Written by David Sprout, a freelance writer who specialises in business and technology news. He is currently working with the Elemental LED REACH program to encourage the world to reduce carbon emissions through the use of eco-friendly products.
One of the forces driving the adoption of LED lighting across Europe and the United States is the passage of government regulation aimed at decreasing electricity consumption. Providing more support, the US Department of Energy and other government bodies are offering grant funding to help companies accelerate their development of more efficient “solid-state” lighting technologies such as LED track lights.
The approach to phasing out inefficient lights and incandescent bulbs has several prongs. Governments around the world have taken part in the effort to slowly eliminate incandescent lights. With countries in Latin America leading the efforts as early as 2005 – Brazil and Venezuela – and countries across Asia and Europe joining in, by 2014 several wealthier countries will have all but eliminated these energy hogs from use. Though the United States has not passed legislation at the national level to explicitly phase out incandescent bulbs, it has approved specific efficiency standards. They require all lights to produce at least 18 or 36 lumens per watt depending on size, by between 2012 and 2014, and then increase that requirement to 45 lumens per watt by 2020 for all but a few exceptions. These standards effectively make most incandescent bulbs illegal, as 45 lumens per watt is the level at which most CFL bulbs function. Of course, LED lighting such as LED track lights are far more efficient than this.
The logic for this push for efficiency is straightforward. According to the Department of Energy, Lighting use made up roughly 30 percent of all electricity consumption in the United States in 2004. Cutting that amount in half, from 717 terawatt/hours per year to 358 – an easy feat with current LED technology if half of all incandescent lights in the United States were replaced with LEDs – would reduce carbon emissions by roughly 840 teragrams per year in the United States. The obvious reason to want to do this is that there is widespread consensus that carbon emissions are having a detrimental impact on the global environment that will have serious consequences. The power of LED lighting is in its ability to help everyone take small, convenient, affordable steps to address this overwhelming problem.
From the standpoint of the private sector, the effort to achieve more widespread adoption of LED lights by households, commercial buildings, and municipal buildings takes environmentalism as a partial motivation, but it also seeks to appeal to consumers’ pocketbooks and sense of style. This is why LED track lights, for example, are a product that producers have highlighted in marketing. They allow homes, offices, and businesses to exactly replace their current style of lighting with a more energy-efficient model that will pay for itself in electrical savings in two to four years, with the benefits increasing at a greater-than-linear-rate as LEDs’ long life cuts down on replacement and maintenance costs.
Unfortunately, to achieve the type of widespread adoption necessary for LEDs and other energy-efficient lighting to have a significant impact on carbon emissions, market incentives to consumers must grow stronger to offset the initial cost of purchasing LEDs, which are noticeably more expensive than incandescent bulbs. Consumers will need to be exposed to this technology enough to trust that it will work. This is a bit of a chicken-or-egg problem because wider adoption will drive production costs down, thus making home and commercial LEDs such as LED track lights more affordable, a powerful market incentive. This is the final way that governments have the power to make their conversion efforts more successful. Major contracts with big suppliers and more grants for research will facilitate this process, shortening the development timeframe and making more affordable LED lighting available, thus allowing these governments’ to fulfil their responsibility to protect the environment and with it the public good.
To find out more about the power of LED lighting, visit http://newsofthewired.com/led-strip-lighting