Where LEDs fit into climate change goals

November 15, 2021

Earlier this month, the world’s leaders convened to discuss the impact of human activity on global warming and how political change can curb it.

In line with the 2015 Paris Agreement’s aim to stop global warming by 1.5C, The Glasgow Climate Conference (aka COP26) saw world leaders discuss the entire range of factors that go into climate change, from emissions to pollution and climate finance.

With emissions being the highest contributor to global warming overall, many of the mitigating action that the world can take is through the way we power the society the world over. A significant part of this is the lighting we use to power and illuminate the world around us, around 12% of the world’s electricity consumption.

For the longest time, since the Industrial Revolution, the lighting we used was through heating halogen so hot that it created light. And whilst this worked to illuminating the otherwise dark world of the early 18th century, it also led to a highly inefficient method of lighting that generated more heat than light energy.

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In modern days, with developing technology and a higher awareness of climate change, recent scientific developments in lighting are a far cry from the heat-emitting bulbs of days gone.

Since its introduction to the mainstream market in the last decade, LEDs have revolutionised the modern landscape of lighting. Not only are they highly economically advantageous due to their long 50,000 average lifespan and less need for replacement units, they convert a vast majority of their energy into light as opposed to heat like its traditional halogen and incandescent counterparts.

This is why LEDs are a not-insignificant aspect of the globe’s decarbonisation goal. According to Signify, for the UK and Ireland, businesses making a green switch to LED lighting could eliminate 3.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

As the world leader in lighting systems, Signify’s warning of businesses making the switch to LEDs is not unfounded. Further research also suggests that the switch to LEDs would not only advance further digitilisation, but would generate savings of 16 terawatt hours (TWh), equivalent to an annual electricity consumption of more than 4.3 million households and around £3bn in electricity cost savings.

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Earlier in the year, the UK government called for a ban on halogen lighting, signifying the first major step from a global power to shift away from outdated and harmful lighting methods and make a concerted effort to reach net zero goals.

The 12% of electricity consumption that lighting currently holds would drop by a third with a wholesale shift to LED lighting.

The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Pathway report also suggest that the share of LED lights in total sales should reach 2025 in all regions, and that minimum energy performance standards should also be complemented by smart control appliances for further energy efficiency potential, boosted by revisions in building regulations.

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The best aspect of the switch to LED is that it is the quickest and least intrusive part of building and infrastructure renovation which means the regulatory aspect of LED switching would be easily implemented.

LEDs are also sustainable in that they use less power to emit the same amount – if not more – light than halogen or incandescent bulbs due to the powerful LED technology compared to the relatively ancient technology of halogen bulbs.

Outside of their lifetime emissions reduction, a decade of mainstream use and disposal of LEDs has shown that they signify only a fraction of Europe’s waste – around 2%. Due to their exponentially longer lifespan compared to traditional light bulbs (at around 50,000 hours) far fewer are entering the stream of waste.

Granted, more of the lighting waste in future decades will consist of LEDs as they become more and more mainstream, but their lack of chemicals and unrecyclable materials compared to traditional bulbs makes them much friendlier for recycling facilities that have struggled with unrecyclable light bulbs prior to introduction of LEDs.

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It doesn’t stop there, though. The flexibility of LEDs means that not only can they perform at low voltage – making them perfect for outdoor use (especially in countries like the UK where the weather tends to change its mind) – they are perfect at any power percentage.

When it comes to LEDs, unlike many other traditional lighting methods, they can go from levels of 5% to 100% and still perform well. Traditional lighting performs less efficiently when dimmed compared to LEDs; some traditional lighting cannot be dimmed at all.

You may be interested in: Why more people are turning to dimmable lighting

In fact, LED lighting operates more efficiently when used at less-than-full power, meaning that the lifespan of the bulb is increased and less energy is being used; reducing energy costs and environmental impact.

Similarly, LEDs can turn on and off within an instant unlike their traditional counterparts. If you’ve ever gone to turn on a halogen or incandescent bulb, you’ll have noticed a significant warm up period as the bulb slowly lights up or a fluorescent light flickers before turning it on.

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None of this is seen with LED lighting which have much longer lifespans due to not being affected by persistent switching on and off.

So now you can see why LEDs are a major part of the transition to net zero. With an increasing demand for lighting around the world and with an even higher demand for eco alternatives and choices for our ever-growing power grid, LEDs are a clear no brainer for a total switch to green power and a world below the 1.5 degree threshold.

Ready to take the step into the future of lighting? Contact Cube Lighting & Design here to see if you qualify for free LED lighting!

Want to keep reading? Check out our latest blog post here: How LED lighting can help with Alzheimer’s disease

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