The first LEDs were developed in the early 1960s, however, they were low-powered and only produced light in the low, red frequencies of the spectrum. The first high-brightness blue LED was demonstrated by Shuji Nakamura of Nichia Corporation in 1994. The existence of blue LEDs and high-efficiency LEDs led to the development of the first 'white LED', which employed a phosphor coating to partially convert the emitted blue light to red and green frequencies creating a light that appears white.Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Nakamura were later awarded the 2014 Nobel prize in physics for the invention of the blue LED.
The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 authorized the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize competition, known as the "L Prize", the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to challenge industry to develop replacements for 60 W incandescent lamps and PAR 38 halogen lamps. The EISA legislation established basic requirements and prize amounts for each of the two competition categories, and authorized up to $20 million in cash prizes. The competition also included the possibility for winners to obtain federal purchasing agreements, utility programs, and other incentives. In May 2008, they announced details of the competition and technical requirements for each category. Lighting products meeting the competition requirements could use just 17% of the energy used by most incandescent lamps in use today. That same year the DOE also launched the Energy Star program for solid-state lighting products. The EISA legislation also authorized an additional L Prize program for developing a new "21st Century Lamp".
Philips Lighting ceased research on compact fluorescents in 2008 and began devoting the bulk of its research and development budget to solid-state lighting. On 24 September 2009, Philips Lighting North America became the first to submit lamps in the category to replace the standard 60 W A-19 "Edison screw fixture" light bulb,with a design based on their earlier "AmbientLED" consumer product. On 3 August 2011, DOE awarded the prize in the 60 W replacement category to a Philips' LED lamp after 18 months of extensive testing.
Early LED lamps varied greatly in chromaticity from the incandescent lamps they were replacing. A standard was developed, ANSI C78.377-2008, that specified the recommended color ranges for solid-state lighting products using cool to warm white LEDs with various correlated color temperatures. In June 2008, NIST announced the first two standards for solid-state lighting in the United States. These standards detail performance specifications for LED light sources and prescribe test methods for solid-state lighting products.
Also in 2008 in the United States and Canada, the Energy Star program began to label lamps that meet a set of standards for starting time, life expectancy, color, and consistency of performance. The intent of the program is to reduce consumer concerns due to variable quality of products, by providing transparency and standards for the labeling and usability of products available in the market. Energy Star Light Bulbs for Consumers is a resource for finding and comparing Energy Star qualified lamps. A similar program in the United Kingdom (run by the Energy Saving Trust) was launched to identify lighting products that meet energy conservation and performance guidelines.
The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) in 2008 published a documentary standard LM-79, which describes the methods for testing solid-state lighting products for their light output (lumens), efficacy (lumens per watt) and chromaticity.
In January 2009, it was reported that researchers at Cambridge University had developed an LED bulb that costs £2 (about $3 U.S.), is 12 times as energy efficient as a tungsten bulb, and lasts for 100,000 hours. Honeywell Electrical Devices and Systems (ED&S) recommend worldwide usage of LED lighting as it is energy efficient and can help save the climate.
As of 2016, in the opinion of Noah Horowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, new standards proposed by the United States Department of Energy would likely mean most light bulbs used in the future would be LED.