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Saturday, December 20, 2008

NZ fails to Ban The Bulb
Over the last few years, the phasing out and banning of domestic incandescent light bulbs has been the recipient of more that it's fair share of gesture politics and the latest news from New Zealand shows the danger of politicians not having the courage of their convictions and setting deadlines for action which exceed their tenure in power.

In New Zealand, the new energy and resources minister, Gerry Brownlee, has said that his government will not be honouring the pledge of the previous Labour government and phasing out the use of wasteful incandescent light bulbs.

Unfortunately, while arguing in favour of "consumer choice" Gerry Brownlee does not explain how every consumer is supposed to become sufficiently informed about the cost of wasting energy on the national economy, national security and global carbon emissions or how every individual can be expected to to accurately assess all of the costs and benefits to New Zealand of using more efficient technologies... or not.

In Ban The Bulb's opinion this government's populist defence of "consumer choice" really amounts to a massive failure to defend the national economy and the global environment.

Incandescent light bulbs have been reprieved.

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee told Parliament yesterday he would not be going ahead with the previous Labour-led Government's plan to phase them out.

He said he was "lifting the ban" on traditional light bulbs, but Labour MPs said there had never been a ban and the intention had been to gradually replace them with new energy-efficient bulbs.

Mr Brownlee said the Government had "real concerns about telling people they have to move to energy-efficient light bulbs by decree.

"We are committed to energy efficiency in the home, and efficient lighting has an important role to play in helping us reduce the amount of energy we use.

"But this Government believes it is a matter of consumer choice."

Mr Brownlee said people needed good, credible information about different lighting options. Then they could decide for themselves what they wanted.

"Lifting the previous Government's ban on incandescent light bulbs simply means we are allowing their continued sale and I am confident the consumer trend to energy-efficient bulbs will continue," he said.

National used the light bulb issue during the election campaign as an example of Labour's "nanny state" mentality.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Free bulbs switch on Ethiopians
Many developing countries cannot afford to build new power stations and Ethiopia has just copied the free hand out of energy saving light bulbs originally done in countries such as Cuba (May 06) and Venezuela (Nov 06).

Ethopians are rushing to get their hands on free energy saving light bulbs which are being handed out by a utility to stop power cuts.

Four million low-energy light bulbs are being given away in exchange for old-style incandescent ones by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. Nearly all Ethiopia's electricity comes from hydro-power. But without rain the dams cannot fill and the lights go out.

The new bulbs will cut peoples' power bills and are supposed to last longer. The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt says the light bulb swap was in full swing when she visited the utility's offices in the capital Addis Ababa. But our correspondent says the snag is that when the new bulbs wear out, customers will find they cost about six times as much as the old ones to replace.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Disappointingly weak EU light bulb ban
Although it is good news that the EU will be banning the sale of 100W incandescent light bulbs by September 2009, it is very disappointing that the new minimum energy performance standard for domestic light bulbs has been set at a very low level and will also take many years to achieve the levels of energy saving that are already possible with compact fluorescent lamps (65-80%)and LEDs (90%).

Under the terms that have been agreed today, it seems that the EU's light bulb manufacturers will be given until 2016 to phase out incandescent light bulbs using halogens elements, which offer only a 25% improvement on the energy performance of traditional light bulbs.

Ban The Bulb believes that the EU's governments should significantly improve on this deal and that far more should be done to bring LEDs into cheap and widespread use within 5 years.


EU negotiations... the latest news
Ban The Bulb has spoken to it's contact in Brussels and found out that the EU's Energy Commissioner, Andris Pielbalgs, should be holding a press conference at about 5pm local time, in order to outline the improvements in the energy performance of light bulbs that have been agreed by the EU's 27 nations.

This decision is subject to a qualified majority vote and will be revised within 5 years, so it is critically important that a clear signal is sent to the lighting industry that it needs to do more to phase out both incandescent light bulbs and halogens, and to bring LEDs to market.

The three main issues at the EU negotiations appear to be:

1) The time allowed to phase out incandescents. At the moment incandescents look doomed, but as though some of them will be allowed on the market until 2012. This is a rather leisurely deadline, and one which could almost certainly be tightened.

2) Nordic nations (including Finland and Denmark) are concerned that the timing and level of ambition for the phase out non-clear (frosted) glass light bulbs is tougher than for clear glass light bulbs because frosted bulbs can already be perfectly replaced by highly efficiently compact fluorescent lamps.

Apparently, the majority of nordic lamps are frosted and this might mean that Finland and Denmark want longer to make changes. This could result in the postponement of non-clear incandescent lamps being phased out.

3) The final date for standard halogens to be phased out. Halogens only offer a 25% improvement on the energy performance of traditional incandescent designs, but are currently not scheduled to be phased out before 2016.

This could mean that typical household lamps will still only need to be 25% more efficient than today in 8 years time, rather than the 90% more efficient that would be possible if CFLs and LEDs formed the new energy performance standard.

In general, it sounds as though the lighting industry is happy with the European Commissions proposals and this suggests to Ban The Bulb that the politicians are not being nearly tough enough on the industry.

As things stand, the lighting industry could flood the market with cheap halogens and kill off other more efficient alternatives, such as LEDs, if it wanted to; simply because this suited the industry's existing manufacturing capacity and business plans.

The industry could also re-open the standards in 5 years and lobby to keep them soft, thereby postponing the uptake of LEDs yet again and keeping consumer's energy bills unnecessarily high well into the future.

Ban The Bulb feels it is extremely important that within 5 years the new energy performance standard for domestic lights is set by LEDs, which offer a 90% energy saving, rather than by halogens which offer only a 25% improvement in energy performance.

If the EU doesn't want to show leadership and caves in to industry lobbying, perhaps President-Elect Obama will be stronger and force this necessary change.

Otherwise all of the grandiose statements about wanting to cut carbon emissions and energy use by 20% by 2020 or 80% by 2050 are nothing more than hot air.

With thanks to Edouard Toulouse and Germana Canzi for their help in the preparation of this update.

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GE stops incandescent development, LEDs the future
Ban The Bulb's advocacy seems to have had a significant effect with GE announcing that they will end their development of incandescent light bulbs (in particular so-called "high efficiency incandescents") and will instead concentrate on LEDs.

This is a major breakthrough for the Ban The Bulb campaign.

Exactly what has gone on behind the scenes is pretty opaque, but there has been a large amount of manoeuvring by the lighting industry recently.

This article suggests that GE was the odd one out, but Ban The Bulb's memory is that Philips was the company that went it's own way and tried to frame the measures they wanted to see in Australia (announced by Malcolm Turnbull in Feb 2007).

There were definitely differences in the responses of the different manufacturers when this campaign published an article on the BBC News website in Feb 2006 and Australia later announced that it would be banning incandescent light bulbs by 2010.

I'm sure they'll all claim to have always wanted LEDs before too long...

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

EU light bulb ban imminent... but how ambitious?
After years of talking about phasing out light bulbs we will finally get a chance to see how ambitious our politicians will be when it comes for taking concrete action.

Tomorrow in Brussels senior representatives of the EU's 27 nations will vote on measures which will result in 100W and 60W incandescent light bulbs being phased out across the EU between 2011 and 2013.

The lighting industry is advocating a new type of incandescent light bulb which will use 25% less electricity than today's incandescents by 2013.

The Ban The Bulb energy efficiency campaign feels that this level of ambition is totally inadequate, given that substitute compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) using 65-80% less electricity and light emitting diodes (LEDs) using 90% less electricity (to produce the same amount of light) are already available.

LEDs are definitely the technology we should be aiming for, within 5 years, as they offer instant brightness, dimmability and contain no mercury.

LED alternatives to 40W, 60W and 100W floor and table lamp incandescent lights bulbs are already on sale and simply need to be made cheaper and more readily available as quickly as possible.

High quality CFLs used to cost approximately £5 when this campaign was set up in 2005, but Tesco now sells excellent designs of CFL for as little as 81p. The same economies of scale need to be applied to LEDs without delay and excuses.

If we cannot be ambitious with light bulbs how on earth are we going to make much more difficult items such as our cars and homes significantly more energy efficient.

President-Elect Obama has recent said that he is going to be tough on the US auto industry and demand improved energy efficiency.

The EU needs to be similarly tough on the world's existing light bulb manufacturers, which have patents, factories, profits and shareholders to protect and do not need to pay the electricity bills of the EU's 500 million consumers or to finance the 10 extra power stations needed to keep the EU's lights on if their preferred technology is used to define the energy performance standards for domestic lighting.

Please see the following documents for more detail:

Dr Matt Prescott's recent articles for BBC News Online

No time to dim efficiency ambitions (Nov 2008)

Shedding light on call to ban bulb (Apr 2006)

Light bulbs not such a good idea (Feb 2006)

Technical references:

Discussion paper on domestic lighting products Ecodesign for CF (Oct 08)

Working document on draft regulation on non-directional household lamps (Oct 08)

Position from Ban The Bulb (Oct 08) - sent to DEFRA, BERR, DECC, MTP and the EU's Energy Commissioner

Position from ECOS, EEB, ZMWG, CAN-Europe, INFORSE-Europe, Greenpeace and WWF (Mar 08)

Make the Switch : European Lamp Companies Federation (Nov 07)

Important political milestones for BTB campaign...

Energy efficiency high on Obama stimulus plan (Dec 08)

Brown and Cameron battle over green air travel and phasing out old-style light bulbs (Mar 07) - Gordon Brown

EU switches off our old lightbulbs
(Mar 07) - Angela Merkel

Australia pulls plug on old bulbs (Feb 2007) - Malcolm Turnbull

How many legislators does it take to change a lightbulb? (Jan 2007) - Lloyd Levine

UK asks the EU to consider an EU-wide light bulb ban (July 2006) - Tony Blair

Campaign archive: 2005 - present

With thanks to Germana Canzi and Edouard Toulouse

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