Report assesses life-cycle sustainability of ultra-efficient lighting

June 30, 2009
A report from the UK government shows that LED lighting, and dedicated LED luminaires in particular, will have the lowest life-cycle impact of all ultra-efficient lighting technologies.
The UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published an evidence study assessing the life-cycle sustainability impacts of residential lighting products based on ultra-efficient technologies.

The study can be accessed from the DEFRA website - see under the heading "Impacts."

The study is the first to clearly show the lifecycle environmental benefits of a shift towards LED lighting, and particularly dedicated LED luminaires. The report assumes that various performance improvements will be achieved by 2014, at which time LED-based products will have less of an impact across all stages of their life-cycle, including manufacturing, transportation, usage and in the waste stream.

The report analyzes four different ultra-efficient lighting (UEL) technologies:

  1. LED lamps with integral ballast (a.k.a. replacement lamps)
  2. Dedicated LED luminaires
  3. Ceramic metal halide lamps
  4. T5 linear fluorescent
These are compared with established technologies such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and incandescent lamps.

The study assumes that the rate of improvement in efficacy and light quality from LEDs seen over recent years will continue over the next five years, taking the efficacy of lamps to over 100 lumens per watt - though improvements beyond this may also be envisaged.

It concludes that efforts to stimulate the developments of acceptable LED lighting solutions would further reduce the impacts from residential lighting, which has already begun with the phase-out of incandescent lamps. In particular, dedicated LED luminaires, because of their design, proved to have the least impact of all lamps.

The research also demonstrates that although the market is not currently ready for domestic application, LED lighting has potential for significant benefits over CFLs, which contain mercury, and have a relatively short lifetime.

Also, the report describes a series of action which the Government and others may wish to consider (in the context of EU regulations) in order to maximize the potential overall environmental benefits associated with UELs:

  • Research Support – co-sponsor research to advance the UK-knowledge base of UEL technologies, developing domestic IP (i.e., “the science of today is the surplus of tomorrow”)
  • Business Incubator – actively work to encourage and nurture small and medium size enterprises entering the UEL supply chain, either as a manufacturer or component supplier
  • Market Enforcement / Monitoring – protect consumers from unscrupulous manufacturers making exaggerated claims, while complimenting existing programmes like the Energy Savings Recommended label
  • Informational Labels – as part of a consumer awareness campaign to shift thinking about light from watts (i.e., of an incandescent lamp) to lumens of service
  • Bulk Procurement – potentially aggregating procurement offices of a few government departments. Offer contract awards / competitions to promote efficacy; prize money and/or large supply contract
  • Affordability – direct financial support for consumers and/or the supply chain, perhaps supported by revenue from the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target scheme
  • Fiscal Instruments – remove trade barriers applied to energy-efficient products
  • Better Regulation – support development of harmonised, international test methods and quality / performance standards.