Déjà vu strikes DOE lamp policies while agency adds building initiatives

Aug. 17, 2021
The DOE has quickly changed its stripes under US President Biden with a reversal in general service lamp efficacy policy and new building efficiency initiatives.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) that would reestablish more stringent efficacy requirements for many lamps that had been exempted from the energy-efficiency policy under former President Trump. The rulemaking would reestablish efficacy requirements for decorative lamps that were originally intended to take effect Jan. 1, 2020. Meanwhile. the DOE under President Biden has awarded $82.6M (million) in funding for new technologies that will make buildings more efficient, including solid-state lighting (SSL)-oriented developments.

Lamp energy policy

The on again, off again lamp policy has experienced something like the momentum swings in a sporting event. The DOE had rolled out stringent efficacy requirements of A-lamps and other widely-used form factors back a decade ago. There was a battle over what was often erroneously called the incandescent bulb ban, but ultimately by mid-decade the policies delivered significant energy savings via the penetration of LED-based replacement lamps.

Decorative lamps were not included in the original policy given that some products such as candelabra lamps were a tight squeeze for LED driver electronics, and such products were not powered on for the long hours associated with other lamp types. The opportunity for substantive savings was lesser.

Under President Obama, however, the DOE moved to modify the scope of what it called a general service lamp (GSL) to include the decorative products. That move would have delivered additional energy savings while also placing a burden on manufacturers to transition to LED technology in a class of products that were still being made in depreciated incandescent factories.

During the Trump administration, we covered the ongoing narrative as the DOE moved not to adopt the changes in the scope of what was considered a GSL. Both environmental groups and US States took legal actions against the DOE to try and keep the decorative lamps in the GSL scope and force the lighting industry to move to SSL technology in such products.

Who knows what might have happened with the environmental-centric infighting during a second Trump term? But now the pendulum swings and we’re likely to see legal action from incandescent proponents. Even large lamps manufacturers that have invested millions in LED development would like to keep some of their depreciated factories churning out the price-margin-winning decorative lamps.

You can read the details of the NOPR on the DOE website. The DOE is planning a public meeting on the situation on Sept. 30. Stay tuned.

Smart building technologies

Turning to new funding by the DOE, the agency’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) was behind the financial support that resulted from a solicitation the office had called the BENEFIT (Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies) initiative. The 44 awarded projects span the breadth of energy-using systems found in buildings. The HVAC sector represented many of the awards.

The lighting sector was also well represented. Eaton Corp. (not Cooper) will research automated LED luminaire design and additive manufacturing. The ams Osram Opto Semiconductors group will continue to develop the quantum dot (QD) technology that can increase energy efficiency. We covered an Osram QD announcement just recently.

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a Xerox company, will study a process to place LEDs on a flexible substrate using a roll-to-roll manufacturing process. Ironically, the SSL industry has not perfected OLED roll-to-roll manufacturing yet could do so with LEDs. There is also an OLED award for the University of Michigan.

You can peruse the full list of projects receiving funding on the DOE website. We were surprised that there was not an explicit smart buildings category in the list, although there are projects across the list that do fall into a smart buildings bucket. As some of you may know, our company has launched a sister publication called Smart Buildings Technology.

LEDs Magazine chief editor MAURY WRIGHT is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade.

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