BTB investigates the EU's plans for a light bulb ban
When the EU's leaders pledged
to phase out domestic incandescent light bulbs at a summit hosted by Angela Merkel in March 2007 this campaign was very happy.
Unfortunately, BTB has become increasingly concerned by the lack of clarity and binding commitments in the original announcement.
In the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown
, followed the EU's announcement by saying that high energy (GLS
) domestic incandescents would start to be banned in the UK by 2011.
However, this commitment has not been matched by other European leaders and nothing is guaranteed as far as domestic lighting across the EU is concerned.
In addition, the subsequent failure of the EU to produce a timetable for action
or a programme for phasing out
different lighting technologies across the EU
has set off alarm bells.
Based on these concerns, the BTB campaign has exchanged the following correspondence with the European Commission's energy, press and tax spokesmen and women.
As you will see below, there are genuine grounds for worrying whether our leaders are determined and/or unified enough to deliver a ban on domestic incandescent light bulbs which will deliver any real carbon emission reductions.
It is great that our leaders have got to the point that they are ready to make all the right noises and to take the applause.
However, they now need to convince us that they also intend to deliver on their fine words and to show genuine worldclass leadership.
I am writing to ask if you could let me know which directives the EU will be using to phase out incandescent light bulbs and/or to incentivise the uptake of their energy efficient alternatives.
Dr Matt Prescott
Director, Ban The Bulb
Dear Mr Prescott,
Ferran Tarradellas has asked me to send you this information regarding lightbulbs and other ways of saving energy.
Electric lighting generates emissions equal to 70 per cent of those from all the world's passenger vehicles. But it is still very inefficient. Incandescent light bulbs have been used for 125 years and up to 90 per cent of the energy each light bulb uses is wasted, mainly as heat.
The more efficient lights, such as the compact fluorescent light bulb, use around 20 per cent of the electricity to produce the same amount of light. A compact fluorescent light bulb can last between 4 and 10 times longer than the average incandescent light bulb and can lead to major savings in household energy costs (lighting costs can be reduced by up to 66 per cent).
The Commission is aware of the substantial energy saving potential related to household lighting. Since 1998, a directive imposes the display of the EU energy label on the packaging of household lamps pointing out incandescent lamps to consumers as particularly bad performers. While very effective for other appliances, the label did not succeed in pulling the market towards a major market share for economic lamps. This had to do with the high difference in purchase price for consumers, aesthetic and performance considerations.
Under the Ecodesign directive (2005/32/EC), the Commission is now examining 20 product groups (including lighting) in order to improve their overall environmental performance, with special attention to their energy efficiency. In this framework it will be possible to the Commission to set mandatory requirements on manufacturers that would exclude the worst performing products from the European market. However, such measures have to be preceded by extensive stakeholder consultation and by an assessment of the impact on the lamp industry (in Australia all lamps are imported) and on consumers (affordability, aesthetic and quality of lighting).
Studies on potential measures for lighting equipment in streets and offices will be finished by this summer, and a study on domestic lighting which will help determine whether phasing out incandescent lamps is a valid policy option in the EU, will start in May.
The study to be launched in May to examine the potential policy measures relating to the environmental performance of household lighting, including its energy efficiency will also estimate the amount of energy that would be saved by phasing out incandescent lamps in the EU. First calculations estimate that the yearly savings once all incandescent lamps will be replaced by energy-saving lamps is 45 billion kWh per year. As an order of magnitude, this represents the total annual electricity consumption (including appliances) of about 10 million European households.
Energy Efficiency Action Plan:
You can find the list of the five new items (solid fuel small combustion installations, laundry dryers, vacuum cleaners, digital TV converter boxes and household lighting) for the new tender for studies under section "Second round of preparatory studies" on the DG TREN Ecodesign website:
Incandescent bulbs will be dealt with under domestic lighting.
We have just opened the offers for preparatory studies into all these areas and now we'll have to evaluate them to select the winning tenderers.
The main criterion for choosing these products is still their relatively high potential in reducing GHG emissions, as required in Article 16.2 of the Ecodesign Directive 2005/32/EC:
Press Officer to Energy Spokesman
Thank you for replying on Ferran's behalf.
Please could you let me know the following
(1) The proposed date(s) for banning domestic incandescents within the EU,
(2) Whether all types of domestic incandescent will be treated the same way,
(3) Whether all EU countries will be obliged to implement bans in the same way at the same time,
(4) What exemptions will be made,
(5) What financial / practical assistance will provide for the EU's poorest citizens
(6) What measures will be made to ensure that other relevant legislation supports the goal of banning incandescents and
(7) Whether changes in VAT will be allowed to make incandescents more expensive and CFL cheaper before any ban comes into force.
Director, Ban The Bulb
I am afraid that its rather too early to answer your questions. As the info I send you explains, we are in a study phase where incandescent bulbs are concerned.
It is too soon to either confirm that there might be a ban or give a date or to say what types of bulb might be included since before we get to that stage extensive consultation with stakeholders will be held.
Regarding your last question on changes in VAT, I am forwarding your question to our Spokesman responsible for tax issues. Maria Assimakopoulou.
Thank you for this additional information.
I suspect that a lot of reputational harm would be done to the EU if a domestic incandescent light bulb ban now failed to materialise and I hope that the EU's official position will be clarified without delay.
I also think that it is important for the goals of the WEEE, RoHS and EUP Directives to be harmonised as much as possible and for it to be made clear whether the EU will allow energy efficient goods and services to benefit from reduced levels of VAT across the EU, before any bans come into force.
I look forward to hearing from Maria Assimakopoulou in due course and appreciate your prompt and helpful response to my enquiry.
Dr Matt Prescott
Ban The Bulb
I am writing to ask if you are able to provide any further details on the details on the proposed ban in domestic incandescent light bulbs including:
(1) a timetable for EU-wide action as part of the EUP Directive,
(2) the sequence in which specific domestic lighting technologies might be banned,
(3) the extent to which bans might vary between nations,
(4) the specialist and medical exemptions which are under consideration and
(5) the proposals which might to allow member states to use their tax systems to incentivise greater energy efficiency.
Dr Matt Prescott
Director, Ban The Bulb
Thank you for your email of April 8. As I said in my email of 15 March - we are in a study phase where incandescent bulbs are concerned. There is no proposal to ban them at present - your questions 1-4 are therefore impossible for us to answer yet.
In regard to your tax question I am copying Mrs Assimakopoulou who will answer you on this.
Thank you for your response to my query regarding the details of the EU's proposed light bulb ban.
Whatever the intention, I am afraid that the impression was definitely created that the EU was proposing to ban domestic incandescent light bulbs within the next few years.
Please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6433503.stm
If the press coverage in March was mistaken, I would urge you :
(1) to be precise about what you the European Commission is proposing to do about improving the energy efficiency of domestic lighting and
(2) to publish a press release which corrected the widely established view that the EU's leaders have in any way committed to ban inefficient domestic light bulbs.
As things stand, the EU has been given a lot of credit for sounding as though it intends to make domestic lighting more energy efficient -without being required to specify any meaningful targets or a timetable for action.
I would therefore appreciate it if the EU's position could be clarified in public without delay.
I shall look forward to hearing from Maria regarding my question on the scope for using tax incentives to encourage greater energy efficiency within the EU.
Director, Ban The Bulb
For the moment normal VAT rates apply to both Incandescent lighting and Compact fluorescent light bulb.
Today, there is no legal basis for a reduced rate.
Whether changes in VAT will be allowed to make incandescents more expensive and Compact Fluorescent Lights cheaper before any ban comes into force, we will have to wait for the outcome of the report (in particular on the link between VAT rate decrease and consumer price decrease).
Thank you for your prompt and helpful response.
Please could you tell me what explicitly stops individual governments from reducing the rate of VAT on energy saving goods and services and when the report you have mentioned is likely to be published.
Warmest regards and thanks,
VAT rules at EU level are harmonised and any change therefore needs to be agreed with the unanimity of the 27 Member States. Member States cannot decide on their own initiative to modify the EU law.
The report on the impact of the existing VAT reduced rates should be available around end of July/September. The Commission, based on the findings of this report will make a Communication aiming to launch a debate among Member States on modifying the current rules on VAT reduced rates. This again doesn't mean that incandescent lighting will then be included in the list of reduced VAT rate.
If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Thank you very much for this clarification.
Your generous assistance is greatly appreciated.
Labels: details, Eu ban, tax