EDITOR'S BLOG
A fillip the LED market didn’t need

The latest report on the LED market lands with a thud on my desk, almost spilling my latte. ‘Don’t tell me what happens in the end,’ jokes Robert, our facilities guy.

‘What happens in the end,’ I reply, ‘is that the LED lamp market actually starts to contact…’

Yes, that’s what the IMS Report says: after strong growth for the best part of the next decade, sales of LED lamps will start to fall in 2018, because of their long lives.

Hmmm. This is a bit like saying the shoe market is saturated because most people have more than enough pairs of shoes to be carrying on with. Yet I don’t see Russell & Bromley shutting down its stores any time soon.

The prediction is based on the simple logic that people won’t buy as many replacement light sources when those sources are LEDs. This may be true in Austin, Texas, where the report was written, but globally? Will LED lamp sales fall in India and China in 2018? I wouldn’t bet on it.

If anything, LEDs are opening up applications for lighting. And as efficiencies increase, so do the applications. We haven’t begun to scratch the surface yet.

For example, there are more than 1.5 billion dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps out there that could be replaced with solar-powered LED equivalents.

Also, the Chinese government is, inadvertently, helping the LED market. Its restrictions on the export of certain rare earth elements are leading to soaring prices and shortages of fluorescent lamps in the West. This month alone, the average
selling price of a T5 went up an average of 30 per cent, and many big lamp firms are planning another rise on 1 January.

Of course, for those lamp makers that promote LED tubes as replacements for linear fluorescent, the timing of the Chinese government’s initiative couldn’t be better.

Even without this fillip from the Chinese, the LED bandwagon is pretty unstoppable, of that I’m sure. But I don’t believe it’s an alloyed benefit to mankind. Javon’s paradox – which says that technologies that increase the efficiency with which a resource is used tend to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource – applies to LEDs. It may be that LEDs end up using more energy rather than less, thanks to a broadening of the number of applications.

Deck lights, anyone?

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