Lighting industry says LEDs are not ready for mass consumer uptake, blasts anti-halogen report

The donnybrook surrounding Europe's proposed ban of halogen lamps has raged up again, as the lighting industry assailed a report that claimed LEDs are ready to take over for halogens.

Industry trade group LightingEurope called the report 'flawed,' and described the conclusions as 'questionable, partly misleading, and containing incorrect information, with 47% of the test based on non-compliant lamps.'

LightingEurope, which represents Philips, Osram and other lighting vendors, wants to postpone a ban on halogens from Europe's planned 2016 until at least 2020. It has warned of a huge shortage of household bulbs if the EC vanquishes halogens before 2020.

Halogens are gas-enhanced incandescent lamps that are a little more energy efficient than standard incandescents, but a lot less energy-efficient than LED (light-emitting diode) or CFL (compact fluorescent) lamps. The EC has already widely banned many incandescents. It had set the halogen doomsday for 2016, but will vote early next year on whether to extend that to 2018, a year which LightingEurope says is way too early.

Another group, including the governments of Sweden and Belgium and a couple of non-governmental energy efficiency organisations has railed against any delay beyond 2016. It recently pointed out that European consumers have been buying halogens in droves whereas they could be buying energy savers. It published a Test Report showing that after the EC last looked into LED readiness in 2013, LED lamps have improved even more in efficiency and performance, and dropped more in price.

Thus, it behooves Europe to stick to a 2016 ban in the interest of slashing lighting's huge CO2 emissions, the group said.

'Approximately 50 percent of the LED lamps purchased and tested in 2014 for the new test study already exceed the projected 2016 price and performance levels in the June 2013 report, and one model available on the European market in 2014 already exceeds the anticipated 2018 level on efficacy (efficiency) and the 2020 level on price,' said the Stockholm-based European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ECEEE), a non-profit organisation and one of the four publishers of the report.

Poppycock, said LightingEurope. In a press release it noted:

'The report claims that ‘LED retrofit lamps overachieve the expectations in the price and performance projection’. However, a thorough check of the report content shows that the conclusion presented is questionable, partly misleading, and containing incorrect information. Moreover, it even proclaims what LightingEurope has outlined for a long time: many of the promoted, highlighted lamps featured in the report violate European requirements, i.e. Regulation EC 1194/2012, so they are illegally placed on the market. Additionally, this flawed information calls into question the competency of the testing laboratory.'

LightingEurope's Secretary General Diederik de Stoppelaar said, 'Since this report is wrong and LEDs cannot yet easily replace all halogen light sources, it further enforces the need to look to 2020 as the earliest phase out date.'

In response, ECEEE executive director Nils Borg told Lux that it would be an 'extradordinary measure' if the EC were to tear up its original 2016 target and push it back by four years.

'We stand by the report,' Borg said, noting that most of the 'non-compliance' issues related to packaging rather than to the lamps themselves.  'Anyway, the point wasn't to test compliance. It was to demonstrate how the technology has developed. The EC needs to take a careful look before it prolongs anything. We need to look at how much carbon reduction we'd be missing out on with today's market developments.'

Borg called the ligthting industry 'competent' and said that many of the quality LED lamps that his group tested were from LightingEurope members. 'I'm really surprised by the aggressiveness of the attack,' he added.

The industry is in a curious position. It campaigned in the early days for an incandescent ban, foreseeing a future in LED bulbs. And it is working on one hand to establish LEDs and to convince consumers to buy them. Ironically, LightingEurope, an industry voice, is also now saying that LEDs are not ready for mass uptake.

The transition has upset the business model of incumbent vendors like Philips and Osram, who still operate incandescent lamp manufacturing factories.

They are struggling as they move away from a profitable business that forever had relied on selling replacement bulbs. LED bulbs are said to last for over 20 years, so anyone selling them – whether they are established companies or new LED startups - must in the long run find a new way to make money, which could include selling lighting services as well as connectivity hardware and software that ties digital lamps (LEDs are semiconductors) into information networks. 

Part of the problem is that consumers who long ago were conditioned to pay not much more than a pound or euro for a lamp will not want to spend a lot more than that.

By holding onto their halogen business, the Philips and Osrams of the world would be protecting the last vestige of their old reliable incandescent financial model. That is especially important to them as they figure out how to cope with the encroachment into their industry by internet companies like Google, Apple and others.

Lux will continue to bring you updates and commentary on the clash. 

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Image is from Lightspring via Shutterstock