Twenty-five years ago, ENERGY STAR® launched as a voluntary program managed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Today, ENERGY STAR boasts 2.5 billion tons of greenhouse gases reduced and $362 billion dollars saved in energy bills to date.
The blue ENERGY STAR label that we all recognize does not just symbolize that a product passed a certain certification. It symbolizes energy savings, and therefore some cost savings, for consumers. It also gives people comfort knowing they are purchasing a product that is better for the environment.
Earlier this year, the United States government released its fiscal year 2018 budget. This document included a proposal to eliminate over 10 voluntary energy-related programs, including ENERGY STAR, to help the EPA put the focus back on its core work programs.
The consequences of terminating ENERGY STAR will have adverse consequences for the environment. But there are opportunities that we can explore to keep it alive.
Fixtures, luminaires and lamps that want to carry the ENERGY STAR label become qualified based in part on the light source inside. Bridgelux light emitting diodes (LEDs) with high lumens per Watt and color quality metrics help fixture manufacturers meet ENERGY STAR requirements. It is a symbiotic partnership that Bridgelux values immensely.
ENERGY STAR dictates the minimum efficiency requirements needed at the fixture level. They steer the industry into achieving energy and environmental goals that are beneficial for fixture consumers and ultimately the population at large. However, ENERGY STAR does not dictate how Bridgelux or other companies must meet the efficiency values. This leaves plenty of room for companies like Bridgelux to innovate and find new ways to build unique product lines that expose quality lighting safely and properly within the recommended guidelines. It’s a win – win – win for Bridgelux, the environment and consumers.
Certifications such as ENERGY STAR or UL are significant product differentiators as consumers evaluate their potential product purchases. These certifications symbolize that companies are complying with industry approved standards and are a step ahead of inferior products whose origin and quality are unknown.
Bridgelux believes that ongoing collaboration between LED lighting companies and ENERGY STAR is essential. A lack of ENERGY STAR compliance could open the market to LED products of low quality, low performance and low reliability that will irreparably harm the industry. Production of light sources not required to meet ENERGY STAR standards could also result in environmental damage by manufacturers using subpar materials.
Bridgelux sees this proposed defunding as an opportunity to reinvigorate ENERGY STAR for the LED lighting industry in these ways:
The increasing demand for high quality light should be considered in future ENERGY STAR recommendations. It is common today to make efficient light sources, but when the guidelines are too narrowly focused on certain elements of lighting, companies can end up producing an unattractive spectrum that will lower quality and ultimately hurt product adoption.
For example, a specification that addresses color angular uniformity light quality may pass ENERGY STAR criteria, but the light quality may be poor and result in a negative user experience. Although the intention of the ENERGY STAR criteria is positive, the result can hurt product adoption. Frustration then grows from both manufacturers when low light quality is produced, and from customers who cringe at the light they see during an installation at their home or office. But we shouldn’t give up! Bringing together manufacturers with comprehensive LED lighting expertise with ENERGY STAR will only make future specifications stronger and products with better light quality that are in great demand by consumers.
One of the proposed solutions is for a nongovernmental organization to take over the reins for ENERGY STAR. Could this be a feasible solution in the short term? Probably not. The uninterrupted continuation of this program is essential to maintaining energy efficiency and cost savings for consumers, not to mention preserving the environment.
Could this be a feasible solution in the long term? Very likely. But only with integration of expertise from companies that agree to be impartial in their creation of standards. Participants need to focus on the future of the environment while building standards that are safe and cost effective for the consumer.
Those that believe taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund ENERGY STAR have a legitimate argument.
If it turned into a membership-based organization that still maintains voluntary participation, companies across all relevant industries have an equal chance of participating in ENERGY STAR and not being hindered by lobbyists or those with more influence within the government.
Membership organizations such as SAE International also have the ability to reach global audiences in a way that government funded agencies might not. Encouraging energy and environmental savings to our partners, customers and suppliers globally will have positive environmental effects in the future.
Bridgelux encourages customers, suppliers, and those in the LED lighting industry to support the continuation of ENERGY STAR.
And we also encourage you to use this time to be part of a new solution. How can ENERGY STAR thrive without government funding? Would you be willing to pay into a membership organization to sustain the standards that we’ve been working towards over the past 25 years? If you’re in the LED lighting industry, which standards would you like to see integrated into ENERGY STAR to maintain consumer safety and environmental protection? Together we can save ENERGY STAR while helping consumers and our environment.