Circular Lighting Report

Death of the payback calculator?

Simon Fisher opinion

• Simon Fisher, host of Recolight’s sustainable luminaire design workshops, believes the phasing out of fluorescent light sources will alter the traditional payback calculations. Instead, why don’t we take the opportunity to move to carbon-based comparisons?

Amendments to the RoHS directives will soon prohibit the manufacture and placing on market of new linear and compact fluorescent lamps. Of course, this will not mean that we see empty shelves at DIY stores or wholesalers, as stocks must be depleted before these lamps are relegated to mere museum pieces.
The ongoing elimination of poor performing and/or products containing hazardous materials is to be applauded (controversial, I know…) and I hope that the lighting industry is ready to replace all fluorescent with credible solutions and not one of the worst inventions ever: the LED tube.
This has now led to another interesting segue, in the fact that there is no longer an option to simply retain fluorescent and, as such, the ability to create a payback calculator vs LED and understand return on investment is no longer possible
Having been frustrated by ‘ROI’ for many years, and someone’s willingness to only invest in new product if the return on investment fitted a certain timeframe (as opposed to doing it because it’s the right thing to do!), does this mean the death of the dreaded payback calculator?
Retaining fluorescent is no longer an option due to its imminent obsolescence. The only options remaining seem to be replacing old fluorescent with new LED lighting or remanufacturing old fluorescent fittings and upgrading them to LED.
Both options will generate equivalent, or at least similar, operational carbon benefits but it’s no longer possible to compare against fluorescent. The only differential will be embodied carbon, which will differ if the product is manufactured locally versus a product brought to UK shores from other parts of the world
In this regard, there will be a capital cost for ‘new’ lighting regardless, as we will now have to deal with the obsolescence of fluorescent light sources. So, will then the importance of carbon metrics and whole life costing will be forced to stage centre stage? HMRC have already consulted regarding carbon taxation and the frameworks for taxing high carbon consumption are taking shape
I’ve seen many ‘pivots’ over 30+ years in this industry, so I know together we will adapt and provide awesome solutions
‘ROI is dead, long live Carbon Calculations!

• Don’t miss Circular Lighting Live 2023, Recolight’s flagship conference and exhibition taking place on Thursday 21 September 2023 at the Royal College of Physicians in London. Free to specifiers, Circular Lighting Live 2023 will feature leading experts, specifiers and policy makers who will share their insights into forthcoming standards and legislation, emerging technologies and new business models. For 2023, the organisers have moved to a bigger venue with more expansive exhibition floor and included a dedicated track for lighting designers. More info:

Ray Molony

Recolight Report is an independent guide to the latest developments in sustainable and circular lighting. Learn about the people, products, projects and processes that are shaping our industry’s low carbon future. Plus: explainers on the latest innovations, opinion from thought leaders and video interviews with leading disruptors. Edited by lighting expert, editor and industry figure Ray Molony.