reliable lighting to be able to work when it is dark. Lighting fixtures, as with any other piece of equipment or device used in hazardous areas, have to be explosion-proof.

LEDs can be used for all types of offshore lighting: from floodlights to exit signs, from berth and bunk lighting to linear lighting mounted on walls or floors for interior areas.

Companies which offer high-specification LED lighting for hazardous areas, as well as the more conventional incandescent light bulbs, HDL or fluorescent lighting, have had their products tested and certified by IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres.

Manufacturers have to meet the very strict requirements specified in the IEC 60079 series of International Standards on explosive atmospheres as well as those put in place by national or regional regulations and legislation. Proving their adherence to those requirements can be costly and time-intensive.

Testing, assessment and/or certification conducted within the IECEx is accepted in all its member countries and way beyond. It is widely recognized as the truly international system for Ex equipment, provides access to the global market and drastically reduces costs by eliminating multiple re-testing and certification.

Lighting the future

Today the quest for energy-efficient lighting extends beyond light bulbs to include various advanced light management systems that deliver precisely the right light to the right place at the right time. Many IEC TCs and SCs are at the forefront of standardization work that is allowing great advances in new lighting solutions.

Looking forward, IEC is intensifying its work to enable global trade and the expansion of new lighting technologies, and at the same time the organization continues to be instrumental in the development of the whole underlying energy infrastructure.

About the International Year of Light

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.

International Year of Light  (IYL) logo The IEC is associated with the International Year of Light, adopted by the United Nations under the patronage of UNESCO
LEDs IEC TC 34 develops International Standards for lighting installations including LEDs and OLEDs (organic LEDs)
rural electrification Children study using a solar powered task light in Dakar, Senegal (© Bruno Demeocq/Lighting Africa)