The new wave of ultra-efficient LED lighting that can save 60% more energy and last three to five times longer demonstrates that the development of this already highly energy efficient sector is far from complete, offering a new opportunity for even greater energy savings for everyone, everywhere, and is an especially welcome fast solution in the context of soaring electricity costs, energy security issues and the climate crisis.
Energy consumption is one of the most important factors in determining the environmental impact of a product throughout its lifecycle. By improving the energy performance of a product, the amount of energy it consumes, and in turn its carbon footprint, can be significantly reduced. This clearly applies to the lighting sector, and its outstanding evolution throughout the years – from the first incandescent light invented in 1879, more than 140 years ago – making it a true exponent of the constant search by leading industries to achieve more efficient and sustainable products, which has led to the latest development in the lighting market: the ultra-efficient LED lamp.
Due to their massive reduction in energy consumption, LEDs have become the most popular and simply the go-to choice in almost every lighting scenario. LEDs were first invented in 1927, becoming commercialized at scale in the 2000s and have been steadily developing ever since.
What puts LED lighting technology so far above other technologies includes exceptional colour options, instant brightness and long-life span, as well as LED lighting being the optimal choice for energy efficiency. Most importantly from the energy efficiency perspective, due to their high lumen per watt output, LEDs are capable of turning roughly 70% of their energy into light, making them more efficient than other technologies which waste much of their energy through heat. LED lighting is much more efficient than incandescent lighting in producing visible light. Indeed, much of the radiation produced by incandescent lamps is in the infrared part of the spectrum, whereas LED sources produce light in the visible region and in a much more efficient way than incandescent or discharge lamps.
LED light sources can now save typically 90% in energy consumption compared to incandescent lighting and some 50% compared to fluorescent light sources. They also provide safer alternatives to other very commonly used light sources such as mercury based fluorescent and high intensity discharge lighting. LED lighting sources also function in a broader heat range and are better in directing the light where it is intended, helping to avoid light pollution.
Recently, lighting efficiency has taken a new leap forward with the release of ultra-efficient LED lighting, which delivers 210 lumen/watt, with brands like Signify and LEDVANCE already placing these first new high-performance products on the European market. These new light bulbs and tubes are rated A class under the new EU Labelling regulations, which came into force in 2021, requiring a higher efficacy level compared to older EU regulations. With the ongoing and very sharp rise in energy costs, the energy savings benefits from the new ultra-efficient LED lights for large consumers such as industries, warehouses, offices and retail outlets as well as public buildings, schools and hospitals, where all-day lighting is required, are particularly substantial.
Although the incredible achievement of 210 lumen/watt shows a massive savings potential compared to current common lighting technology, from small scale consumers its initial purchase price may mean that it is not yet within everyone’s reach. For example, LED lamps of 110 lumen/watt are available in the market for approximately USD 3 to 5, whereas the price of the new 210 lumen/watt ultra-efficient LED lamps currently range from the USD 10 to USD 20 mark. Despite the relatively fast payback times from higher performance ultra-efficient LED lighting, and the high electricity costs in many countries, the payback times on a lamp which is 3 to 4 times more expensive to purchase initially might be considered too long by consumers for a fast global mass market transformation. Therefore, helping to improve the market share and thus the improved initial purchase price affordability of the new ultra-efficient LED lamps and tubes is a major consideration for governments and large consumers everywhere.
The graph and table below show the cost comparison between incandescent lamps, compact fluorescent lights, current standard LED lamps and the new ultra-efficient LED lamps for a typical domestic situation (1,000 hours annual usage – around 2.7 hours per day).
Given the current market price of this new product, ultra-efficient lighting might not currently be every small-scale consumer’s first choice. However, the outstanding levels of energy efficiency available and thus, the high electricity savings to be made in a relatively short time, make these ultra-efficient lighting products the most viable option for purchases at the public level or in other bulk procurement situations. Ultra-efficient LED lighting options should be ideal in the framework of sustainable public procurement (or green public procurement), where end prices can become more competitive due to public tender processes and bulk procurement practices. Bulk purchasing (or “mass buying”) refers to the purchase of much larger quantities, for a unit price that is lower than usual, benefiting from economies of scale. Through this alternative, end users in public buildings such as hospitals, government offices, schools and universities, can take full advantage of new ultra-efficient LED lighting and governments can make the most of their investment compared to the other lighting alternatives currently available. Saving more electricity in lighting public spaces achieves shorter payback periods, along with significant financial savings in electricity bills and a reduced government environmental footprint from the related large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
With new national energy-efficient lighting programmes, electricity savings equivalent to the production of over 400 large power plants (500 MW each) could be achieved, delivering annual savings of more than 800 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and annual electricity bill savings of more than $ 100 billion for consumers. U4E’s recently updated country savings assessments for over 150 countries shows the large energy savings available with a particular focus on developing and emerging economies.
Technologies for artificial lighting have made tremendous progress over the centuries: from incandescent lamps, with a visible efficacy of about 10 lumen/watt, to compact fluorescent lighting with 50 lumen/watt, to the LED lamps as we know today of 110 lumen/watt to finally, this new LED breakthrough with incredible efficiency levels – 210 lumen/watt. Replacement of inefficient and obsolete lighting with LEDs is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to saving energy on lighting, but luckily, technological advancement within the lighting manufacturing sector makes the task easier, helping to cut global carbon emissions, reduce material waste, and to lower energy usage quickly and sustainably across all sectors of the economy – the next steps in lighting for a better world have just been taken.