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Philips snags $10M L Prize with energy-efficient light bulb

The U.S. Department of Energy announced today that multinational electronics company Philips has snagged $10 million in the L Prize for developing an energy-efficient light bulb powered by light emitting diodes (LEDs).

The LED bulb can generate around 900 lumens — a measure of the amount of visible light emitted by a bulb — while consuming around 10 watts of electricity. Typical incandescent bulbs generate around 15 lumens per watt of electricity consumed, while this one generates around 90 lumens per watt of electricity consumed. The Philips bulb also has a lifetime of around 25,000 hours, compared to between 1,000 and 3,000 hours with incandescent bulbs, according to the Department of Energy.

“Winning the L Prize is a welcome dose of positive news for Philips, which has seen its share price fall by nearly a third since January,” Lux Research analyst Murray McCutcheon told VentureBeat. “However, it will likely not be enough to stem the bleeding in its lighting division, which announced weak second-quarter earnings (EBITA) down 60% from a year ago.”

LED lighting is still much too expensive for typical consumers based on cost-per-lumen production, McCutcheon said. LED lighting cost around $18 per kilolumen produced, while incandescent bulbs were around $2.20 per kilolumen. LED lighting bulbs probably won’t reach that point until 2015, he said.

That means the new bulb, which could hit markets as early as next year according to the U.S. Department of Energy, will likely cost a little less than $18 at current market prices. That might be appealing to commercial and government lighting, which require less short-term returns on investments, but it could put off typical consumers looking at lighting options for their homes.

“Philips’ troubles are despite a robustly growing market for LED lighting, and are due in part to the rising tide of more nimble, lower-cost rivals such as Sanan Optoelectronics, China’s largest LED manufacturer, and Samsung,” McCutcheon said.

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