4 January 2018
LED lighting cuts carbon dioxide emissions by half a billion tons in 2017
The use of LEDs to illuminate buildings and outdoor spaces reduced the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of lighting by an estimated 570 million tons in 2017 (equivalent to shutting down 162 coal-fired power plants), according to analyst firm IHS Markit. LED lighting uses an average of 40% less power than fluorescents, and 80% less than incandescents, to produce the same amount of light.
“The efficiency of LEDs is essentially what makes them environmentally friendly,” comments Jamie Fox, principal analyst, lighting & LEDs group. “Therefore, LED conversion is unlike other measures, which require people to reduce consumption or make lifestyle changes.”
LED component and lighting companies were responsible for reducing the global carbon (CO2e) footprint by an estimated 1.5% in 2017, and that is likely to continue to grow as more LEDs are installed worldwide, says IHS Markit.
Another environmental benefit is that LEDs have a longer life span than traditional bulbs and fewer are produced, so the emissions and pollution associated with the production, shipping, sale and disposal of the products is reduced. Secondly, unlike fluorescents, LEDs do not contain mercury. LEDs also decrease air pollution, since most electrical energy is still generated by burning fossil fuels. “While other activities affect climate change more than lighting does, it is still a very strong contribution from a single industry sector,” Fox says.
IHS Markit has tracked the market share for top LED component suppliers for many years. Based on an analysis of this data, Nichia can claim credit for having saved the most carbon overall — accounting for 10% of all LED lighting reduction achieved in 2017, which translates into 57 million tons of CO2 (about the same as 16 coal plants). Cree followed Nichia with 8%, while Lumileds, Seoul Semiconductor, MLS, Samsung and LG Innotek each have a share of 4-7%.
Savings achieved by each company relate to the energy saved by the use of its components while installed in lighting applications. It does not include a whole lifecycle analysis, which would likely lead to a small additional positive benefit, due to the longer life of LEDs.
“LED component companies and lighting companies have transformed their industry,” Fox comments. “They are fighting climate change much more effectively than other industries, and they should be given credit for it. Unlike in other industry sectors, workers at LED companies can honestly say that by selling more of their products, they are helping to reduce global warming.”
IHS Markit notes that its figures are only based on the lighting market. They do not include energy saved by LEDs that replaced other technologies in other sectors, such as automotive and consumer technology.