Next Generation Lighting Initiative one step closer

Progress is being made in the US to create the Next Generation Lighting Initiative, a public-private partnership to develop advanced solid-state lighting devices.

For several years, the solid state lighting industry in the US has been hoping to see the introduction of energy legislation containing a provision to fund solid state lighting development to a maximum level of $50 million per year. This year, the bill looks more likely to be passed than in previous years, but is still far from certain to go through.

At the end of May, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee passed a bipartisan energy bill, a major piece of legislation which contains a section authorizing the formation of the Next Generation Lighting Initiative (NGLI). The bill is expected to move to the Senate floor later in June for debate and a vote.

The House of Representatives has already passed a separate version of energy legislation earlier this year. If the Senate approves its version of the bill, then a conference committee made up of Senators and Representatives will attempt to reconcile the two versions.

The two versions of the bill differ on some controversial issues that have derailed past versions of energy legislation - drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the release of MTBE manufacturers from liability for water contamination.

The NGLI is not viewed as controversial and the wording in the two versions is essentially the same.

A spokesperson for Senator Jeff Bingaman was hopeful that energy legislation would be passed this year, citing a renewed level of presidential interest in energy issues. Bingaman represents New Mexico and is largely responsible for the inclusion of the NGLI wording in the energy bill.

Funding for solid state lighting

The Next Generation Lighting Initiative authorizes the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive a significant level of funding for solid-state lighting, and also instructs the DOE to work closely with industry to ensure that the fruits of its development program are ultimately turned into products that save energy.

At present, the DOE operates a successful Solid State Lighting program, funding a large number of projects relating to LEDs and OLEDs.

In its current form, section 912 of the bill requests funding in the amount of $50 million for the NGLI in each of the fiscal years 2006 through 2008. The exact amount of funding that would go to the DOE is set by appropriation committees.

Currently, the Presidential budget request includes funding for SSL at DOE in the amount of $11 million for FY06.

The wording of the energy bill calls for the NGLI to support research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities related to advanced solid-state lighting technologies based on white LEDs (which includes both organic and inorganic devices).

The bill also calls for the formation of an industry alliance, but in fact this already exists in the form of the Next Generation Lighting Industry Alliance (NGLIA) – see NGLIA supports initiative to develop solid-state lighting industry in the US (September 2004).

The DOE and the NGLIA signed a memorandum of agreement in February 2005 which details a strategy to enhance the manufacturing and commercialization focus of the DOE SSL research and development program by utilizing the NGLIA's expertise as an organization of SSL manufacturers.

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