by Judy Li
With a heart-filled Valentine’s Day themed campaign, General Electric announced on February 1st that it will stop production of CFLs for the U.S. market and focus its consumer lighting efforts solely on LED lamps. A GE Reports article explains that it is strategic for the company to transition away from CFLs as LEDs become less cost prohibitive. Over the past few years, CFLs have become popular as an efficient alternative to the incandescent light bulb because they are cheaper than LEDs. However, LEDs are the most efficient and gives the best light. Since 2012, LED prices have fallen dramatically and sales have increased. GE notes that this move aligns with that of the U.S. government. In January, ENERGY STAR introduced new lighting specifications, which disqualify many CFL bulbs.
GE is excited to promote LED technology. LED bulbs have long life-span of 22 years, and comes in many styles. Furthermore, new connectivity capabilities with the latest smart-home apps allow for smart-lighting solutions that help people save energy. LEDs are already used extensively and has the potential to replace all light sources. In October, as part of a broader digital transformation, GE introduced Current, a new division that “integrates its LED, solar, energy storage and electric vehicle businesses with the cloud-based Predix platform to identify and deliver cost-effective, efficient energy solutions for commercial, industrial and municipal customers.”
Julian Spector, from Citylab, presents an interesting perspective on the death of the CFL. Among dislike for the characteristics of CFL lighting and cries of infringement on personal freedom, sustainability advocates aggressively promoted switching to CFLs as an easy way to save the planet. Now, it too is obsolete like the incandescent light bulb. Spector argues that the large emphasis placed on CFLs was misguided and may have hindered more important efforts to fight climate change. The goal with CFLs was to reduce carbon emissions from electricity use. However, light bulbs themselves are not the source of climate change problems. Instead of prioritizing individual consumption and a particular product that will become obsolete, a more effective way to accomplish the goal would have been to focus on decarbonizing electricity sources like in President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Clean power will not cause CO2 emissions regardless of the type of light bulb used.
CFLs did catalyze a lot of discussion and action regarding energy efficiency and climate change. At the same time, it is not a Holy Grail as its demise shows. Now, while the efficiency and technological capabilities of LEDs are great, LEDs can only be a small part of larger efforts to develop clean energy sources and fight climate change.