As a United States citizen, I express my deep personal thanks to the entire team at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solid State Lighting program for their vision, courage and tenacity in driving forward the entire lighting industry for the past 12+ years.
The US DOE SSL recognized early in the technology cycle of LED’s — when white light LEDs barely yet existed — that they could have a tremendous impact on lowering the United States’ energy consumption. The DOE team provided a steady hand and plenty of common sense in their approach to the nascent technology, talking with numerous industry insiders to figure out what was real, what was possible, and what help the industry needed. They set up scientists like the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide neutral, unbiased research and data on complex subjects. They used a fairly small R+D budget to strategically invest in key “sticking points” to push the industry forward. They setup visionary programs like the L-Prize to pull the industry forward. The results speak for themselves in countless metrics. When the DOE started their SSL program, the lighting industry basically had this range of sources: 10 lm/w incandescent sources up to 80 lm/w fluorescent tubes, with a dismal set of compromises in color temperature, color rendition, physical size and spectral composition. Now, LED fixtures – not just lamps – in commodity production are routinely hitting 135+ lm/w efficacy. 60w equivalent A-lamps with crazy high efficacy and fantastic quality now sell for only a couple bucks at retailers. With LED tech, we can produce any color temperature, any color rendition, with precision, compact low-cost digital control almost as an afterthought…and in any format imaginable.
US based companies and workers have benefited enormously from the DOE’s efforts. Lumileds. Cree. Sylvania. Acuity. Philips. They staved off viciously cheap Chinese and Taiwanese competition by leading the industry forward faster then the “no-name” knockoffs, helped along tremendously by the DOE.
But I’m also a global citizen: The US DOE has advanced the entire global lighting industry, saving an incomprehensible amount of energy consumption and global pollution, even in the short 12 years the DOE’s program has existed. Countries all over the world have benefited and the ultimate positive health impacts will last for decades.
So I am absolutely disgusted and disheartened to see the blatant witch-hunt that Trump is launching on behalf of his Big Oil and Big Coal scumbag cronies. The future is plain to see – the rich get richer at the expense of the planet, at the expense of defensible, durable technology development, at the expense of our future. The asymmetry of the situation is staggering and horrific: ExxonMobil’s annual revenue alone is roughly 3 times the revenue of the entire global lighting industry. And their entire business model, like all the other fossil-fuel producers around the world, hinges on driving more energy consumption at ever higher prices. How is an industry such as lighting, whose future is now predicated on selling more cost effective (and hence more energy efficient) solutions supposed to protect itself from such predatory giants?
I can only hope the DOE SSL team survives unscathed, that Trump figures out the “LEDs create American jobs” story before he lets the energy barons trash the future. US LED manufacturers – whether you love or hate Trump, please invite him for photo-ops in your factory ASAP. Help save a critical and effective government program.