August 15, 2011
Last week the DOE (Department of Energy) announced the winner of the 60-W replacement category of its Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition, which aims to find a replacement for the 60-W incandescent bulb. Philips Lighting received the $10 million prize for its 9.7-W, 910-lumen LED bulb, which was submitted in 2009 and underwent roughly 18 months of testing to ensure that it met the exacting competition requirements.
Zia Eftekhar, CEO, Philips Lighting North America accepted the award on August 3 in Washington D.C. during an event hosted by U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Lisa Murkowski. Arun Majumdar, senior advisor to the secretary and director of Advance Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at the U.S. Department of Energy made the announcement. Afterwards, Eftekhar reflected on the competition, Philips’ new L Prize bulb and what it’s like to win $10 million.
What was the submission process like and when did you find out that you won?
ZE: We found out a few weeks ago. The process was that you enter, you submit the product and you go through a testing period. DOE really wanted to make sure the product was fully vetted so they extended the testing time. Although several other companies have announced their intentions of entering, we remain the only company to have officially submitted a product. Testing was roughly 18 months and involved a number of utility partners. One of the utility consortiums tested 100 different applications with these bulbs. It was gratifying to see our commitment to LED technology to come to fruition.
What sort of internal testing did you perform beforehand to ensure the bulb could meet the rigorous competition requirements?
ZE: Philips committed itself to LED technology years ago, so we already had a springboard, including setting protocol for various levels of testing. We performed stress testing and different testing at the chip level—Lumileds takes it through exhaustive testing procedures—and then when we put the components together at the system phase there was more testing. We were already internally very convinced that it would meet the DOE’s criteria, which were very rigorous. DOE was committed to making sure that there is certainty in terms of product quality and performance, so they had independent utilities perform the testing. There were 31 partners in all.
The $10 million prize is an impressive amount.
ZE: Philips’ investment in the development of the L Prize far exceeded the award money. As a company, we entered the L Prize competition looking at it as an investment in the future of LED technology, the company and energy efficiency. Philips will use the award to invest in the production of the L Prize lamp here in the U.S. and to further develop the technology from development of LEDs to the manufacturing process.
What is the difference between the L Prize bulb and Philips’ other LED replacement offerings that are current on the market?
ZE: Part of the R&D it took to develop the L Prize bulb went to developing products that are currently in the consumer market place: the 60-W and 75-W EnduraLED bulbs. Those products have many of those attributes of the L Prize bulb, such as dimming and remote phosphor technology, but the L Prize bulb has a higher level of performance; for instance, it produces more lumens per watt. In certain applications, these differences matter. For example, dimming range comes into picture. We need to have a range of options available for consumers.
As with Energy Star, will utility rebates be offered for the product?
ZE: Part of the process was to work with partner utilities to offer rebates, and a number of them have committed to do so.
When will this bulb be brought to market?
ZE: We’re in the process of getting the manufacturing process moving forward, and estimate that it should be available commercially before the end of this year. Part of the program is that the federal government will commit to buy LED replacement products that meet these specifications. And we anticipate that the government will do that—whether it’s with a Philips product or with someone else’s product.