solution_ledlighting02.jpg

A modern bus terminal lit by blue and white LED lighting under protected canopies.
ThinkDeep (iStock)

LEDs work like solar panels in reverse, converting electrons to photons instead of the other way around.

LED Lighting

Reduce SourcesElectricityEnhance Efficiency
16.07–17.53
Gigatons
CO2 Equivalent
Reduced / Sequestered
(2020–2050)
$-2.04–-1.77
Trillion $US
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
$4.56–4.95
Trillion $US
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
LEDs (light emitting diodes) are the most energy-efficient bulbs available. Unlike older technologies, they transfer most of their energy use into light, rather than waste heat.

Solution Summary*

LED Lighting (Household)

The origin of LEDs (light emitting diodes) dates back to the 1874 invention of the diode—a crystal semiconductor. Under certain conditions, diodes emit light. In 1994, three Japanese scientists invented high-brightness LED bulbs, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014.

LEDs work like solar panels in reverse, converting electrons to photons instead of the other way around. They use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs for the same amount of light, and half as much as compact fluorescents, without toxic mercury. By transferring most of their energy use into creating light—rather than heat, like older technologies—LEDs reduce electricity consumption and air-conditioning loads.

The price (per watt equivalent) for LEDs is two to three times higher than incandescents or floursescents, but falling rapidly. And an LED bulb will last much longer than either other type. Still, upfront cost remains an obstacle for household adoption.

When the sun sets, more than a billion people live in the dark. Low energy use means LEDs can be powered with small solar cells. Solar-LED lights can replace expensive kerosene lamps and their noxious fumes and emissions, while addressing the problem of light poverty.

---

LED Lighting (Commercial)

The origin of LEDs (light emitting diodes) dates back to the 1874 invention of the diode—a crystal semiconductor. Under certain conditions, diodes emit light. In 1994, three Japanese scientists invented high-brightness LED bulbs, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014.

LEDs work like solar panels in reverse, converting electrons to photons instead of the other way around. They use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs for the same amount of light, and half as much as compact fluorescents, without toxic mercury. On top of that, an LED bulb will last much longer than either other type.

Lighting accounts for 15 percent of global electricity use. LEDs transfer 80 percent of their energy use into creating light—rather than heat, like older technologies—and reduce electricity consumption and air-conditioning loads accordingly. LED streetlights can save up to 70 percent of energy and significantly reduce maintenance costs.

The question about LEDs is not whether they will become the standard in lighting fixtures; it’s when. The price (per watt equivalent) is two to three times higher than incandescents or flourescents, but falling rapidly. Virtually any bulb currently in use can be replaced by LEDs.

* excerpted from the book, Drawdown
Impact:

Our analysis assumes that LEDs will become ubiquitous by 2050, encompassing 90-95 percent of the household lighting market, and 80-90 percent of commercial lighting. As LEDs replace less-efficient lighting, 10.2-10.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided in residences and 5.9-6.7 gigatons in commercial buildings. Additional climate and health gains, not counted here, will come from replacing off-grid kerosene lighting with solar-LED technology.