NEMA Weighs In on RoHS LED Exemption

NEMA Weighs In on RoHS LED Exemption

This piece was originally published in the May 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Mark Kohorst, Senior Manager, Environment, Health & Safety, NEMA

Solid-state lighting (SSL) products, especially light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, are at the core of energy efficiency gains across all sectors of the economy. Manufacturers are at the threshold of another promising advance: quantum dot (QD) LEDs for use in retrofit lamps, LED modules, and various luminaires.

QDs provide very high efficiency, a narrow emission spectrum, and emission frequency that can be accurately tuned across the entire visible spectrum. Their high color rendering and quality of light performance suggest a wide range of potential applications in the residential, commercial, and institutional sectors. Given that lighting consumes between 15 and 19 percent of global electricity and leads to five percent of worldwide CO2 emissions, the potential environmental benefits of this technology are enormous.

Unfortunately, the market availability of QD-LED lighting products is threatened in the European Union because cadmium-based QDs offer the greatest performance improvement, and the use of cadmium is restricted under the EU’s RoHS Recast Directive of 2011. When enacted, the directive exempted cadmium in solid-state illumination or display systems, which would encompass QDs. The exemption has since expired and a recent draft decision by the European Commission (EC) proposes to renew it only for display systems. Unless the exemption is renewed, the products will be effectively barred.

LightingEurope, NEMA’s lighting industry counterpart in the EU, enlisted NEMA’s help in reversing this decision. NEMA responded with a strong statement of opposition, echoing LightingEurope’s arguments concerning the value of the technology. NEMA staff will work with U.S. trade officials to file a complaint under the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, while encouraging other national lighting associations to weigh in as well.

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