Bringing Learning to Light

The State of California’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program was developed to support public-interest energy research and development that will help improve the quality of life in that state by bringing environmentally safe, affordable, and reliable energy services and products to the marketplace. The PIER Program is managed by the California Energy Commission, which annually awards as much as $62 million to conduct the most promising public interest energy research by partnering with research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) organizations, including individuals, businesses, utilities, and public or private research institutions.

What follows are findings from the final report for the Integrated Classroom Lighting System (ICLS) Project, which was conducted by Finelite Inc. and directed by the Architectural Energy Corporation.

• Lighting typically represents 20 percent of the total energy use in a K-12 school. By reducing the connected lighting load and giving teachers more control of the lighting system, significant energy savings can be realized while providing a higher quality of light.

• Lighting in classrooms may potentially impact the rate of learning. Lighting whiteboards, teaching walls, students’ and teachers’ desks, and teachers’ faces is fundamental to the learning process.

• Building schools requires coordination between school administrators and teachers, and their architects, engineers, construction managers, and contractors. Making these parties aware that it is time to change from old, out-of-date lighting systems to new, more effective ones is a major challenge.

• Installing improved, up-to-date lighting systems is a cost-effective way to spend school construction dollars. Nevertheless, many decision-makers believe they cannot afford quality indirect lighting because they rely on inaccurate or out-of-date cost estimates or advice.

• New, energy-efficient indirect lighting systems can reduce lighting loads by almost 20 percent. Cutting energy waste in classroom lighting reduces operating expenses for the school.

• The current building boom in schools creates an opportunity to ensure that effective classroom lighting systems are installed. However, since classrooms do not go through regular updates or remodels, missing this window of opportunity means up to a 30- to 40-year wait for the next chance to improve a particular school’s classroom lighting.

• New methods of learning and other factors affect the way classrooms should be lighted. These changes mean that old, proven ways to light classrooms are obsolete.

For more information on the PIER Program, please visit the Commission's Web site at: or contact the Commission's Publications Unit at 916-654-5200.