The light goes on - and it's an led

Posted December 23, 2021

Take the case of one of the largest banks in the country, the Commercial International Bank. After one branch in Cairo installed LED bulbs and cut electricity consumption by 35 percent and costs by 40 percent, a different kind of light went on at bank headquarters, one that illuminated the bottom line. The bank installed LED lighting in all 160 of its branches.

Similar experiences convinced the Marriott hotel group to adopt LEDs in 18 hotels in the country. The Metro chain of supermarkets is doing so across 97 stores, its sister supermarket chain Khair Zaman, and warehouses and administration offices. At the eight-story CEDARE office building in Cairo, switching to LEDs decreased electricity consumption by over 40 percent. The move also reduced the thermal load from traditional lighting, which cut the need for air conditioning.

Businesses aren’t the only ones getting in on the act. The foreign affairs, finance and other ministries have gone to LEDs and saved up to 36 percent on electricity bills. Terminal 1 of the Cairo Airport converted, achieving savings of more than 20 percent and spurring conversions in other terminals.


Only a few years ago, many Egyptians were more concerned about getting power than about how they might consume it more efficiently. Electricity generation fell short of demand. Rolling blackouts left people stranded at home in the dark and shut down businesses.

With the Government committed to rapidly scaling up new investments in the capacity to provide power, an opportunity for transformation emerged. If energy could be used more efficiently, people would have better supplies at lower costs, with the added value of clear benefits for the environment through lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2011, with funding from the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP kicked off a comprehensive programme to help Egyptians embrace greater energy efficiency.

The programme sought to change the behaviour of people and organizations, and provide a framework of standards to sustain that change over time. From inception, the programme targeted three primary users of energy: businesses, homes and government institutions. Lighting was an obvious early priority, as it was taking up 20 percent of total electricity consumption.

Drawing on UNDP’s trusted relationships with influential government counterparts as well as ties to private sector networks, the programme started with large

“In fact, when I adopted LEDs in my home, I realized they are even better than the traditional bulbs, and above all, I am saving energy and money.” LAILA ELKHASHAB electricity consumers, seeking to convince them to implement demonstration projects. One early pioneer was the renowned library and cultural centre Bibliotheca Alexandrina. After the conversion of the main conference hall to LED lighting yielded significant savings, the entire centre switched to more efficient lighting. To celebrate the conversion, the centre illuminated its façade with energy efficient green lights, becoming a high-visibility source of inspiration for other public buildings.

UNDP’s expertise with energy efficiency programmes in other parts of the world guided close monitoring of the impacts of early projects. Careful cost analyses confirmed the possibilities for savings. They showed that the payback period for changing to LEDs could be very short, a year on average, and much less in some commercial applications. Soon a ripple effect began across whole industries, including banks, hotels and supermarkets, as well as government offices.

In tandem, a major media campaign rallied households to make the switch to greater efficiency. Public service announcements ran in newspapers and on the radio and television. Businesses and institutions conducting pilots announced how much they were saving in the media; some went on to help thousands of their employees to transition to LEDs in their homes.

An interactive Facebook campaign known as “Watty el Watt” (reduce the wattage) featured tips to cut consumption and calculate savings, and hosted a competition where individuals submitted their electricity bills to see who could save the most. Winners received a free transformation of home lighting systems to LEDs. “Watty El Watt” messages also ran on the cars of one of the busiest lines of the Cairo underground, reaching over 1.3 million passengers a day.

As people began seeing the effects of the conversion, they became converts themselves. Laila Elkhashab, a homeowner in Cairo, remembers how she used to think that energy-efficient lighting was poor in quality and oddly coloured. Now she exclaims, “In fact, when I adopted LEDs in my home, I realized they are even better than the traditional bulbs, and above all, I am saving energy and money.”

To permanently embed progress, the UNDP-GEF programme supported the Government in adopting regulatory and legislative reforms to set LED efficiency standards in line with internationally agreed baselines. Lamp specifications were developed and products tested, and the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy supported dissemination of 13 million partially subsidized LED bulbs. A government decree banned imports of incandescent bulbs over 40 watts.

Efficiency standards were set for more than 13 household appliances, such as refrigerators, air conditioners and water heaters, which absorb about 70 percent of residential energy consumption. Thirteen energy efficiency testing laboratories have been established to ensure manufacturers and importers adhere to the standards. Other monitoring and tracking systems check the accuracy


By the time it concluded in 2018, the programme had become a clear demonstration of Egypt’s commitment to saving energy. Savings are now equivalent to providing electricity to approximately 2 million households every year.

The experience has demonstrated the power of change through transforming markets, and aligning public and public interests.  

Egypt has taken a major step towards its national commitment to making environmental issues a mainstream to reduce energy consumption. Guidelines on government procurement were changed to require purchases of energy efficient equipment.
concern, as defined in its plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. By 2020, it is expected to complete a transition to energy-efficient lighting as the first choice for residential, commercial and government buildings, and public lighting. It’s a monumental shift, and a model for municipalities, businesses and households not just in Egypt, but across the region and around the world.