EU industry unites to promote energy-saving lamps
By Jeremy Smith
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's lamp and electricity producers joined forces with the retail sector on Monday to encourage consumers to buy more energy-efficient light bulbs and help the European Union in its fight against climate change.
An agreement signed by three pan-European industry associations aims to promote and support the distribution of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) as an alternative to conventional incandescent lamps -- so consuming far less energy.
The European Commission, working on proposals to phase out energy-inefficient lighting in homes, offices and streets as part of an ambitious green energy policy to fight global warming, sees the voluntary agreement as a crucial first step.
"The alliance of all three (sectors) ... gives better access to European citizens when they make their choice," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told a news conference.
"We should not underestimate this, it's the right step. And it will not slow us down with coming up with binding requirements for energy use," he said. "We are working at full speed to ban energy-inefficient equipment."
In Europe, lighting accounts for around 14 percent of domestic electricity consumption. CFLs consume up to five times less energy and can last up to 15 times longer than conventional incandescent lamps, which use a filament.
The agreement was signed by European electricity industry association Eurelectric, the EU's top retail industry lobby EuroCommerce and the European Lamp Companies Federation, whose members include Osram, owned by Germany's Siemens, and the world's biggest lighting maker Philips.
"We really view this as an evolution rather than a revolution, Gerald Strickland, secretary general of the European Lamp Companies Federation, said while signing the agreement.
In combination with the retail and electricity-producing sectors, overall energy savings could reach as much as 60 percent by 2017, he said.
Improving energy efficiency is a key element of the EU's strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Earlier this month, the Commission outlined ambitious proposals to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 1990 levels, raise the use of renewable energy in power production to 20 percent and use 10 percent of biofuels for transport by 2020.
And in 2007, EU leaders asked the Commission, the EU's executive arm, to come up with legal proposals for saving power in office and street lighting by 2008 and in homes by 2009.
While the dates and means for achieving the ultimate phase-out are still being worked out, Europe's lamp-making industry has targeted street and office lighting first as the products with the biggest potential savings in the short term.
Domestic lighting is a more complex market, it says, calling for a phase-out of traditional bulbs by 2015.