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Rumor: Taiwan mulling a phase out of incandescent bulbs

An LED lamp maker says that the island nation likes the idea of chips for lights.

Incandescent bulbs are getting it from all sides these days.

Taiwan may soon join the list of national and state governments to impose regulations that lead to the demise of traditional incandescent bulbs. Neal Hunter, CEO of LED Lighting Fixtures (LLF), says there are rumors in the lighting world that Taiwan will pass legislation that would phase out incandescents by 2011 or 2012. Sporadic reports in Taiwanese papers have come out saying that the Ministry of Economic Affairs wants to get rid of incandescents too.

Taiwan will also promote LEDs as the light source of choice for the future, he added during a presentation at the ThinkEquity ThinkGreen conference.

While Hunter said he hasn't been able to confirm the status of any bills, it makes sense. Incandescents consume quite a bit of energy. Close to 95 percent of the power gets converted into heat, rather than light. Taiwan, like other Asian nations, is struggling with ways to get consumers to cut down on electrical consumption. LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs use considerably less energy and last longer, although they cost more.

Taiwan also plays a key role in the LED market. LEDs are chips, after all, and Taiwan remains one of the chief centers of semiconductor design and manufacturing. Supporting LEDs would be another of the country's job and export creation measures.

LLF, by the way, is a company worth keeping an eye on. It makes light fixtures based around LEDs. It has installed LED lights at McDonald's, Denny's, Starbucks, Marriott, Best Western, and Microsoft.

At $75, LED light fixtures cost more than standard light figures, but they use a lot less power. LLF just came out with a fixture that puts out the same amount of light a 65 incandescent bulb would, but it only uses 5.8 watts.

"Last year the best we could do was 11 watts," he said.

The quality of light is getting better, as well. "The current perception is a bunch of little lights shining through a fixture," he said. "The only way to make it (commercially) is so that people don't know the difference."

To take the sting out of the cost of the fixtures, utilities have begun to issue rebates to customers to encourage them to buy LED lamps. One is offering commercial building owners a little over $22 for each LED lamp they install. LLF also has LED lamps for the residential market, but the market will take a little longer to take off.

The company is also staffed and run by LED veterans. Hunter himself used to be the CEO of Cree, a large LED manufacturer.