General Electric has seen the light: The 123-year-old company is acknowledging that the future of lighting belongs to light-emitting diodes (LEDs). And GE is not just any industry player. One of its founding directors, Thomas Edison (who left the company in 1894), patented the first commercially successful incandescent bulb, an industry standard for more than a century.
Earlier this month GE announced that it will phase out compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and increase its focus on producing LED lights.
After the federal government banned 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012 for not meeting US energy standards, CFL bulbs emerged as the popular and relatively cheap energy-efficient alternative.
In 2015 CFLs remained the bulb of choice for most consumers, despite complaints about their light quality (they illuminate gradually, especially in cold temperatures; put out a “cold” light; and contain a small amount of mercury, a hazardous material if a bulb is broken).
While LED lights were available in 2012 and the lighting was better, they cost $40-$50 apiece, pushing consumers toward the cheaper CFL bulbs.
However, with technological improvements and more efficient production, LED prices have fallen substantially. A three-pack of general-purpose 60-watt-equivalent LEDs made by GE now sells for less than $10 at Home Depot.
Not to be left behind, German lighting giant Osram has recently given its for-sale lamps and general lighting unit a new name: LEDVANCE. According to Osram CEO Olaf Berlien, “The name reflects the trend toward LED in the lighting market as well as the opportunities arising from this development.” At Lowe’s, a single, dimmable 60-watt-equivalent LED from Osram is priced at $8.98.
GE predicts the LED lights will be used in more than 50% of US light sockets by 2020. Not only that, those LED lightbulbs will last for 22 years.
According to John Strainic, GE’s lighting COO, “These LED lightbulbs are starting to replicate what the electrical filament has done for over 100 years — providing that look and warm ambience that people are used to.”
More like Edison’s original bulbs. Edison, in spirit, is probably basking in the warm and expanding LED glow.
British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover’s since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin’s “The Prize.” You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.