Stay In Control: Lighting Control Systems Certification

Over the past 10 to 15 years, commercial building energy codes have increasingly mandated automatic lighting controls. This period saw the rapid development of these controls, necessitating training for electrical contractors to ensure proper setup and installation for fully functioning control systems. Available in California since 2010, this training is reaching a growing list of other states and is expected to be rolled out in Canada this year.

In 2008, Southern California Edison partnered with the California Lighting Technology Center; the University of California, Davis; the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the California Energy Commission (CEC); Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other industry organizations to launch the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP). The CALCTP’s purpose is to give the state’s contractors and electrical workers the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to expertly install, test, commission and maintain advanced lighting control systems in commercial buildings.

“The demand for CALCTP-certified contractors and general electricians in California is driven by a unique mix of energy and environmental policy issues,” said Mark Ouelette, senior project manager for ICF International, which administers the CALCTP. “Interior and exterior lighting accounts for about 35 percent of commercial building electrical load. Lighting controls represents the best strategy to reduce lighting use and save energy. However, installation issues have been a deterrent to uptake. Advanced lighting-controls training where a majority—in our case, 80 percent—is hands-on is proven to address these issues.”

In 2012, the CALCTP expanded to train and certify Acceptance Test Technicians (CALCTP-AT), which the state requires in projects complying with the latest iteration of its energy code. Effective July 1, 2014, building projects must employ an Acceptance Test Technician to certify all lighting controls are properly installed and functional prior to issuance of an occupancy permit.

To date, more than 2,500 electrical contractors and workers have received CALCTP certification, and more than 1,000 have received CALCTP-AT certification. Other states have adopted the core training model, giving rise to the National Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (NALCTP), which shares the same goal of increasing adoption and efficacy of advanced lighting controls. 

The NALCTP trains and certifies licensed electrical contractors and state-certified general electricians on installation, calibration, programming, commissioning and maintenance of advanced lighting control systems. Michigan, Illinois and Washington adopted the NALCTP in 2013; Ohio adopted it in 2014. The program is open to community colleges and industry and utility training centers. In Canada, the expected 2016 launch will start in British Columbia.

“Lighting controls technology is rapidly improving,” Ouelette said. “NALCTP focuses on control strategies and their implementation through basic to building-level lighting systems. Emphasis is placed on understanding how individual devices are combined and integrated into each of four levels of lighting control systems, starting with individual luminaires and progressing to building-level management and control solutions.”

The education component begins with about 10 hours of free online courses offered by the Lighting Controls Association, administered by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and developed by me. The applicable Lighting Controls Association Education Express courses are EE101A, which provides an introduction to lighting control; EE102, which covers occupancy sensor and time-based control technology and applications; EE103, which covers dimming controls and dimmable ballasts; and EE201, which covers daylight harvesting control technology and applications. At the end of each learning module within these courses, students can take an online test and, with a passing grade of at least 70 percent, download a CALCTP certificate to demonstrate completion.

Next, the electrical worker must complete 10 hours of classroom lectures and 40 hours of hands-on training at a local training center. Twelve industry affiliates review content and work on the curriculum, keeping the content independent and not specific to any single manufacturer. A final exam must be taken and passed to earn certification.

“Instead of organizational emphasis placed around power input requirements—line- versus low-voltage—and then a few device types—occupancy sensors, photosensors—the curriculum combines wiring and communication architectures together, as a single module to lay the foundation for the control strategies and systems,” Ouelette said. “Then the five core lighting control strategies—manual control, scheduling, occupancy sensing, daylight harvesting and demand response—will be presented. Students will build their understanding of the system-based approach through compounding laboratory exercises.”

For more information about the Education Express program, visit Also visit and

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