U.S. Lighting Competition Status

Still just one contestant for L Prize, but even if it turns out to be a one-party, one-candidate selection, the outcome could still matter

2 min read

So far there's still just one contestant for the U.S. Energy Department’s L Prize, as DOE announced on Sept. 24: Philips Lighting. The award, authorized by Congress in 2007, seeks to stimulate rapid replacement of two very widely used and very energy-inefficient lamps, the 60-watt incandescent bulb, and the Par 38 halogen. DOE says that if the four-hundred-million-plus 60-W bulbs currently used in the United States were replaced by LED lighting, enough electricity would be saved to illuminate more than seventeen million households, with five million fewer tons of carbon emitted annually.

Philips reportedly has delivered 2000 prototype bulbs to DOE for testing, claiming they meet all contest requirements: the same amount and colors of a 60-W bulb but for 10 watts, a 25,000-hour lifetime, etc. However, Congress has been dragging its feet on actually appropriating the money needed to reward the winner or winners, and no additional contestants have entered or even expressed firm interest in competing.

In a way it may not matter. A company like Philips doesn't really need the $10 million that would go for the 60-W-incandescent replacement or the $5 million for a successor to the PAR 38. And even if there never is another competitor, the award is made to the first company over the line, so Philips can still win fair and squarely. What really matters, points out DOE's Christina Kielich in an e-mail, is that 27 U.S. companies have partnered with the L Prize program to drive the winning product or products out into the marketplace.

“For example," she says, "PG&E and Southern California Edison might elect to do a bill stuffer, rebate, or other incentive to get the product into the hands of millions of electricity customers. The partners are ramping up plans for field testing next spring, so a number of them will have hands-on experience too."

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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