Europe provides funds and updates legislation to stimulate growth in SSL (MAGAZINE)

Sept. 11, 2012
A number of initiatives and funding programs in Europe continue to promote solid-state lighting as both a key enabling technology and a way to build industrial strength and create jobs, writes TIM WHITAKER.

This article was published in the September 2012 issue of LEDs Magazine.

View the Table of Contents and download the PDF file of the complete September 2012 issue, or view the E-zine version in your browser.


Solid-state lighting (SSL) is already established as the most energy-efficient and versatile technology for general lighting. So says the European Commission (EC), which believes that SSL can provide “high-quality light and visual performance together with new architectural and design options for enhanced comfort and well-being.” Europe already has in place a number of policy instruments that are stimulating the uptake of energy-efficient lighting technologies. The region was one of the first to initiate a comprehensive phase-out of inefficient omnidirectional lamps, and upcoming legislation will focus on directional lamps and other product types. A revised energy-labeling scheme is in development, and the EC has also received general public approval for its Green Paper on SSL and can now focus on implementing some of the actions discussed therein.

Digital Agenda for Europe

Many of the EC’s activities related to SSL are driven the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE), which contains an EU target for an overall reduction in lighting energy use of at least 20% by 2020. The DAE is one of the flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 growth strategy for the EU.

In line with one of the DAE actions (#72), the EC has published a Green Paper on SSL, and conducted a public consultation, as discussed below. DAE action #74 is also relevant to lighting, requiring that EU Member States should include total lifetime costs in the criteria for awarding contracts for public procurement of lighting installations. The use of total lifetime costs rather than initial purchase costs should “allow SSL to compete fairly against its alternatives, and [allow] public authorities and the general public to enjoy the benefits [of SSL] in terms of better light quality, less environmental damage, and lower long-term costs,” says the EC. An information campaign is planned to raise awareness among municipal and public authorities, and to organize events to exchange experiences and best practices. This will be carried out in conjunction with the SSL demonstration projects discussed below.

The activity in DAE action #74 also links with green public procurement (GPP), a voluntary EC instrument whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle. The EC has already defined GPP criteria, including purchasing criteria and ancillary information for green tender specifications, for indoor lighting and for street lighting and traffic signals.

Green Paper on SSL

Back in December 2011, the EC published its long-awaited Green Paper on SSL entitled: “Lighting the Future: accelerating the deployment of innovative lighting technologies”. A public consultation period on the Green Paper remained open until the end of February 2012, and the results were published in July.

The 125 respondents, including industrial representatives, citizens and public authorities, were broadly in agreement that the Green Paper had accurately captured the main challenges involved in boosting the penetration of SSL. The three main challenges for the large-scale deployment of SSL in Europe were indentified as:

• Poor SSL product quality
• Lack of information for both consumers and professional end-users
• High initial purchase costs.

Other areas highlighted by respondents were the need for more coherent standards for improving SSL product quality; the need for better coordination of existing programs; and issues relating to raw materials in terms of both availability and recycling.

There was general agreement that current market-surveillance activities are insufficient, and there was a call for a stronger and more transparent EU-level surveillance activity supported by independent laboratories for test and measurement. These would be able to use harmonized testing procedures and provide accurate and unbiased information to consumers. To address the issue of high initial purchase cost, there was a call for economic stimuli such as subsidies, incentive schemes or tax benefits for cities and local authorities.

SSL demonstration projects

One way to educate consumers on the benefits of SSL is to conduct large-scale, high-profile demonstration projects, and disseminate the results. Somewhat belatedly the EC has provided funding for two such projects under its Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP). Both commenced at the start of 2012, following a call for proposals in early 2011. At that time a figure of around EUR 10 million was mentioned, but the total funding from the EC for the two successful projects is only around EUR 2.8 million ($3.5 million). Times are tough in Europe.

Table 1. The two projects – named ILLUMINATE and LED4ART – are summarized in Table 1. Project LED4ART has a duration of 36 months and will receive EUR 0.87 million in funding from the EC. As the name suggests, the focus is on using LEDs to illuminate works of art. This type of application has stringent light-quality requirements, often at the expense of energy efficiency, but the aim is to show that superior light quality and high energy efficiency can be achieved simultaneously. The location could not have a higher profile: LED lighting will replace the existing illumination system in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The consortium has 6 partners from 5 countries, although two of these partners are Osram Germany and Osram Italy. The other partners are the Vatican City State, the University of Pannonia in Hungary, the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC) in Spain, and Italy’s Fabertechnica.

With a duration of 30 months, project ILLUMINATE is coordinated by Genoa city in Italy, and will receive EUR 1.93 million in funding. The project will install LED lighting in two urban areas – Genoa (Italy) and Belfast (UK) – and in five exposition and museum buildings in different European cities: Copenhagen (Denmark), Genoa (Italy), Heraklion (Greece), Klaipeda (Lithuania), and Rotterdam (Netherlands). The project aims to develop a general approach to overcoming obstacles that are hampering the application of SSL in various scenarios for both indoor and outdoor lighting. The project consortium is driven by end users, including building owners and cities, and includes a pool of experts covering all aspects of the SSL value chain.

Ecodesign legislation and labeling

At the time of writing, Europe is still waiting for the second phase of legislation covering energy-inefficient lighting products. The first Ecodesign regulation (244/2009) covered non-directional household lamps, and has already already resulted in the phase-out of the least-efficient lamps at 60W and above. Another regulation (245/2009) covered tertiary-sector lighting products, including those typically used in office and street lighting.

The upcoming Ecodesign legislation will include efficiency, functionality and product-information requirements for directional lamps, including LED-based products. It will also list functionality requirements for non-directional LED lamps, which were not included in 244/2009. LED drivers will also be covered, along with requirements for compatibility between LED lamps and existing lighting equipment and systems. And there will also be a list of additional product-information requirements for LED tubes designed as retrofits for linear fluorescent lamps.

The Energy Labeling of Lamps directive (98/11/EC) is also being updated to expand its scope, and to include explicit reference to LEDs. Currently, LEDs are only implicitly included, and the regulations do not apply to lower-power (<4W) lamps. Energy labels currently give a pictorial representation of the product’s energy class ranging from A through G. The new legislation will add label classes on top of A, likely to be A+ and A++, so that LEDs can demonstrate their superior efficiency compared with other technologies. The scope of the labeling regulations will be extended to include directional lamps and will also cover LED-based luminaires.

Speaking at the joint CELMA-ELC LED Forum at Light+Building (L+B) earlier this year, the EC’s András Tóth said that Ecodesign legislation and energy-labeling regulations are complementary: “Ecodesign pushes the market by taking out the lowest-performing products,” he said, while “energy labeling pulls the market by promoting the best-performing products.”

Both sets of legislation are currently going through the various procedures needed for adoption by the EC. At L+B back in April, Tóth said both would be published in autumn 2012, after which they would become directly applicable in all EU Member States after a period of one year. The new Ecodesign regulation will have a tiered phase-out of certain lamp types, as has already happened for >60W omnidirectional lamps. The intention seems to be to initiate both the new energy label and the first tier of the phase-out on September 1, 2013.

However, this target might not be achieved. Speaking at the same LED Forum at L+B, Lars Stühlen of the European Lamp Companies Federation (ELC) pointed out that manufacturers need sufficient time to adjust to the changes. “Due to the significant effect on product portfolios and packaging, a transition period of a least 12 months is required,” he said. “This timeframe is also necessary to provide luminaire manufacturers and lighting designers with technical information for their specifications.”

In summary, and speaking on behalf of the European lighting industry, Stühlen said that “the regulations are a big step towards more efficient lighting…as long as market surveillance guarantees that only compliant products are on the market.” He also said that it is important that “products should not be banned if no suitable and affordable good-quality replacement products are available.”

While we await updates on the latest European legislation related to SSL, this subject, as well as EC-funded projects and initiatives, will form a central theme of Strategies in Light Europe, which takes place on September 18-20, 2012 in Munich, Germany.

SIDEBAR: Research and development

The EC funds various projects related to LEDs and OLEDs via its FP6 and FP7 programs, and SSL features in the current call for funding ( Ongoing programs include SSL4EU, which is exploring universally applicable LED light engines with high color rendering, a tunable light-output spectrum and an adaptable light-output level. Such products should enable luminaire manufacturers to enter the general illumination market and help to develop the LED luminaire business in Europe. The consortium includes Switzerland’s Regent Lighting and Spain’s LPI Europe, as well as STMicroelectronics, Siemens and Osram.

The EC also supports more fundamental device-related research. One example is GECCO, which aims to exploit the vertical sidewalls of 3-dimensional GaN structures for improved light extraction. Also, the SMASH project is investigating growth of LED structures on nano-structured templates and the development of LEDs based on nano-rod emitters.

OLEDs have also received substantial amounts of R&D funding from the EC. The OLED100 project ended last year after receiving a total of EUR12.5 million. As part of its overall goal of increasing the energy efficiency and lifetime of OLEDs for large-area lighting applications, the program partners demonstrated a large-area OLED luminaire that consists of nine 33×33 cm2 OLED tiles.