Back in February 2007 General Electric announced that it had made key advancements in the development of a high-efficiency incandescent (HEI) light bulb that would be as efficient as a compact fluorescent bulb (CFLs) but without the mercury and with better light quality. Early versions would hit the market by 2010, the company said. GE basically saw the writing on the wall, as several jurisdictions — including Australia, Canada and several U.S. states — had announced the same year plans to ban inefficient light bulbs somewhere between 2012 and 2015. The HEI was basically the last kick at the can for the 100-plus year old Edison incandescent.
Then, in October 2007, GE announced it was closing plants and cutting hundreds of employees as part of a restructuring of its lighting business. The old inefficient bulb was toast. GE would instead focus its efforts on LEDs, Organic LEDs, and its HEI technology. Harvard business school professor Daniel Snow said GE’s HEI was the company’s “last gasp” of inspiration before the inevitable, final death of the Edison bulb.
A year has passed since GE’s restructuring. I decided to find out the status of the HEI so e-mailed the folks at GE to get an update. Here’s the reply I got today from GE spokesman David Schuellerman:
GE Consumers & Industrial and GE Global Research have suspended the development of the high-efficiency incandescent lamp (HEI) to place greater focus and investment on what we believe will be the ultimate in energy efficient lighting — light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Research and development of these technologies is moving at an impressive pace and will be ready for general lighting in the near future. LEDs and OLEDs used in general lighting are now poised to surpass the projected efficiency levels of HEI, along with other energy-efficient technologies like fluorescent, and have the additional benefits of long life and durability.
So there you have it: The century-old bulb that anchored the GE brand and made GE a global leader in lighting is, after one last gasp in 2007, officially dead.