EU bans low-efficiency light bulbs from 2012

EU governments have agreed a phase-out timetable to remove from the market all incandescent light bulbs and low-efficiency halogen bulbs by 2012 at the latest.  The restrictions will be introduced as "implementing measures" under the energy-using products (EuP) directive and will begin to bite from next year.

"It's a groundbreaking measure that will change the way we consume energy," EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said after the decision was taken by a committee of member state representatives in Brussels on Monday.  The move should be formally approved by the EU in early spring, following a three-month scrutiny period in the European parliament.

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Under the measure, all light bulbs will eventually have to be rated to at least C-class efficiency under the EU's energy labelling system, a requirement that will exclude traditional incandescent technology and less efficient types of halogen bulb. 

The requirement will begin in September 2009 for bulbs that have a light output equivalent to an incandescent bulb of 100 watts (W) or more.  All other bulbs will have to meet E-class efficiency by the same date.  The C-class requirement will then apply to these lower-wattage bulbs in stages until all are covered by September 2012. 

The restriction will prompt a shift towards the use of compact fluorescents lamps (CFLs) and higher-efficiency halogen bulbs.  Officials expect this to save households up to €50 annually in energy costs, despite the higher price of alternatives to incandescents.  It should also save 15m tonnes of EU carbon emissions annually. 

The commission says some existing EU-based incandescent bulb plants will convert to halogen bulb manufacture, but CFL production is expected to remain overwhelmingly concentrated in China.  Overall the commission expects "at most" EU 3,000 jobs to be lost through the changes.

"The fact that the measure appears to have been adopted relatively smoothly shows that the right level of ambition was reached," Gerald Strickland of European lighting industry group ELC told ENDS.  "We'll now do our utmost to make sure we support the measure and put it into practice".

But Greenpeace complained that the EU had  "watered down" its ambition level.  "This decision is only a half-hearted attempt at improving energy efficiency in European households," it said.  In October energy ministers had called for the sale of "the worst-performing domestic lighting products" to be "prohibited from 2010".

There are also new requirements on bulb functionality and consumer information.  Some special-purpose incandescent lamps, such as in fridges and ovens, are exempt from the ban. EU officials expect that later revisions of the standards will phase out halogen bulbs as new LED technologies are refined.  The measure is the fifth to be agreed under the EuP law.

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