The use of LEDs to illuminate buildings and outdoor spaces reduced the total carbon dioxide emissions of lighting by an estimated 570 million tons in 2017, according to market analyst IHS Markit. This reduction is roughly equivalent to shutting down 162 coal-fired power plants; LED lighting uses an average of 40 percent less power than fluorescents, and 80 percent less than incandescents, to produce the same amount of light.
“The efficiency of LEDs is essentially what makes them environmentally friendly,” said Jamie Fox, a principal analyst at IHS Markit. “Therefore, LED conversion is unlike other measures, which require people to reduce consumption or make lifestyle changes.”
LED component and lighting companies were responsible for reducing the global carbon footprint by an estimated 1.5 percent in 2017, and that number is likely to continue to grow as more LEDs are installed around the world.
LEDs have other positive environmental benefits, too. For example, LEDs have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs and fewer are produced, so the emissions and pollution associated with the production, shipping, sale and disposal of the products is lowered.
Secondly, unlike fluorescents, LEDs do not contain mercury. LEDs also decrease air pollution, since most electrical energy is still generated by burning fossil fuels. “While other activities affect climate change more than lighting does, it is still a very strong contribution from a single industry sector,” Fox said.
IHS Markit has tracked the market share for top LED component suppliers for many years. Based on an analysis of this data, Japan’s Nichia can claim credit for having saved the most carbon overall — accounting for 10 percent of all LED lighting reduction achieved in 2017, which translates into 57 million tons of CO2 — about the same as 16 coal plants. Cree followed Nichia with 8 percent, while Lumileds, Seoul Semiconductor, MLS, Samsung and LG Innotek each have a share in the range of 4 percent to 7 percent.
“LED component companies and lighting companies have transformed their industry,” Fox said. “They are fighting climate change much more effectively than other industries, and they should be given credit for it. Unlike in other industry sectors, workers at LED companies can honestly say that by selling more of their products, they are helping to reduce global warming.”
Savings achieved by each company relate to the energy saved by the use of that company’s components while installed in lighting applications. It does not include a whole lifecycle analysis, which would likely lead to a small additional positive benefit, due to the longer life of LEDs. Nor do IHS Markit figures include energy saved by LEDs that replaced other technologies in other sectors beyond lighting, such as automotive and consumer technology.