SEMI delegation discusses SSL policy with DOE

A delegation of SEMI members and other stakeholders in LED manufacturing met recently with the US Department of Energy (DOE) assistant secretary of energy David Danielson and his senior staff to advocate increased support for R&D and manufacturing in solid-state lighting (SSL).

The group based its arguments on the significantly higher return-on-investment (ROI) from government funding demonstrated by LED-based SSL over renewable energy sources and other energy investments. Also emphasized was the strong bipartisan support for SSL from both the US House and Senate.

SEMI is the global industry association serving the manufacturing supply chain for the micro- and nano-electronics industries, including semiconductors and LEDs. SEMI members in the US are among the world leaders in supplying equipment and materials for LED manufacturing around the world.

Support for an appropriately-funded and effective US LED manufacturing policy is being driven by the FALCON Lighting Consortium, a group of SSL industry proponents led by LED maker Philips Lumileds, and equipment makers (and SEMI members) Applied Materials, Veeco, KLA-Tencor and Ultratech.

SEMI and FALCON say that they have “long advocated increased DOE support for developing SSL in the US, particularly in the area of manufacturing, but are also supportive of other SSL-related efforts.” SSL manufacturing R&D is part of the long-term SSL program run by the DOE’s Building Technologies Program.

LED manufacturing received over $23 million in grants in areas such as metrology, lithography and deposition R&D as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. Since that time, funding has been reduced, although considerable bipartisan support has increased funding levels above the requests put forward by the DOE to the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees.

Return on investment

During the meeting, SEMI explained that energy conservation afforded by SSL will have greater impact on US energy use than the renewable energy-generation technologies being supported by current government investments. Based on various estimates, SEMI says that SSL can deliver 4.0-6.0 quads of annual energy savings, which represents a 10-20 times higher return-on-investment (ROI) than other energy investment alternatives. The ROI argument is summarized in Table 1. A summary of the solid-state lighting ROI argument is provided below:

SSL delivers the best return on taxpayer investment in replacing fossil fuels
ROI for different technologies
During the meeting, the group urged greater balance for energy funding in the FY2013 and future budgets. Richard Solarz, senior director of technology at KLA-Tencor, and Randy Moorhead, VP for government relations at Philips Electronics, co-leaders of the group advocating for greater DOE support for SSL, stated, “According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), on a dollar-per-unit-of-production basis, the level of subsidies received by the wind and solar industries were almost 100 times greater than those for conventional energy. We believe that it is generally understood that conventional energy conservation efforts, specifically [those involving] lighting, are under-supported.”

This is the first time in the past several years that an Assistant Secretary has agreed to meet with SSL industry proponents to discuss this important issue. SEMI believes that the meeting will be a singular opportunity to secure support for SSL beyond its funding levels of the past four years, this in spite of the clear anticipation of highly-constrained national budgets in the coming years.

Education efforts on the value and return of SSL have consistently been conducted among key Committee members and staff in the US House and Senate, and support for increased DOE funding in this area have been voiced by both Democratic and Republican legislators.

Despite the austerity mood in Washington, SEMI says that it is confident that increased budget requests for LED-based lighting technologies will receive considerable support in the legislative branch during upcoming sessions.

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