Lighting has long been a prime target for R&D at DOE because of its high energy demand (see, e.g., Ross, 1978). Despite a dramatic improvement in lighting energy efficiency since the late 1970s, about 30 percent of the electricity used in buildings (an average of commercial and residential use) is for electric lighting.2

The overarching criterion for evaluating all projects funded by the DOE’s Office of Building Technologies (OBT) is energy efficiency, which results in decreased energy consumption (measured in quadrillion British thermal units [quads] or kilowatt-hours [kWh]). For the lighting program, energy efficiency means improving the technology of lighting so that lamps produce more lumens per watt (lpw) of electricity. OBT’s role is limited to supporting R&D. The lighting program is a success if the technology it supports is used in commercial products, but industry is responsible for designing and building the products. A secondary goal of OBT is to help American companies stay competitive with foreign companies, which benefit from the large investments provided by their governments, estimated to be $50 million per year and growing.

The lighting program’s main focus is on solid state lighting (SSL), including both light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) (Wessner, 2002).3 Colored LEDs are already in the commercial market in high volume (e.g., brake lights on automobiles and other directional colored lights), and white devices are being produced in lower volumes for niche applications. LEDs are not yet competitive for purposes of general illumination. OLEDs are less advanced but show promise for use in highly diffuse lighting involving large, thin-film panels on walls or ceilings.

The goal of the DOE SSL Program is to develop highly efficacious (high lpw), reliable, low-cost, high-color-quality white light sources that will displace conventional lighting in both commercial and residential buildings. Higher efficacy is key to both energy savings and cost reduction and is therefore the most critical objective. Specifically, the SSL goal is 150 lpw by 2015 for commercially available products. The SSL core technology funding plan is focused primarily on improving efficacy, but the additional goals of cost, reliability, and light quality will be almost as important in ensuring commercial success.

The OBT has sponsored workshops with industry, government laboratories, and universities to establish a technology roadmap for SSL technology. The roadmap includes program objectives, barriers to achieving those objectives, and research areas that should be pursued in order to overcome those barriers (OIDA, 2002). Key tasks are to develop the following: improved materials for LEDs and OLEDs, novel device structures for high power and improved light extraction efficiency, and packaging and wavelength conversion technologies for improved efficacy and device lifetime. The OBT is also providing funding for product development that includes luminaire design and materials, as well as intelligent electronics for LEDs and OLEDS.

Thirty projects have been identified for funding in the Solid State Lighting Program. Approximately two-thirds are devoted to support of LED development. LEDs and OLEDs are quite different technologies, and there is little overlap between the two research programs. The justification for pursuing LEDs and OLEDs in parallel and the appropriate distribution of funding will be evaluated on an ongoing basis through the program.

The entire lighting program within the OBT had been at a level of approximately $4 million per year for the past 10 years. Congress provided significantly greater funding ($7.75 million in FY 2004) for solid state lighting and is expected to increase it again in FY 2005 to at least $10 million per year. The justification for this increased funding stems in large part from the projected energy savings that would be realized by accelerating the development of solid state lighting.

However, the SSL goal of 150 lpw by 2015 is predicated on the program’s receiving a budget of $50 million per year for 10 years. Such a big increase is by no means certain, so the panel requested an analysis of technological progress and market penetration if only $25 million per year were available. As might be expected, technological and economic progress would be slower in the latter case, with SSL achieving only 102 lpw by 2015. The impact of the two sets of assumptions is discussed in the next section.


Prospective benefits of DOE’s SSL Program are estimated using the generalized matrix framework developed by the full NRC committee. Potential benefits are categorized as economic, environmental, and national security. In the case of lighting, all benefits derive from reduced demand for electricity as a result of the use of more efficient lighting technologies.

The matrix assumes that SSL benefits would be calculated under three scenarios: a baseline scenario, a scenario involving high oil and natural gas prices, and a scenario including carbon constraints. The lighting panel, however, did not find the second and third scenarios useful for its analysis.


James R. Brodrick, U.S. Department of Energy, “DOE Solid State Lighting Program,” Presentation to the Panel on Benefits of Lighting R&D, July 8, 2004.


OBT will continue to fund R&D on conventional light sources in the foreseeable future, albeit at a much reduced level, probably less than 20 percent of the lighting R&D budget. (James R. Brodrick, U.S. Department of Energy, “DOE Solid State Lighting Program,” presentation to the Panel on Benefits of Lighting R&D, July 8, 2004.) The panel reviewed this part of the program but did not estimate the potential benefits from it.

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