A Light at the End of the TunnelIn response to the oil embargo in the 1970s a compact spiral-shaped fluorescent bulb for normal sockets was invented but what we today call the CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) would not become commercially viable until the 1990s. In 1993 when the Department of Energy released their first report they spent a good deal of space demonstrating the energy savings of CFLs but at a price of $36 in today's dollars ($22 in 1993), and plenty of technical problems, no one was buying. This report also found that American households average around 30 light bulbs, which by 2001 had grown to 45 and electricity used for lighting continued to increase with no hope for change. Yet even though a report in 2010 found that the average number of light bulbs had now grown to 51, electricity used for lighting had already begun to fall. Despite winning a Nobel Prize for their inventors,3)The trick was actually making blue LED light, which when combined with the long existing red and green LEDs, could produce the white light we look for to illuminate our homes. Congratulations to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura. LEDs are not the cause of the decline we have seen over the last decade in residential energy use--their penetration is far too low. In fact they do not even appear in a measurable quantity in the latest residential lighting survey-thus their invisibility on the above graph. Rather, the increasing penetration of CFLs is clearly driving the decline despite the continuing increase in installed bulbs. This has caused a significant drop in the average wattage of residential bulbs from 63 watts in 2001 to 46 in 2010. What is so exciting about this moment is that while CFLs begun to bend the curve downward, the arrival of LEDs has the potential to accelerate that trend and send levels of electricity usage for lighting to levels unimaginable even a decade ago.
The Series: Achieving Sustainability in Lighting
- For Lighting, Sustainability is within Reach: But is demand saturated?
- Achieving Sustainability with Technology: the Exceptional Case of Lighting"
- When will we be LED to Sustainable Lighting?
- Bush Era Law is Helping to Achieve Sustainability in Lighting
- A Vision for Sustainable Lighting
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||As an example recently in the news: the development of a replacement for CFCs helped make addressing the ozone hole a success story but the replacements (HCFCs) are powerful and increasingly problematic greenhouse gas--thus new technology has helped solve one problem but is contributing significant to another.|
|2.||↑||In theory LEDs will be able to turn 98% of electricity into lighting and the Department of Energy estimates that by 2030 their will be commercially available bulbs producing 200 lumens per watt.|
|3.||↑||The trick was actually making blue LED light, which when combined with the long existing red and green LEDs, could produce the white light we look for to illuminate our homes. Congratulations to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura.|