LED market faces bright outlook but hurdles remain

Tue May 18, 2010 10:37am EDT
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By Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) - The light-emitting diode (LED) sector is growing fast, especially in niche markets such as the car industry, but LED bulbs will not be a mass consumer item for some time, developers and experts said on Tuesday.

Lighting accounts for around 20 percent of global electricity consumption. LED bulbs use 20 percent of the energy of a traditional incandescent bulb and can last up to 25,000 hours, making them attractive in the drive to cut emissions.

However, the technology is expensive, which could prevent a widespread market take-off for some years.

"Certainly, this is a fast-growth area, but the domestic replacement market is still some way off," Tom Whitehouse, chief executive of fund-raising consultancy Carbon International, told Reuters.

"The big question is how to get LEDs to market. For people to rip out existing lights and install LEDs, you need a disruptive technology," he said, referring to the point at which switching to the new bulbs becomes cheap enough for consumers.

Major manufacturers like Philips and Osram are launching consumer LED bulbs this year, or in 2011, but prices remain high.

"You won't see bright, lower-cost LED bulbs in homes for another three to four years," said Richard Kirk, chief executive of UK-based organic LED (OLED) lighting system developer PolyPhotonix.

Established lighting manufacturers could also make it difficult for others to break into the fledgling market, Whitehouse said.   Continued...

<p>A display shows two energy saving light bulbs at a do-it-yourself store in Dortmund August 31, 2009. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender</p>