SSL - Overcoming Challenges

Despite the rapid development of solid-state lighting, the technology has not yet realized its full potential.
Published: Thu 13 Jun 2013

Solid state lighting (SSL) has the potential to save close to US$37-bn in annual energy costs, according to a report released by the US Department of Energy. It is estimated that by switching to LED lighting over the next two decades, US$250-bn in energy costs can be saved over that period. It will also greatly reduce lighting energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

Over the last few years, LED performance has forged ahead. This has seen the introduction of new commercial, industrial and institutional LED fixtures. Research shows that the LED Lighting market is growing rapidly. The 2012 North American Enterprise LED Lighting market is valued at US$630-m in annual revenues and experts predict that the market will grow at a rate of 40% a year through to 2016, exceeding US$1-bn in 2013.

In the USA…


With the above figures in mind, the US Department of Energy, together with industry partners—sponsor a comprehensive program to spur SSL research, and development. This is to ensure the on-going transition to higher-efficiency bulbs, as mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Utilities and energy efficiency programs from all over the US have joined the DOE to promote SSL products and replace less efficient light bulbs. In order to accelerate the development and implementation of standards for SSL products, the DOE works closely with a network of standards-setting organizations and offers technical assistance and support.

One such initiative is the L Prize competition. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 directed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to establish the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition. The L Prize competition is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to accelerate the development of ultra-efficient SSL products. All L Prize partners are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE, agreeing to promote high-efficiency SSL technologies. According to the L Prize competition, lighting products must deliver the following:

  • Exceptional energy efficiency- The winning 60W incandescent replacement bulb must deliver over 90 lm/W, the winning PAR 38 halogen replacement must deliver more than 123 lm/W
  • Comprehensive performance testing and verification-To ensure that L Prize winners deliver a high level of quality and performance, all entries undergo rigorous testing which can take up to a year to complete
  • Excellent lighting quality-The L Prize technical requirements ensure that the winning products deliver an excellent lighting quality.
  • Cost effectiveness-New technologies are usually more costly when first introduced to the market because of low volumes and high development costs. With the US government and L Prize partners joining forces,  sales volumes can be increased and prices will be reduced quicker

In Europe

From 1 September 2009, incandescent light bulbs and other energy inefficient lamps were gradually replaced by more energy efficient lamps in Europe. Governments and utilities realize that by switching to more energy efficient lighting products, European households can save energy, as well as contribute towards reaching the EU’s climate protection targets. The old-style incandescent bulb of 100W and higher is actually banned in the EU as governments encourage the distribution of more energy efficient lighting. By 2020, this will save enough energy to power 11 million households a year. It will also cut the average household electricity bill by €25 a year.

The Challenges

While SSL seems to be a really good idea and programs have been put in place to develop more efficient lighting technology, utilities still come across real challenges:

  • Initial high cost-Consumers may be put off by the initial high costs but these are quickly recouped as LED bulbs, for instance, use only a quarter or a fifth of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs. The LED’s also tend to last longer. Some LED lighting products have already become competitive with certain conventional applications and as more people buy the new bulbs, the price will drop even lower.
  • Refusal to use new bulbs-Although energy inefficient light bulbs are slowly being phased out, people are stocking up on conventional incandescent bulbs. Utility programs need to educate consumers on the advantages of SSL products
  • Poor quality-SSL is at an early stage of development and although their overall quality is improving, some do not match the performance of the technologies they're designed to replace. As a result, the products may not meet the claims of their manufacturers. There are many new LED lighting products coming onto the market and it’s important for retailers and utilities to carry out quality checks.
  • Inaccurate product information-Sometimes the wrong information about product performance is communicated. This could result in violated expectations and commercialization delays.
  • Absence of standards-Standards development helps to put the entire industry on the same page. If this is not done, it could hamper the development of new technology. The DOE should oversee an ongoing dialogue and collaboration with key standards-setting organizations.
  • Utility incentive programs-Poorly designed programs can stand in the way of SSL development
  • Utility’s failure to understand its customers’ needs- Programs should promote a variety of efficient lighting options for customers to choose from. The products’ features should also be clearly communicated
  • Negative perception of products-It is critical that only high quality efficient light bulbs are promoted as this will increase customer satisfaction and accelerate market transformation. Poor quality products will create negative experiences and will not help SSL development. It is important for the utility to advise that products are improving all the time
  • Appropriateness-Utility programs will be more successful if they incentivize high quality products which are compatible with customers’ needs. Utilities must advise consumers of the appropriate uses for promoted products

Utility programs play a major role in spurring the adoption of new technology. To achieve cost-effective energy savings, programs must carefully select products and incentive levels that coincide with customers’ lighting preferences and needs.

Engerati Analysis 

Significant work remains to be done to further improve promotion, performance, and cost. It is up to the utility to design appropriate programs to overcome specific challenges.


European Commission-Energy-saving light bulbs-Why has the EU acted?

Greentechmedia-A Boom in Utility Rebates Drives LED Lighting

Greentechmedia Research-Enterprise LED 2012: Commercial and Industrial Market Trends, Opportunities & Leading Companies

Leds Magazine-Europe says goodbye to 60W incandescent lamps

Lighting Prize-L Prize Competition Overview

US Department of Energy-Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications [pdf]

US Department of Energy-Market Challenges

US Department of Energy-Solid-State Lighting