Lights out for old 100-watt bulbs in EU starting next week

30th August 2009, Comments 1 comment

From September 1, 100-watt versions of the old incandescent bulbs will be banned from Europe's shops and other bulbs with lower wattage will follow in the ensuing years, under a system agreed by EU experts last December.

Brussels -- Old-style 100-watt light bulbs will be banned in Europe's shops from this week in favour of new energy-saving models, but consumers groups gave the move a guarded welcome.

From September 1, 100-watt versions of the old incandescent bulbs will be banned from Europe's shops and other bulbs with lower wattage will follow in the ensuing years, under a system agreed by EU experts last December.

New technology light bulbs, such as compact florescent lights (CFL) can save up to 80 percent of the energy used by the worst old-style lights in homes.

The move will also cut carbon dioxide emissions as part of the European Union's wider climate change package.

At the moment, around 85 percent of household lights are considered to use too much electricity.

The European Consumers' Association BEUC welcomed the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs, saying "consumers benefit financially from the measure, but most importantly, they will be able to contribute to improved energy efficiency."

However the group added, in a statement, that removing the old-style light bulbs from the market also holds drawbacks for some consumers.

There are concerns "about the risks to health from the high mercury content of the new bulbs," the group warned.

The EU plan also "falls short of the needs of some consumers who need to use the old-style light bulbs for health-related reasons such as light sensitivity," BEUC added.

The consumer group called on the European Commission to ensure that people who rely on incandescent light bulbs "will be able to buy these bulbs until suitable alternative lighting technologies are available."

"The benefits for both consumers and the environment are to be welcomed. However, further efforts are needed if the phasing-out of incandescent light bulbs is to run smoothly," said BEUC director general Monique Goyens.

Stephen Russell, secretary general of ANEC, which represents consumer interests on matters of EU standardisation, shared the fears over mercury levels.

"Although the current threshold is set at 5 mg of mercury per bulb, the best available technology enables the bulb to work with only 1-2 mg," he said.

He added that it should be made as simple as possible to recycle the obsolete bulbs after next week.

"Consumers should also have the possibility to return used bulbs to the point of sale without charge. Only in this way do we believe recycling can be made effective," he argued.

The consumer groups agreed that the new-style bulbs make huge energy savings and have a lifetime 8-15 times longer than the traditional kind.

Therefore, they argued, while the new bulbs may be more expensive "the differences in purchase price are evened out."

It is estimated that using energy-saving light bulbs instead of the old incandescent light bulbs could save an average household 166 euros off their annual electricity bill.

The European Union has fixed a calendar for lower wattage old-style light bulbs to be phased out.

It will be the turn of the 75 watt bulbs in a year's time and all will have disappeared from European shop shelves by September 1, 2012.


1 Comment To This Article

  • peter dublin posted:

    on 31st August 2009, 00:21:44 - Reply

    Not surprising about the hoarding in Germany..and elsewhere in the EU!

    Europeans , like Americans, choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
    people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio valves were banned... they were bought less anyway.

    All lights have advantages....
    The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

    100 W equivalent brightness
    is a particular issue and is difficult and expensive to achieve with both fluorescents and LEDS - yet such bright high wattage incandescent bulbs are first in line for banning in both America and the EU
    Achieving both small and bright bulbs like candle lights is another problem.

    Since when does Britain/Europe or America need to save on electricity?
    There is no energy shortage.
    Note that if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would make people buy more efficient products anyway - no need to legislate for it.

    Energy security?
    There are usually plenty of local energy sources,
    Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation, 1/2 world uranium exports are from Canada and Australia.

    Consumers - not politicians - pay for the energy used.
    Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money - but why force them to do it?

    Most cars have emissions.
    But does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

    Also, the supposed savings,
    can be questioned for many reasons:
    Official research (Energy Star, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Berkeley University and other institutions) question the power rating, lifespans, brightness, energy usage, and overall usage savings with CFLs
    CFLs for example nearly always have a power factor of 0.5 which means they draw twice the power from the power station than what they are rated for (due to how they draw current) - it doesn't show up on the meter but consumers ultimately of course have to pay for this
    This is well known and covered by say the US Department of Energy
    -- also lifespan lab tests are done in 3 hour on-off cycles but of course switching CFLs on or off more often markedly shortens lifespan
    -- not to mention the often ridiculed but research proven heat benefit of ordinary light bulbs, in temperate climates


    Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense, since government can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
    A 1-2 pound/euro/dollar tax that reduces the current sales (EU 2 billion per annum, UK c. 250-300 million pa, Germany c 1/2 billion per annum), raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.