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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Delegation of SEMI Members Meet with DOE on Solid State Lighting Policy

A delegation of SEMI members and other stakeholders in LED manufacturing met with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Energy David Danielson and his senior staff in August to advocate for increased support for R&D and manufacturing in solid state lighting (SSL). The group based their arguments on the significantly higher return-on-investment (ROI) from government funding demonstrated by LED-based solid state lighting over renewable energy sources and other energy investments. Also emphasized was the strong bipartisan and bicameral support from both the U.S. House and Senate for solid state lighting, a fact under-appreciated in this era of austerity and reduced funding expectations.

Support for an appropriately–funded and effective U.S. LED manufacturing policy has much of its origins with the FALCON Lighting Consortium, a group of solid state lighting industry proponents led by Philips Lumileds, and SEMI members Applied Materials, Veeco, KLA-Tencor, Ultratech, and others. SEMI and FALCON have long advocated increased DOE support for developing solid state lighting in the U.S., particularly in the area of manufacturing, but also supportive of other solid state lighting related efforts. In addition to U.S.–based manufacturing, SEMI members in the U.S. are among the world leaders in supplying equipment and materials for LED manufacturing around the world.

U.S. LED manufacturing received over $23 million in grants in areas such as metrology, lithography, and deposition R&D as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. Since that time, funding has been reduced, but considerable bipartisan and bicameral support on Capitol Hill have successfully restored and increased funding levels above the requests put forward by the DOE to the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees.

During the meeting, the group demonstrated that energy conservation afforded by solid state lighting will have greater impact in U.S. energy use than the renewable energy generation technologies being supported by current government investments. Based upon estimates by the independent energy information administration, DOE and others, solid state lighting can deliver 4.0-6.0 quads of annual energy savings for a 10-20 times higher ROI than other energy investment alternatives. A summary of the solid state lighting ROI argument is provided below:

During the meeting, the group urged greater balance for energy funding in the FY2013 and future budgets. Dr. Richard Solarz, senior director of Technology at KLA-Tencor, and Randy Moorhead, VP for government relations at Philips Electronics, co-leaders of the group advocating for greater DOE support for solid state lighting stated, “According to the Energy Information Administration, on a dollar-per-unit of-production basis, the level of subsidies received by the wind and solar industries were almost 100 times greater than those for conventional energy. We believe that it is generally understood that conventional energy conservation, specifically lighting, efforts are under supported.”

This is the first time in the past several years that an Assistant Secretary has agreed to meet with solid state lighting industry proponents to discuss this important issue. SEMI believes that the meeting will be a singular opportunity to secure support for Solid State Lighting beyond its funding levels of the past four years, this in spite of the clear anticipation of highly constrained national budgets in the coming years. Education efforts on the value and return of solid state lighting has consistently been conducted among key Committee members and staff in the U.S. House and Senate and support for increased DOE funding in this area have been voiced by both Democratic and Republican legislators. Despite the austerity mood in Washington, SEMI is confident that increased budget requests for LED-based lighting technologies will receive considerable bicameral and bipartisan support in the legislative branch during upcoming legislative sessions.