Considered as electric energy converters, all these existing lamps are inefficient, emitting more of their input energy as waste heat than as visible light. Global electric lighting in 1997 consumed 2016 terawatthours of energy. Lighting consumes roughly 12% of electrical energy produced by industrialized countries. The increasing scarcity of energy resources, and the environmental costs of producing energy, particularly the discovery of global warming due to carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, which are the largest source of energy for electric power generation, created an increased incentive to develop more energy-efficient electric lights.
The first low-powered LEDs were developed in the early 1960s, and only produced light in the low, red frequencies of the spectrum. The first high-brightness blue LED was demonstrated by Shuji Nakamura of Nichia Corporation in 1994. The existence of blue LEDs and high-efficiency LEDs led to the development of the first ‘white LED’, which employed a phosphor coating to partially convert the emitted blue light to red and green frequencies creating a light that appears white. Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Nakamura were later awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the blue LED.
China further boosted LED research and development in 1995 and demonstrated its first LED Christmas tree in 1998. The new LED technology application then became prevalent at the start of the 21st century by US (Cree) and Japan (Nichia, Panasonic, Toshiba, etc.) and then starting 2004 by Korea and China (Samsung, Kingsun, Solstice, Hoyol, etc.)
In the USA, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 authorized the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize competition, known as the “L Prize”, the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to challenge industry to develop replacements for 60 W incandescent lamps and PAR 38 halogen lamps. The EISA legislation established basic requirements and prize amounts for each of the two competition categories, and authorized up to $20 million in cash prizes. The competition also included the possibility for winners to obtain federal purchasing agreements, utility programs, and other incentives.
In May 2008, they announced details of the competition and technical requirements for each category. Lighting products meeting the competition requirements could use just 17% of the energy used by most incandescent lamps in use today. That same year the DOE also launched the Energy Star program for solid-state lighting products. The EISA legislation also authorized an additional L Prize program for developing a new “21st Century Lamp”.