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LEDs make a big showing at SDG&E Energy Showcase

The annual San Diego Gas & Electric Energy Showcase welcomed the public Tuesday to the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, where innovations in energy efficiency were the highlight.

As in previous years, the annual showcase drew exhibitors looking to give the public a glimpse of their latest advances. The roughly 75 exhibitors included private businesses -- from well-known names including Siemens (NYSE: SI) to others such as Rainforest Automation Inc. -- and public agencies, including the San Diego County Water Authority.

A noticeable trend at this year’s event was the number of light-emitting diode-centered companies. From local lighting consultant Les Kavec of Elkays Electronics to Alpha Green Energy, a Northern California company that recently opened its San Diego office, lighting was a major focus for exhibitors.

And when it comes to lighting these days, LEDs are getting a lot of attention.

LEDs are becoming less expensive to produce, according to Caulin Jennings, who helped open Alpha Green's San Diego office. They're also capable of producing more light per watt than even what was considered energy-efficient just a few years ago.

That equals, he said, a greater incentive for producers and consumers to push LED technology, which, he added, has come a long way.

It has been similar to the progression of other popular products of the last several years, he said.

"Think about the iPhone," Jennings said. "It came out; it was cool. But you take that iPhone and compare it to the iPhone now -- it's not even the same technology."

The same can be said of LEDs of today compared with LEDs of recent years.

"LEDs actually have the power now for dimming, to change colors," Jennings said, noting that they can useful not only for people looking to save energy, but for the owners of businesses such as nightclubs, who can sometimes use thousands of lights on a dance floor.

"The industry is just changing," Jennings said. "Different companies that would never have before switched to LEDs are now switching. They used to be just industrial. We do a lot of salons, restaurants.”

At a local Holiday Inn, he added, Alpha Green Energy had recently replaced the hotel's indoor lighting. The company is doing the outdoor lighting there, as well.

"They spent about $28,000 a year for the parking (lot) lights," Jennings said. "With this, we went down from 350 watts to 50 watts (per light). Basically, they're only going to spend about $3,000 a year. And it's brighter."

Renee Daigneault, the interim executive director for the San Diego chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, said the idea is being moved forward by the chapter that the city will never be able to "green its building stock" without considering existing buildings.

Without knowing for sure, she said, she's inclined to think it may be that type of reasoning, and the resulting building retrofits, that are fueling the LED push.

The Energy Showcase was kicked off with the recognition of 10 winners in SDG&E's annual Energy Champions competition. Collectively, the winners -- recognized for efforts in 2013 or the past year -- saved more than 33 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 500,000 therms of natural gas, according to SDG&E, through energy efficiency efforts.

The amount of energy saved, the utility added, is roughly the equivalent of taking more than 5,000 cars off the road, or enough to power more than 3,500 homes for one year.

Some of the 10 categories included hospitality, biotech, communications, higher learning and government. The winners were Hilton San Diego Bayfront; Janssen Research & Development LLC; AT&T Services San Diego; the city of Chula Vista; Sharp HealthCare; General Dynamics NASSCO; the U.S. Navy; Poway Unified School District and UC San Marcos. The Irvine Co. was named Grand Champion, for property management.

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