Thomas Leenders (Signify): ‘From Green Deal to Green Switch’

About one year ago, European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans launched the ‘Green Deal:’ an ambitious climate plan to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. The Green Deal’s first goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 (compared with 1990). Since then, much has happened. The whole world, our way of living, working, meeting and socializing has been impacted by the global pandemic, which has crippled economic growth. “Never waste a good crisis,” as Winston Churchill once said. We shouldn’t. In 2021, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make the world a better, healthier, and more sustainable place.

While national, regional and also local governments are currently combating the next wave of the pandemic, we now have a tantalizing glimpse of a post-COVID world thanks to the first supplies of a variety of new vaccines. The task ahead is therefore to focus on rebuilding the economies of EU member states. Enormous amounts of money are – justifiably – being allocated for the task. Regardless of whether this money comes from the EU or from national governments, we ought to spend it carefully and wisely. I advocate that we invest it in the most sustainable way possible to deliver energy savings, reduce our carbon footprint and boost infrastructure such as roads, buildings and houses, and certainly on digital innovations and skills.

Investing in infrastructure, innovation and the circular economy

Spending on infrastructure projects will aid recovery and boost local economies. Investment in highways, tunnels, bridges, building renovation will play a critical role. The renovation of buildings is at the heart of the EU Green Deal with a budget of EUR 275 billion earmarked for the renovation of 35 million buildings. Installing better insulation and switching to LED lighting are the low-hanging fruit in such energy saving projects.

Now available for consumers

Consumers can now benefit from Signify’s first consumer UV-C product, the Philips UV-C disinfection desk lamp. The lamp, which is only available in parts of Asia, is able to inactivate viruses, bacteria, mold, and spores, and can disinfect rooms in a matter of minutes.

Large scale lighting renovation is both necessary and feasible given that 80% of all light points in the Benelux can be replaced with LED lights. However, if we are to realize significant electricity savings, it is important that governments also take responsibility and offer incentives to both businesses and consumers. We can do this, for example, by stipulating that all new government supported building renovation projects must use LED lighting. It goes without saying that such an obligation should be linked to new European climate legislation and that its non-binding nature must be removed.
Signify has been a shining example for several years with its Circular Lighting proposition. This allows light to be offered as a service – where organizations purchase the light they use not the lamps. In exchange for energy-efficient quality lighting, customers pay a monthly amount that is lower than their current electricity bill. Signify bears the investment costs, provides state-of-the-art lighting, provides maintenance and remains responsible for the lighting hardware. When the contract expires, it then arranges for it to be recycled, or reused.

The importance of innovation to Europe’s recovery efforts should not be underestimated. Signify’s headquarters and much of its European design and research staff are located in Eindhoven. The city is at the crossroads of the Brainport hub for innovation – a breeding ground for firms undertaking ground-breaking technology and practical innovation. Companies in this and other hi-tech areas will feature prominently in developing the innovations needed for economies to recover and to make a zero-carbon future a reality.

Going Carbon neutral

Signify has demonstrated for years that innovation and sustainability go hand in hand. In September 2020, we announced that we had achieved 100% carbon neutrality for our global operations, which is a colossal achievement for a company with a presence in 74 countries and a truly global manufacturing and logistics footprint.

Naturally, we are mightily proud of this and are very willing to share the lessons we’ve learned on the road to carbon neutrality. As you would expect, we used our own lighting technologies to help to reduce our carbon footprint. The same applies to other companies. They don’t have to invent a new miracle technology to curb their use of electricity. The technology if available right now waiting to be used.

The switching to LED and connected lighting is a ‘no-brainer’ in the fight against climate change. We estimate that an EU-wide switch will save Europe around EUR 40 billion. Such a complete switch to LED would also save around 100 million tons of CO2 emissions. In human terms, that equals the electricity consumption of 60 million households – or the environmental equivalent of the amount of carbon stored by a forest the size of France (around 53 million hectares).

If we are to stimulate economic recovery, we need to base it upon proven technologies that can make a difference. Lighting, which most of us take for granted, must not be overlooked. It’s already recognized as a powerful weapon in the armoury for combating climate change. Now, it’s full potential should be realized for Europe’s green recovery.

Thomas Leenders, Manager Government Affairs Signify Benelux

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