Bryan Douglas, chief executive officer of Lighting Council Australia, stresses that Australia needs standards to weed out underperforming LED lighting products from the Australian market. Standards are needed, he believes, to boost Australian consumer confidence in the nascent, but quickly evolving, LED lighting technology.
Bryan Douglas, CEO of Lighting Council Australia
He visited Taiwan for the first time to attend the annual meeting of the Global Lighting Association (GLA), held (also for the first time) in Taiwan on the sidelines of the Taiwan International Lighting Show (TILS) on Mar. 13-16, 2012.
Douglas expressed his belief that LED lighting will play a significant role in the Australian lighting market in the coming years, penetrating the professional market first; LED lighting, in his estimation, now accounts for roughly 20% of his country's new installations of commercial and professional lighting.
In the area of household applications, however, the CEO is less confident about Australia's LED lighting market. In an interview with CENS Lighting Magazine, excerpted below, he stressed that the Australian market for household LED lighting can only take off after quality standards are in place:
Q: What's your outlook for the Australian lighting market in the coming years?
A: LED will play a significant role and penetrate the professional market first. But in terms of the domestic sector, it's a little uncertain at this stage because the Australian government is not yet focused on LED. So, we do not have adequate standards for LEDs. And the Australian government is not promoting LEDs in any way—no incentives, no signals, and no education of consumers.
So, it's up the industry to do that until the government comes on board and starts promoting the technology, giving a signal to consumers. I feel that the domestic market will really take off; but we need standards in place first, and we need quality.
Unfortunately, the Australian market is characterized by a lot of poor-quality [LED] products.
Q: Who should be held responsible for the poor quality of the products?
A: The lack of standards, and suppliers making untrue claims about the performance of the products. That's a significant issue. Of course there are some good [products] available; but, unfortunately, consumers are not educated in LED technology.
Q: Who produces those products?
A: They are all imported products. Nearly all lighting products are imported into Australia; they come from all over the world, really. But a lot of them come from China because it is a large manufacturing base. I'm not picking out China, but China does produce some products.
So, it is the duty of the industry to try to rectify that [poor-quality problem]. My own organization has a certification program for LEDs, which is proving popular among our members. The scheme, what we call the SSL Quality Scheme, is based on a scheme introduced by the U.S. Department of Energy. A luminaire carrying the Scheme's label matches certain performance claims made by the supplier, providing confidence to the market.
Q: Do you have government backing for that scheme?
A: We don't have government backup as such. But I think the government supports what we are doing, although they are not giving overt support. It's an industry-led voluntary scheme.
Q: Given the lack of government support, do you think that's a viable program?
A: It is viable among the members, who use it as a marketing program. What we need to do is promote it, although there is some challenge to make consumers aware of the certification program. We are working on that. So far, I'm pleased with the success of the program.
Q: Then how about importers? Might they stay outside the scheme's governance?
A: This program is just for our members, not for pure importers.
Q: Are all of your members manufacturers?
A: All of our members are suppliers and some of them are manufacturers. The products they import can be certified under the scheme.
Q: Why hasn't the Australian government focused on LEDs and produced standards for LED lighting products? Doesn't the government care about the development of LED lighting technology?
A: I think the Australian government is very much interested in the lighting technology, of course. It is just that it still does not know which way to go at this moment, because there is no standard. But the government will regulate, I'm sure, in time. I expect in a year or two we'll have regulations.
Q: Don't you offer advice to the government?
A: We do. We talk to the government. But before you can regulate something, you must have specific standards. So, if a supplier says a lighting fixture lasts for 30,000 hours, or even 50,000 hours, we still don't have an effective test for that.
The technology is evolving so quickly, so I think the government is sitting back for a while to watch the development. They will step in when they feel it's an appropriate time. We're urging the government to intervene; the industry needs government intervention to get rid of poor-performing products in the market, but the government has not reacted so far.
Q: Why is that?
A: Again, the government feels it is not ready. They want to assess the situation more before stepping in and regulating, and they want to ensure that regulations put in place are appropriate. The technology is evolving so quickly [that] a minimum performance standard now could very quickly become out of date. They would be concerned about that.
Q: Australia is one of the world's few developed economies that do not depend on nuclear energy at all. Of course Australia has rich mineral reserves; but burning coal to generate electricity is quite a dilemma, isn't it? Because it produces CO2 emissions. So, what is Austria's energy policy and energy cost trend?
A: Traditionally, Australia's energy cost is very cheap because we have rich coal reserves. But that is about to change because the Australian government has announced a carbon tax; that will drive up electricity costs considerably, and create a climate where LED and other energy-efficient products can thrive. Already the cost of electricity in Australia has gone up quite a bit in the last few years, but it will go up more when the carbon tax is introduced. That means there will be significant incentives to change over to more efficient technologies, including lighting. So, we're expecting the LED market will boom, particularly when the measure comes into effect.
Q: What is the dominant lighting technology in Australia now?
A: In households it's halogen. In Australia we have a lot of fairs with halogen downlights. The Australian government is hoping that LED will replace this product. Australia has a very, very high penetration of this product, probably the highest in the world. So, whoever produces a viable replacement for 50W halogen will make a big fortune in the Australian market.
I think as soon as we have a viable replacement for halogen downlights, there will be a significant switch to LEDs. The government will encourage that switch because it doesn't like halogen technology. Halogen is still incandescent technology, and the government wants to remove incandescent products when appropriate replacements are available.
Q: How is Australia's incandescent phase-out plan coming along?
A: We've already instituted the phase-out of GLS (general lighting service)—that's what we call tungsten halogen. There are other incandescents available. In time, all of them will disappear only when adequate replacement products are available.
(by Ken Liu)