The End of the Incandescent Era?

One of the ways we expect to meet our future energy needs is through improved efficiency, and a linchpin to achieving this is innovative lighting. For over a century, Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb has been the dominant lighting product. In recent years though, compact fluorescent bulbs have become popular and now, with a new generation of lighting technology at hand, the end may be in sight for this 19th century invention.

The Council's most recent power plan identified lighting as a major new source in efficiency savings:  "...recent advances in solid-state lighting--light-emitting diodes (LED) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLED)--appear to offer significant opportunities for savings in televisions and some lighting applications."

The demand for consumer electronics--from televisions to computers--is booming. It's one of the fastest growing segments of electricity use in the region. And the trend is toward both more televisions per household and televisions with larger screens, which increases energy consumption. According to the Council's analysis, if this continues, by 2015 over 90 percent of the televisions sold will have screen sizes exceeding 32 inches.

To meet this burgeoning demand, transitioning from plasma and liquid crystal display (LCD) screens to LED and OLED screens is essential. LED televisions already on the market consume 40 percent less energy than LCD models, and they produce a higher quality picture to boot.

Globally, the push has been to move beyond the incandescent bulb. A number of countries, including Australia, the European Union, and the U.S. have all passed laws restricting the sale of incandescent light bulbs. Alternatives like c0mpact fluorescent and halogen lights are currently available, but it might not be too long before we see LED and OLED lights for home use, too.

And there are researchers who think the energy-efficient incandescent could be a future contender. So who knows? The only sure thing is that the race is on to make, or re-make, the 21st century light bulb.