Market News

 June 13, 2007
EU industry proposes incandescent phase-out

 Brussels, Belgium (GLOBE-Net) -- Responding to a strategy proposed by the European Commission as well as inefficient lighting bans in other countries, major European lighting manufacturers have proposed to phase-out inefficient incandescent light bulbs by 2015.

(Source National Geographic)

The proposal from GE, OSRAM, Philips, Havells Sylvania and other members of the European Lamp Companies Federation (ELC), would apply to all traditional inefficient incandescent light bulbs. The industry group estimates that this would lead to a 60% annual reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from home lighting. The strategy was received favourably by the European Commission, which is seeking to improve energy efficiency and reduce EU CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. After setting that goal in March, the EU Council called upon the Commission "to rapidly submit proposals to enable increased energy efficiency requirements on office and street lighting to be adopted by 2008 and on incandescent lamps and other forms of lighting in private households by 2009".

The intention to set stricter energy standard for home, office and street lighting was also signaled in a June 2005 Green Paper on Energy Efficiency, and in the October 2006 Energy Efficiency Action Plan. The EU has established a directive for the 'Eco-design' of energy using products which applies to twenty product groups, including lamps. Individual targets and measures for each group are currently being developed following impact assessment and consultation with stakeholders.

The ELC proposed that the phase-out take place in two-year stages, starting with a ban on 100 Watt bulbs in 2009 and finishing with a ban on 25 Watt bulbs in 2015. The industry is also pushing for strict "market surveillance mechanisms" to ensure proper compliance across the sector.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs appreciated the "the commitment of the industry as a very positive contribution to the goal stated by the European Council in March," but did not indicate whether the Commission will accept the industry's proposed phase-out. Tougher standards could still be imposed, but only after further consultation with industry.

The Commission will decide on specific standards and timelines for lighting efficiency over the next two years. An outline of the first measures for street lighting and the beginning of an impact assessment for household lighting are set for late June. Measures for domestic lighting are not expected until 2009.

Canada recently announced a plan to set energy efficiency standards for lighting and to ban the sale of inefficient bulbs by 2012. Canada is the second country in the world to announce such a move, following Australia. According to the government, the move will reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6 million tonnes (Mt) per year, and could reduce the average household electricity bill by approximately $50 per year.

California is debating a bill that would require efficient light bulbs by 2012. China, in its drive to improve the energy intensity of its booming economy, is the world leader in producing and installing compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The City of Toronto's recently released climate change plan proposes elimination of incandescent bulbs in all City-owned buildings by 2012.

The Canadian ban will not specifically prohibit incandescent bulbs, but traditional light bulbs will likely be unable to meet the efficiency requirements. More advanced technologies, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), will gain a huge market share.

Traditional incandescent light bulbs have not changed substantially in over 100 years, and much of their energy consumption is wasted in the production of heat. CFLs convert more electricity directly to light, using around 80% less energy and lasting up to ten times as long. The bulbs are currently more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but their longevity and power savings make them cost-effective for many households and businesses.

CFLs only account for 6% of the lighting market and represent a minor share of light production in the residential sector, reports the International Energy Agency (IEA). An IEA study, Barriers to Technology Diffusion: The Case of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (PDF), identified challenges that include high initial costs, mistrust of the technology due to now-resolved past issues, incomplete information, and the difficulties in altering consumer habits. The same study recommended that the "complete phase-out of incandescent lamps may notably constitute an achievable policy objective". Replacing all incandescent bulbs with CFLs would substantially reduce energy consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 470 Mt in 2010, says the IEA.

The use of CFLs does pose a new challenge however, as a small amount of mercury is used to help ignite the gas inside each bulb. CFLs still result in less life cycle mercury emissions than incandescent bulbs used in areas that generate power from coal, but widespread adoption will create a need for bulb recycling. In Australia and other jurisdictions, there are calls for product stewardship management, as the cost of recycling can be quite high.

New technologies on the horizon

There is also the possibility that more efficient incandescent bulbs will be designed, and that alternate technologies such as Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) will become more widespread. Artificial light production accounts for around 8% of worldwide energy consumption, and a similar share of greenhouse gas emissions. Along with CFLs, 'smart' lighting control systems, green building techniques that maximize natural lighting, and other emerging technologies represent opportunities for energy efficiency gains that will produce economic and environmental benefits.

For example, Ottawa-based Group IV Semiconductor Inc. says its new 'solid-state' technology, which uses semiconductors to produce light, is ten times more efficient than conventional lighting, with a lifespan that is ten times longer than compact fluorescents.

Fifth Light Technology Ltd. of Oakville, Ontario, has developed a lighting control system that can produce 30 to 60 percent energy savings for commercial buildings and extend the lifespan of fluorescent lighting equipment. The technology utilizes a unique, patented controller system that, for the first time, allows fluorescent lighting systems using magnetic ballasts to be dimmed. The system allows for the individual, automated control of each lighting fixture in a building, in step with lighting needs and the time of day.

For More Information: EurActiv