In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority was established as one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, providing jobs and electricity to the rural Tennessee River Valley, an area that spans seven states in the South.
Two decades later, in 1956, President Eisenhower set the wheels in motion on America’s 41,000-mile interstate highway system, signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The interstate system, he said, would eliminate unsafe roads and inefficient routes, and enable “speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” Construction of an elaborate expressway system was considered “essential to the national interest.”
Two watershed moments in the history of federal government activism for the common good. And years from now, when the story of the LED revolution is written, government—and specifically James Brodrick of the DOE—will certainly merit a chapter.
Now retired—“it’s like six Saturdays followed by a Sunday,” he says—the former manager of the Department of Energy’s SSL program and newly minted IES Fellow sat down for a Q+A with the IES’s Mark Lien during a general session at the IES Annual Conference in August.
The subject for discussion was Brodrick’s role in the LED revolution that has transformed this industry. “It’s not often that a government program gets out ahead,” recalled the square-jawed Brodrick, in his understated, Eliot Ness-like G-Man style.
Brodrick’s legacy speaks for itself; programs ranging from the L Prize (to create a more efficacious bulb) to CALiPER (for testing new products) to the Gateway initiative (which showcased application in the field) all pushed solid-state lighting toward greater adoption.
The less talked-about legacy, even more important in view of today’s political climate, is honesty. The DOE “became a trusted source of unbiased information on SSL,” he says. “This is taxpayer money. Someone who works at Jiffy Lube is throwing in some money.” And what did that money get them? A $500 million program investment over roughly 15 years that helped yield $4.7 billion in reduced energy bills in 2016, alone.
Right man, right time. And good government at work.