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What’s the Deal With the DLC? Part II

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What’s the Deal With the DLC? Part II

Last week, lightED delved into the world of the Design Lights Consortium. We wanted to know: what is the DLC, how does it work, and what benefits do they offer the lighting industry? In the first article, we saw an overview of the DLC, courtesy of their website (they declined to comment via email, and though they promised a follow-up phone call, none came) and gleaned some insight into the opinion of some lighting distributors via DLC Industry Advisory Committee member Greg Ehrich, Vice President of Premier Lighting. This week, we hear from the other side of the table.

Manufacturer, and well-known opponent to DLC, Howard Weinberg of Emergence Technologies, LLC, chimes in with his thoughts, “The DLC is a tax on lighting for the benefit of the stockholders of DLC. In so far as ‘protecting the interests of the utility companies issuing rebates’. It is simply an advocacy group like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or even the National Rifle Association,” continues Weinberg. “They are an advocacy group with a closed membership with all of the utility companies that in collusion set purportedly specification and standard that we all have to pay to get on the list, otherwise, utility companies won’t rebate back to its customer what it has acknowledged to the state that it receives the funds from to help offset the costs of more energy efficient technology. It is a huge scam. It really is.

“I cannot join the DesignLights Consortium,” Weinberg adds. “As a guy doing millions of dollars a year in the business, I cannot join them. I cannot become a member. I am simply held hostage to their fees that they constantly change their specifications in order to get more fees year after year after year.

“The basic premise is, they are not anything other than an advocacy group, and they have colluded and misrepresented themselves as some go-to source, when they are only running a database with their utility company clients, picking and choosing what they think should be in the market place, or what the utility company thinks should be in the market place – which is an antitrust violation unto itself… The whole thing is a scam, and everybody is falling for it. Or, nobody wants to fight them.”

Weinberg continues, “As an industry we’ve reached a point whereby the efficiencies and efficacies rendered by the average LED light system exceeds legacy products, and through normal market channels, owners and specifiers are aware of the new and improved LED systems and are calling for them. Most of the industry are voluntarily upgrading to higher efficacious products at lower cost to consumers. So, in effect, the industry is complying with the market need voluntarily. So why is the DLC needed to beat the drum and impose its will for a fee? Also, from my perspective, the Chinese companies seem to believe funding DLC is the most important pathway to successful marketing in the USA. Like lambs to the slaughter they are feeding the beast called DLC.”

The DOE and the DLC
Both Ehrich and Weinberg had some thoughts on the DLC’s connection to the Department of Energy.

Weinberg weighs in first. “The DOE is the U.S. government agency that is NOT the authoritative source – they are advocates of better energy consumption, lower energy consumption and a better environment on behalf of the citizens of the U.S. They are not the go-to source that sets standards or advocate what can or cannot be in the market place. That standards is done by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). Those are the guys that for the last 100 years have written the book on standards for ALL electronic components that are in the market place.

“The DOE does research and publishes reports. The reports are…done by outside laboratories who are actually contracted to the DOE,” points out Weinberg. “It’s not coming from the U.S. government. It is simply contracted out by this particular organization and it’s their findings, based on kind of an opinion.

“For many years, I’ve fought the DOE as well because many reports they put out are false, biased and misleading with regards to progress that LED technology was making in the market place. I would complain to them all the time when I would see anything about the DLC in their literature. As an example, there’s a site called Lighting Facts that is run by the DOE. You go on and you join them and now you are an advocate for – it’s all BS – but, you’re an advocate for better lighting and better conservation, etc. You give them the specification on your product and they publish it and put it in a database where people find you, but the application is perfect example – it says, are you DLC approved. And I go back to the DOE and yell and scream. I say why are you acting if I am DLC approved for an advocacy group then again, back to square one – the DOE shouldn’t be using DLC in any way, shape or form on any application that reverts back to the protection of the consumer. But, since it is a government agency, you can write all the letters and make all the phone calls you want, it’s not going to do any good.

“I say all of this because I have been a passionate advocate of the development of manufacturers of linear LED replacement lamps for fluorescent tubes,” sums up Weinberg. “So, that’s been my passion in life. Even though the LED has been around since 1923 and was commercialized by General Electric in 1968 and it is everywhere today – from signage, to Times Square, and street lights and everything else – we haven’t seen it in the form, fit and function to replace a fluorescent light bulb until the last maybe five to seven years. And, in that five, to seven or eight year time period, that’s why I’m the most passionate, because the government and the DOE wanted to say it wasn’t ready for prime time, and the utility companies say no, it’s not ready for prime time, but down to the molecule, the tube and that I and hundreds of others manufacture, is identical in form, fit and function to the street light that has already been out there ten years, or to the taillight or light at Time’s Square that’s already been out there 20 years. It is identical down to the molecule! Just in a different form. But, when the DOE says this, or the DLC says it has to be this in order to meet our criteria, when it doesn’t have to be what they say, no reason, then that’s when you come into these conflicts.”

Ehrich provides his thought on the perception the DOE oversees the lighting industry:

“It’s kind of a unique spot because there’s really not – and I’m not sure there ever will be – something for lighting, that is kind of the governing body of it. IES is probably more so of it than DLC, but not everyone has to be part of IES, and not everyone has to be part of DLC.

“The reason people are part of DLC is so companies like myself who sell the products get the rebates. A lot of utilities don’t give the rebates unless they have the DLC stamp.

“We have Excel Energy up here in Minnesota and one of the unique things this year and the rebate program that came out with Excel is they have a DLC rebate and they have a non-DLC rebate. The DLC rebate is higher than the non-DLC.

“Excel Energy is a DLC stakeholder, but they pay a yearly fee, go to their meetings and follow their advice, but it’s interesting that up until this year they wouldn’t even give you a rebate, but now they are starting to say, ‘Well, alright, there are a lot of products out there that aren’t DLC, but are still quality products and they are still going to give you a rebate because you are saving energy.’ It’s something I think more utilities are going to get into.

“I think you will get more opinions on it from the manufacturers because those are the people that have to pay the fees. To me, I don’t have to do anything with DLC, I just do because of the rebate. I think my opinion will be different than those, but I see some benefit in it, but I can definitely see the manufacturers’ standpoint of why do I have to pay here, whatever it is, $500 every SKU when it’s the same thing but we just change one little item? That’s what their biggest complaint is I think, they are making each product seem like it’s its own unique thing even though it is just one little tweak to it. Then on the DLC side, they have to protect themselves too.

You can see it from both sides, but you will definitely hear more negative from the manufacturers than you will the distributors.”

We had hoped to hear more from the DLC as well, but will have to go off of their website and the input of those in the industry. At the end of the day, the lighting industry, specifically LED lighting, is going to places faster and better than most expected. You will still have to decide how much weight you want to put on products with the DLC stamp of approval – and what that means to your bottom dollar (and potential rebate). Good luck!

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Jim Williams

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