Give the Energy Department some credit. Its recent public challenge, the L Prize, should help raise public awareness about the importance of energy-efficient lighting to our society. The competition, officially called the "Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize," encourages our manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products. DOE's stated goal is to replace 20th-century technology — the 60-watt incandescent lamp and PAR 38 halogen lamps. (Down the road DOE will also award a company for an even more efficient "21st Century Lamp.")
DOE did have some friendly encouragement from Congress to launch the contest. Last year's energy bill authorized just such a prize, and the requirements to enter follow the general requirements for high-efficiency lamps that are outlined in the legislation. Lightbulbs that meet the requirements would consume just 17% of the energy used by today's incandescent bulbs. Congress authorized up to $20 million in award money.
But the real reward comes in the energy savings for our society. According to DOE, if every household converted every light socket from a 60-watt incandescent bulb to a 10-watt lamp (which, with new technologies, will be capable of providing comparable lighting qualities), the country would save 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year — enough to power the lights in 17.4 million American homes. It would also prevent the emission of 5.6 metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
NEMA's lighting members, of course, have been promoting this concept for awhile. And now they've launched their own public awareness campaign, "enLIGHTen America," designed to educate building owners, operators, and executives who make decisions about upgrading lighting products in un-renovated buildings. This summer, the campaign unveils a virtual exhibition that will highlight the next generation of innovative and energy efficient lighting systems. Stay tuned to this space for more information.