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EPA blasted over LED lighting confusion

The US Environmental Protection Agency says that it is determined to work closely with the Department of Energy on solid-state lighting standards, after the latter accuses the EPA of misrepresenting its Energy Star criteria.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appear to be at loggerheads over requirements for LED-based lighting products, with the EPA now accused of issuing misleading information.

Senior figures at the DOE rebuked the agency for what it said were a series of errors in a document that the EPA released on July 25. That document was supposed to define the differences between the two bodies individual criteria for allowing the crucial Energy Star label to appear on LED-based lighting products.

The Energy Star program is run jointly by the two government bodies, and its labels are designed to tell consumers that approved products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines.

But while the DOE finalized its Energy Star criteria for LED-based lighting nearly a year ago, the EPA unexpectedly issued its own separate guidelines in early June. The DOE is now concerned that the obvious confusion will damage the commercialization of solid-state lighting in the US.

"The folks at EPA have grossly misrepresented the DOE criteria," sources close to the controversy said of the latest EPA document, going on to highlight several specific instances of misinformation.

"We ve worked hard to assure that once general illumination LED lighting reaches the market place, consumers can be assured of quality," they added. "EPA s motives and back-handed approach must be questioned."

EPA response
The EPA says that its separate Energy Star criteria were developed in response to requests from lighting fixture manufacturers, and that its own standards are complementary to the DOE s.

Ann Bailey, the EPA s director of Energy Star product labelling, told compoundsemiconductor.net: "We are committed to working closely with the DOE," although she did not wish to comment directly on accusations of spreading disinformation.

Bailey s view is that while the DOE s key role was to fund and nurture the development of LED lighting technologies, it has no mandate to take the lead on marketing.

She added that the EPA s standards for solid-state lighting are consistent with its previous approaches to residential lighting, rather than being LED-specific, and that this approach is the correct one for consumers:

"Consumers aren t interested in which technology is inside the lamp. They don't shop for technology "“ they shop for efficiency."

While both parties desperately want to avoid a repeat of the disastrous introduction of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), whose long start-up times and harsh, blue-tinged illumination proved unpopular, the DOE clearly believes that the EPA s interference will cause similar problems.

According to the DOE source: "The stakes are very high for the [lighting] industry, Energy Star, and this country, as it relates to the promise that this important technology offers as part of the solution to our climate change problems."

"If we wait to evaluate the damage caused by allowing a cheaper and easier alternative path for products to be qualified, it will be loo late."

"The damage will be done, and the market will suffer a major setback. A broad specification would be suicidal."

Bailey responded: "We fundamentally disagree that these standards are conflicting and that they will restrict the solid-state lighting market in the future."

She believes that over the next year or so, it will become clear whether the two test procedures are accepted by the market as they come into force.

But in an example that highlights the apparent lack of communication between the two parties, the EPA also appears mistaken about the introduction of those standards. In its latest document, the EPA said that the DOE s Energy Star criteria will come into effect on November 1, 2008.

According to the DOE, the EPA is one month out: "The kick-off date is September 30, 2008, just like it has always been," it said.

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