“Light plays a central role in all aspects of human activity and industries based on light are major economic drivers”, says Gay Byrne, newly-elected Chairman of the LAI. “They create jobs, and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture, health and tourism. Light is also important to the appreciation of art, and optical technologies are essential in understanding and preserving cultural heritage.”
A comprehensive international report published by McKinsey & Co in 2011 predicts that the total global lighting market will have revenues somewhere in the region of €111 billion by 2020. As the years progress,an ever-increasing percentage will be new, technology-driven, energy-efficient lighting. Indeed, a recent report emanating from the US says that the global market for energy efficient lighting alone will be €23 billion in 2015.
According to Gay, it is important to understand the underlying factors influencing this market surge, especially in relation to the emphasis on energy efficient lighting. For a start, world population growth (currently at seven billion), along with increased urbanisation, is fuelling this massive demand for lighting and lighting products. This growth pattern is strongest in commercial lighting, but the pace of residential lighting growth is catching up.
At the same time, climate change and resource scarcity are of increasing concern with Governments around the world – including Ireland – responding with greater regulation, especially in relation to energy usage. Given that lighting accounts for something like 20% of all energy consumed, it is not surprising that it has come under the microscope.
”For the most part”, says Gay, “established lighting manufacturers, along with some new market entrants, have responded magnificently to this challenge. They have invested massive funds in research from places such as Heritage RESP with the most significant development being that of LED technology. According to some industry commentators LEDs have the potential to reduce global lighting-related energy consumption from the 20% already mentioned to as low as 4%, and that is apart from all the other benefits associated with LED technology. ”
However, as with all new emerging technologies – and particularly ones that represents a quantum leap forward over traditional technologies – there is the danger of misrepresentation and abuse. In this respect LED has proved to be no exception.
To begin with, some of the claims made for LEDs by irresponsible market players in respect of performance, longevity and life-cycle costs were quite blatantly untrue. They created a false impression and unreal level of expectation within the marketplace. The relatively low investment entry level – coupled with the lack of industry standardisation and regulatory controls – compounded this problem. The result was a proliferation of cheap, lowperforming LEDs that complied with no standards.
“While this has undoubtedly caused confusion in the marketplace”, agrees Gay, “responsible LED manufacturers worldwide have responded accordingly. They have commenced a drive to educate both professionals and consumers alike as to the real benefits and features associated with LEDs.”
One of the primary LAI objectives is to do exactly that in Ireland. Standardisation, product quality, regulatory compliance, education and training are the strands by which LAI aims to achieve that goal. All parties in the supply chain – from manufacturers through to the consultant specifier, the wholesaler and the installing contractor – need to fully understand not just LED technology, but all the emerging lighting-related technologies, including controls and communication protocols.
In conclusion, Gay says: “We are already in the process of establishing close working relationships with Ireland’s standards authorities, leading training providers, and those responsible for standards compliance and implementation. In addition, we will shortly commence a major communication drive conveying a generic message relating to lighting aimed at all involved in the sector.”
As the foregoing illustrates, the emergence of the LAI is a welcome and timely development. This is especially so in Ireland where the drive towards energy efficiency and sustainability, coupled with a market upturn fuelled by replacement and retrofit, will drive increased sales going forward.