Starting in 2011, the IEA 4E SSL Annex launched a research project to review of all the available literature associated with life-cycle assessments of LED lamps and luminaires compared to conventional light sources. The purpose of this work was to provide policy-makers with answers to important questions like ‘what are the environmental impacts of LED products over their whole life cycle?’ and ‘what are the strongest contributors to the environmental impacts of LED products?’
The report focuses on nine life-cycle assessment (LCA) reports published between 2009 and 2013 that compare LED lamps and luminaires with conventional sources. The report uses the data presented in these reports, including research by the US Department of Energy (DOE), the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other recent studies. The study found that on average, 85% of the environmental impact is linked to the use phase, while the remaining 15% is shared mainly between manufacturing and end-of-life treatment. Thus, the ‘energy in the use’ phase of an LED lighting system is the phase that has the largest environmental impact. Promoting more energy-efficient LED systems represents an opportunity to significantly reduce the impact of illuminating our buildings and outdoor areas.