Sapphire Industry Watch – March 6

  • Humble light bulb helps Japan fill nuclear gap – Chicago Tribune: When the Fukushima nuclear meltdown of 2011 resulted in the closure of many of Japan’s reactors, a national campaign was started to reduce energy consumption. Since the start of 2012, 73 million LED light bulbs have been sold in Japan, comprising about 30 percent of all bulbs sold there.  As LED adoption continues to increase, the country is also pursuing alternative energy sources such as solar power to help relieve the pressure caused by the shuttering of its nuclear energy program.
  • Revamped Dubai park to bask in the sunshine – Khaleej Times:  Al Khazan Park – which officially opened to the public on March 2 – has been revamped into Dubai’s first sustainable park. An off-grid solar power system and LED lights will reduce the amount of CO2 emissions annually by 44.5 tons, which is the equivalent to saving 1,100 trees.
  • Europe to have 2.9 bn general lighting LED lamp installations by 2019 – Greentech Lead: According to an ElectroniCast Consultants report, the number of LED lights installed for general lighting in Europe will grow at an average annual rate of 58.7 percent, rising from 288 million in 2014 to 2.9 billion in 2019. The European market is predicted to grow at a slightly faster rate than the U.S. market during the same time frame. Europe is expected to maintain its leadership in relative market share throughout the forecasted period.
  • SF Ferry Building Gets Makeover for World’s Fair Centennial Anniversary – ABC 7: To celebrate the centennial anniversary of the San Francisco World’s Fair, the iconic Ferry Building has been lit up the same way it was when the fair opened in 1915. Only this time the building will be lit up with nearly 1,100 energy efficient LED lights. The lights will stay up through December with two large beacons commemorating the year 1915.

The LED Revolution: Bringing Light to a Country Near You

Nowadays, LEDs are ubiquitous. Whether we’re talking about a football stadium, a street light, or nightlight, LEDs are used virtually anywhere lighting is needed.

What most people don’t know is that LEDs are also at the forefront of an “illumination revolution” in developing countries throughout the world.

While we live in a technologically driven society, we may not realize that access to safe and reliable electricity remains one of the key challengers plaguing more than 1.5 billion people in developing countries around the world.

Where do LEDs fit in?

According to International Finance Corporation, 2.1 million LED-solar products have been sold in countries that lack access to electrical grids.

In Africa — A growing portion of the more than 1 billion people living without reliable sources of electricity now have access to lights, thanks in part to LED technology. Nearly 5 percent of Africans without access to electricity — or some 28.5 million people — now use solar-powered LED lights.


A women in Senegal charges her cellphone using a port in her solar-powered LED lantern.

In IndiaPollinate Energy has one simple mission: improve the lives of India’s urban poor by providing access to sustainable technologies, including solar lights and improved stoves for cooking.

With the help of LEDs and kerosene-free cooking equipment, local Indian communities can save money, experience reduced indoor smoke and enjoy better lights in homes and businesses.

Pollinate has already helped more than 25,000 people in Bangalore switch to solar LED lighting in their homes.

So how are LEDs changing the equation?

Eight to 10 years ago, the high cost of LEDs made them unrealistic for use in applications like this. But the efficiency of LEDs is rising, and prices are dropping, finally allowing LEDs to become a viable option.

The shift is taking place thanks to sapphire — the foundation for more than 95 percent of high brightness white LEDs. Large diameter sapphire wafers and patterned sapphire substrates contribute to greater efficiency and lower costs for LED lighting.

LED Lighting Adoption – Lessons Learned

Incandescent lighting ruled the world for more than a century, but times have changed as the world looks to energy efficient alternatives to the incandescent bulb. In the 1970s, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) came along as the new alternative light source. Market penetration for CFL bulbs never rose above 1% of all units in the first 20 years following market introduction.

In the US, the US Department of Energy joined together with retailers and the lighting manufacturers to encourage consumer adoption of energy-efficient lighting including LEDs and CFLs. There has been careful consideration not to repeat the mistakes experienced with CFLs that led to that very slow adoption rate.

We’ve spoken a lot about the EISA phase-out of incandescent bulbs in US legislators imposed strict energy efficient guidelines impacting incandescent light bulbs in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In a rolling phase-out through 2014, manufacturers stopped making 100-W, 75-W, 60-W and 40-W incandescent light bulbs. But that legislation is only part of today’s story.

Before the phase-out legislation, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Next Generation Lighting Initiative, directing the DOE to “support research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities related to advanced solid‐state lighting technologies based on white light-emitting diodes.” This legislation was an important part in establishing the DOE’s leadership in the adoption of solid state lighting (SSL).

The US Department of Energy reviewed the CFL experience and developed a strategy for leading the industry and supporting their activities for SSL.  The DOE analyzed both CFL adoption and early SSL experiences since they’ve launched to determine a strategy for the initiative. You can find links to the reports below in Further Reading.

Some of the lessons learned were quite reasonable. First, coordination and collaboration between government and industry should take place at a national level. Secondly, they needed to establish standards and product testing for minimum performance and back-up of long-life claims with standard-based projections and/or guarantees.  Thirdly, they needed to introduce new lighting technology in applications where the benefits were clearly established before moving on to others. They also found they needed to respond to the market and resolve problems and issues quickly. Finally, they needed to know and acknowledge technology limitations, determine and address compatibility issues with conventional lighting, deal with technology failures aggressively, and not launch a new product until performance issues were ironed out.

The parties in the initiative analyzed LED technology itself and possible bumps in the road to mitigate for consumers. They knew that consumers would have to get used to new language of LEDs. For example, the different way of communicating light brightness in lumens rather than traditional watts might cause confusion. The DOE worked with manufacturers proactively to communicate the new language of LEDs through the introduction of new package labeling, LED Lighting Facts program. They also established CALiPER program, to test a wide array of new LED lighting products for the public interest using industry-approved metrics. With a myriad of new LED light bulb offerings, consumers can find LED light bulbs that are qualified using 20 standards and procedures by the familiar Energy Star program. These proactive efforts were designed to smooth the transition and advance consumer adoption.

How successful have these government and industry efforts been?

There has been a very big change in the installed base of light bulbs between 2010 and 2012.  This is mainly due to the government mandated light bulb phase-out. According to Navigant Research and the DOE, the installed base of incandescent A-type lamps (traditional light bulb shape) decreased from 65 percent to 55 percent, while CFLs increased from 34 percent in 2010 to 43 percent in 2012.  LED installations in A-type lamps remained at less than 1 percent in 2012.

But taking note of lessons learned, it was interesting to see increased adoption in applications where LEDs have clear benefits — directional lighting such as lighting used in recessed lighting. According to the DOE and Navigant, installations of directional LED lamps went from 0.1 million in 2009 to 11.4 million in 2012, with an estimated 4.6% of all directional sockets in 2012 using LEDs.

Adoption is looking up for other lighting applications. Analysts expect LED-based lighting to grow, and fast. According to research firm IHS, 2014 will be a big year for LED lamps, accounting for 32% of the entire global lamp revenue.

The biggest barrier to consumer adoption in traditional A-type lighting so far is price, but the prices are coming down to more palatable levels for consumers. You can read more about the adoption of LED-based general lighting and pricing in these previous posts, Tipping Point 2: Finally, A Sub $10 LED Light Bulb and Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton.

For Further Reading

DOE, Solid-State Lighting: Early Lessons Learned on the Way to Market,

DOE, Compact Fluorescent Lighting in America: Lessons Learned on the Way to Market,

Navigant Research for DOE, Adoption of Light-Emitting Diodes in Common Lighting Applications,

Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Report: Lighting manufacturing leaders to shift,