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The Global Human-Centric Lighting (HCL) market will be worth an estimated $849 million in 2019 and is expected to grow to approximately $3.5 billion in 2024, representing a 32.75% CAGR over the next five years. That’s according to our latest report The Human Centric Lighting Market 2019 to 2024: Global Market Prospects, Impacts & Opportunities, which shows a healthy market with huge potential.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the report is Western Europe’s commanding position in the regional breakdown of HCL revenues. Europe leads the way with an estimated $395 million market that represents 46% of global revenue, Our report explores the potential reasons for this stark difference, putting the spotlight on critical geographical, historical, and political differences that have driven European HCL supremacy.

The Silver Lining

Europe is infamous for cloudy weather. The report compared average annual hours of sunshine for the leading 40 cities by commercial activity in Europe and North America to see if this reputation is backed up by the figures, and what that might mean for sunlight mimicking technologies such as HCL. The difference was significant.

“24 of European cities are cloudier than Vancouver Canada, North America’s cloudiest commercial hub, and no major European business cities would break the top ten sunniest North American cities list,” the report discovered. “Overall, our 40 European cities combined get an average of 78,165 hours of sunshine a year. That’s over 40% less sunshine per year than the 40 leading North American cities, which total 110,044 hrs/year.”

It’s all down to the Gulf Stream, the strong ocean current that carries warm water and brings warm wet air from the Gulf of Mexico, across the Atlantic and towards Western Europe. This keeps the European winter mild in comparison to the same latitude in Asia or North America but also brings clouds that slow over Europe as they interact with colder, drier weather coming from the north (Arctic) and east (Eurasia). The result is more cloudy skies, less sunlight for Europe’s inhabitants and, potentially, increased demand for technological solutions that seek to replace sunlight in one way or another.

Winter is Coming

London lies at the same latitude as Calgary in Canada, one of North America’s most northern commercial hubs. Dublin, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and many of Western Europe’s commercial hubs are even further north. This higher latitude means the average European city, has longer, darker winter days than the average North American or Asian city.

“Much of Europe is farther north than the bulk of the population of the US, so seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be more of a concern and therefore more light-based measures may be taken to combat the disorder in that region,” says Stan Walerczyk, principal of US-based Lighting Wizards.

Much of the working population arrive at their workplace in darkness and then leave in darkness at the end of their workday, giving them no more than a lunch break to serve their biological need for sunlight. In Berlin, for example, sunrises are after 8:15am and sunsets are before 4pm for much of December and January. While in Reykjavik, Iceland, the shortest days of the year offer just 4 hours of sunlight from around 11:30 to 15:30.

“Day times are not only shorter but also darker then lower latitudes, raising the case for better lighting and the compounded effect of not enough daily sunlight, leading to conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), further raising the case for sunlight mimicking lighting systems like HCL in these sunlight deficient commercial regions as described in the discussion on clouds above,” explains our new report.

Stuck in the Dark Ages

Cloudy skies and dark winters raise the case for sunlight mimicking technologies like HCL in Europe but for much of the region’s working population, getting sunlight on sunny days may still be more difficult than in other parts of the world. Europe has a high percentage of functioning older buildings compared to North America and the Asia Pacific regions. Designed with a focus on insulation for cold weather, Europe’s older building stock has smaller windows, limiting sunlight within those buildings and raising the case for HCL.

The report compares data from Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) and the EIA’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) to highlight the significant difference between the age of buildings in Europe and the US. In the US, the newest buildings outnumber the oldest, with more buildings built in the 2000s (19%) than buildings constructed prior to 1946 (15%), while in Europe just 15% of buildings built since 2000 versus 21% built before 1946. “The smaller window size of Europe’s older buildings may also be playing a part in strong European HCL growth,” our report highlights.

Positive Forecast

The report also investigates other demand, supply, and geopolitical trends impacting the development of the three major HCL markets; Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region. While the European HCL market faces some potentially tricky barriers, and other regions maintain gain momentum, the report offers a positive forecast for European HCL growth in coming years.

“Left leaning politics provides more HCL opportunities in the public sector than other regions, providing an advantage for HCL in some verticals. A compelling difference in latitude and weather may be part of the reason for Europe’s strong lighting pedigree, and its dominant HCL market. Europe is expected to maintain its commanding role on the global HCL stage,” for this emerging and lucrative lighting market.