Energy: Global Transition to LED Lighting
The world stands at a critical phase in its history. Whether you believe in the inevitable nature of climate change or not, it is indisputable that we have seen a rapid increase in energy use and CO2 emissions as more and more countries industrialize. In order to avoid the continuing degradation of our climate we must explore all options to use energy more efficiently. One of the most cost effective ways to do this is through the introduction of LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting.
The traditional incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient. In most countries lighting accounts for up to 25% of all household electricity use. Reducing this through the use of more efficient lighting is not only desirable, it’s absolutely critical for the health of the planet. Population growth continues unabated, and is expected to reach more than 8 billion by 2025. That’s 1 billion more than the current population, and unless we find ways to use energy more efficiently, many countries will face a crisis in electricity production within a decade.
What’s holding some countries back from switching over to LED’s or even CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs) is the initial cost of the transition. This is short sighted thinking, as the cost savings once the transition takes place are substantial. A study of Nigeria’s potential cost savings from switching to more energy efficient lighting has estimated that $1.4 billion would be saved annually.
In many countries electricity production is already insufficient to meet demand. This problem is particularly apparent on the African continent. Most major urban centres in Africa already face a shortage of electricity, and many rural areas have no electricity at all. As African’s continue to migrate to urban centres, the strain on electricity will reach the breaking point unless ways to reduce electricity usage are found. While the transition to energy efficient lighting will create initial economic hardship for African nations, the long term implications of not making this transition would be even more damaging to these struggling economies.
Traditionally when we think of aid for poorer countries we think in terms of help with finding clean water sources, and help with agriculture. The reduction of energy use is just as important to the long-term success of Africa’s economies. For this reason, richer countries should consider helping Africa with the transition to energy efficient light bulbs. Africa’s population growth far outstrips most other regions of the world, and more people means greater energy usage. Africa must make the transition.
In North America and Western Europe the transition to CFL and LED lighting is already well under way. On January 1st, 2014 the Canadian government introduced a ban on the sale of 75, and 100 watt incandescent bulbs. By the end of the year the ban will also apply to the sale of 40 and 60 watt bulbs. This will bring Canada’s lighting policy in line with that of the United States, making North America one of the first regions to largely do away with the incandescent bulb.
There has been some consumer backlash to this transition across North America, as the more efficient bulbs cost more money, and consumers in North America don’t like the idea of being forced into the change. This is to be expected, as all changes in regulations will have their critics, but the majority of consumers recognize the need for this change. Also, the changeover to energy efficient lighting will save consumers money in the long run as the new bulbs last up to ten times longer. The initial cost may be more expensive, but consumers will not have to purchase them as often.
The European Union began the phase out of incandescent bulbs even earlier. The process was introduced in the European Union countries back in 2009, and was completed in 2012. As in North America, there was some backlash to the change, but the transition has been a success. The overall reduction in energy use by European households is estimated to be up to 19%.
Other countries around the world are adopting similar transitions, and more are expected to follow suit as the cost of producing energy efficient light bulbs are reduced by more efficient manufacturing processes and technological breakthroughs. Australia, Mexico, Russia, and South Korea all have implemented similar bans on the manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs.
So, why LED’s and not CFL’s? LED’s are more efficient than CFL’s. While CFL’s are without a doubt much more efficient than incandescent lights, LED’s last up to ten times longer than CFL’s and do not give off any heat. Not only are they more efficient, they are safer because of this absence of heat.
What’s holding back the rapid introduction of LED light bulbs is the prohibitive initial cost. You might pay as much as $20 or $30 for an LED light bulb. Considering consumers are used to paying very little for light bulbs, this is a tough pill to swallow. Manufactures recognize this drawback and are working on reducing the cost of the manufacturing process. Like all new technologies, this process takes time.
It’s clear the problems we face today due to climate change and population growth will continue to be a challenge. It’s for this reason that it’s not a question of if we should transition to the use of LED light bulbs, but how soon. Many countries are well on the way to replacing older inefficient light bulbs, and this trend not only should continue, but must continue. The health of our planet depends upon it.