THE demand for energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) lights in SA is set to spike as electricity prices rise and LED prices plummet, experts say.

This holds great promise for SA, which pledged at the United Nations (UN) to act to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 34% from "business as usual" between 2009 and 2020, with research showing that a switch to LED technology saves an average 40% reduction in total energy use.

Lighting accounts for 19% of the world's electricity consumption, and global LED prices are projected to drop by more than 80%, according to research by The Climate Group, an independent, not-for-profit organisation.

SA is the world's 14th-worst emitter of gases linked to the overall rise in global temperatures. This is according to a table created using the 2010 estimate of annual carbon dioxide emissions estimates collected for the United Nations by the US energy department's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center.

Many of SA's municipalities were already using LED technology in traffic lights, which, apart from energy savings, gave a sharper image to motorists and lasted longer. This meant lower maintenance requirement, said Eskom senior general manager for integrated demand management, Andrew Etzinger.

The power utility was "in discussions" with several municipalities to convert street lights to LED lighting.

"LED lighting is the 'megatrend' in the lighting industry and is taking the world by storm through its efficiency and the long life expectancy. LED lamps are used on Eskom's demand side management programme in homes and businesses," he said.

Philips SA marketing manager John Westermeyer said it was estimated that SA had 20-million halogen lights, each of which used approximately 50W. Equivalent light quality was possible with a 5,5W-7W LED light.

The South African market was "one of the very positive sides of the (global) introduction of LEDs", said Daniel Kasper, technical director of Africa's largest lighting infrastructure firm, Beka. Mr Kasper attributed this to the "sharp" increase in electricity tariffs combined with the dropping price in LED technology.

"The only reason why not has been the price, but prices are coming down rapidly.. It is estimated that by 2015 50% of all lighting will be LED, by 2017 or 2018 about 90%," he said.

International energy consultant NUS Consulting Group's survey of 16 major electricity markets showed that SA's 23,1% increase in electricity tariffs this year was the second-highest one-year percentage change.

Eskom wants electricity prices to rise from 50,3c/kWh to 97,51c/kWh by 2017.

blaines@bdfm.co.za