New Technical Requirements Announced for Networked Lighting Controls

Policy is part of the DLC’s over-arching strategy to stimulate broader NLC adoption by addressing critical issues of cybersecurity and interoperability

On June 23, 2020, the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) released a new version of its technical requirements for networked lighting controls, aiming to encourage wider market adoption of this energy saving and smart building-enabling technology by focusing on issues that are key to increasing customer confidence.    

Networked Lighting Control System Technical Requirements 5 (NLC5) strengthens requirements for listing systems on the DLC’s NLC Qualified Products List (QPL) as part of a multi-year plan for continually advancing requirements related to the cybersecurity, interoperability and energy monitoring aspects of NLCs. The QPL supports energy efficiency incentive programs for commercial and industrial (C & I) electric utility customers across the US and Canada. 

The final NLC5 policy reflects consideration of two rounds of stakeholder comments received after the release of draft technical requirements in February and April. NLC5 builds on last year’s NLC update, which introduced a requirement for energy monitoring and criteria for qualifying cybersecurity standards.

“Keeping pace with advances in the technology, the DLC updates technical requirements for listing on our networked lighting controls QPL annually each June. With this revision, we are continuing to enhance the standards for NLCs as a means to achieving wider adoption of this valuable and significantly under-utilized technology,” DLC Executive Director and CEO Christina Halfpenny said. 

In addition to cutting energy use and carbon emissions associated with C & I lighting, NLCs can be programmed to collect a wealth of data on space utilization, occupancy and other factors – making them an ideal pathway toward smarter buildings that respond to the real-time needs of both facility managers and occupants.

First introduced in 2016, the DLC’s NLC Technical Requirements cover a range of capabilities that are either “required”, or must be “reported” if present, for a product to attain listing on the QPL. The policy and associated QPL are essential resources for utility efficiency program administrators, and provide reliable, third-party verified data enabling lighting designers, specifiers, distributors, contractors and end users to identify, compare, and select rebate-eligible, high-performing control systems.

NLC5 requires that NLC products meet at least one cybersecurity standard for QPL listing (listed manufacturers whose systems do not meet the new criteria may reapply for listing with a 16-month grace period). A March 2020 Department of Energy (DOE) report noted that “increased connectivity introduces cybersecurity risks that are new to the lighting industry and that must be addressed in order for successful integration with other systems.” The DLC’s work regarding cybersecurity of NLC systems is aligned with efforts by the DOE and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (the study author) to address vulnerabilities through lighting-specific best practices and standards. NLC5’s new cybersecurity requirements are intended to boost customer confidence and increase NLC installations.

Similarly, highlighting capabilities that support interoperability is expected to make NLCs more attractive and effective for C & I customers. A May 2020 DLC report concluded that “interoperability can improve outcomes for utilities, building owners, building operators and other important stakeholders with some key innovations,” and called industry interoperability standards “essential”. 

As part of the new emphasis on interoperability, NLC5 highlights the energy monitoring features of systems on the DLC’s QPL. This update will inform the design of scalable utility efficiency programs, and the claims of energy savings by manufacturers – again building a level of customer confidence needed for wider adoption of the technology.

The new technical requirements are available to view on the DLC website, and will be discussed in detail during the DLC’s July 2 webinar.   

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