Silicon Valley All Aglow on Green Lighting

LEDs pave way for the future.

Silicon Valley has seen the light, and it's LED. The incandescent light bulb has had the global lighting market in its grip for more than 130 years, building into a more than $100 billion industry. But green concerns about efficiency spell an end to the era, and the U.S. technology capital sees light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, as the new king. "Lighting is going to completely change over the course of this decade," said Alan Salzman, chief executive of Silicon Valley-based venture fund VantagePoint Venture Partners. His firm has $4.5 billion in committed capital in startups across different sectors, but lighting is an area he is very bullish on. "The largest sector in terms of companies in our portfolio is lighting," Salzman said. While many love the look of the light cast by incandescent bulbs, none like the high energy bills.

Nations around the world, including the United States, are phasing in efficiency standards that will eliminate the incandescents if no major energy improvements happen. Investors are betting on other technologies taking hold. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs so far have been the only real alternative to conventional bulbs but they contain mercury and many don't like the quality of the light. LED lights, on the other hand, contain no mercury, have a long life and are very energy efficient. LEDs, made of diodes or chips, have come a long way since the first practical LED was a developed in 1962. Its sole color was red. Now developers produce light colors across the spectrum. They consume only about 20 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs. With about 20 percent of the world's electricity used for lighting, switching to LEDs would generate significant energy savings and cut greenhouse gas emissions while nations debate how to price carbon dioxide pollution.

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