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Put the Robert Ludlum paperback to one side and tell your other-half to shelve the Mills and Boon. The Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy has released a draft of the proposed Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS) for LED lighting products – and, as expected, it’s a ripping page-turner.

There could be a few minor adjustments to the truth in the above paragraph, but the document is at least important for a range of impacts it intends to/might have on the Australian lighting market. The Department is calling for comment from industry at the moment.

Among the proposed standards are:

  • Minimum luminous efficacies (lm/W) – The core energy efficiency metric.
  • Photobiological hazard testing (blue light, UV etc) – Avoid burning your retina. Probably a good thing.
  • Defined colour temperature ranges – We’ll talk about this some other time.
  • Minimum colour rendering score above 80 CRI – Hmmm… Okay. But there’s a market-driven solution to this in the offing already. (For example, we’d never sell you anything lower)

Let’s turn the volume up to 11 on the Solstice Lighting Stereo of Opinion, and see what’s playing…

1.) So long, LED cowboy – If you’ve been to a home-show in any of the past 6 years you might have caught a glimpse through the heaving human fog. Wedged between the miked-up spruiker flogging StayzSharp™ knives and the property investment guru with the free book, is a 3m x 3m booth crammed full of the lowest quality LED lamps and integrated downlight kits money can be wasted on. We suspect that the capital impost of buying compliant products and then doing compliance testing will remove many of the dodgier players from the market. This means greater assurance for consumers.

2.) Exemptions for the little guys – Basically, as a small player, we’ll still be able to make our FiftySeventy Linear System to spec without having to get a MEPS registration for each of 1500 possible variations, saving tens of thousands of dollars in compliance testing. There’ be a volume limit for ‘Decorative Integrated Luminaires’ which are “primarily designed for their lighted as well as their unlighted appearance and aesthetic contribution to the space”. The production/sales limit hasn’t been defined yet, so a recommendation will definitely be going into our submission.

3.) Competition woes – About six or seven years ago the Lighting Council of Australia (LCA), an industry group which represents the interests of some big lighting companies and has a few smaller ones as members, began to promote a product labeling scheme called “Solid State Lighting (LED) Quality Scheme”. No doubt the quality assurance intentions were rock solid, but seeing that the label was only available to members of the LCA, one of the up-shots of the scheme might have been increased LED market-share for their own members during a period of disruption within industry. (Note: This was not a stated goal of the scheme). As I see it, one of the potential negative outcomes of MEPS in its proposed form is that new regulatory compliance targets become a burden for small-but-serious manufacturers for whom the hoop-jumping will not be as easy as for the immeasurably better resourced big boys.

As a supporter of MEPS I hope to be wrong on that point. The small players are crucial to any industry because their business models allow for innovation to reach markets faster. If it was left up to the larger lighting corporations we might only get the new technology as they sell their old stock*.

Over all it’s going to be at least 2018 by the time these standards are ready to be made law. So there is plenty of time and plenty of uncertainty yet about the final form this thing will take. We’ll be busy writing our submission to the Minister, whoever that may be by the due date.

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*I suppose I owe Verbatim an apology for that comment. They are a member of the Lighting Council of Australia and our supplier of common lamps and bulbs. They have also, in private correspondence been vocal supporters of MEPS. They are also always releasing new products on the grounds of improved efficiency before their old stock is exhausted. Kinda hard to keep up with sometimes!