Euro Bulb Ban Begins

Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Europe’s ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect today. A New York Times report filed yesterday from Brussels brought home the air of ambivalence that has accompanied the prohibition, relating tales of some Europeans jumping eagerly on the compact fluorescent (CFL) bandwagon, others racing out to stockpile the old bulbs before retailers run out, and still others wondering, “Why are we switching?” The european ban can be seen as a bellwether for a similar phasing out that will begin to take place here in the U.S. in 2012, which I wrote about in the editorial for our 2008 Lighting Issue. Just to recap, while there is no argument in terms of the energy savings that incandescent replacement technologies such as CFLs offer, they do come with their own problems: they cost more, come with embedded electronics, contain mercury, and, most important for designers, they do not render color as well. And, let’s not forget, in certain places incandescent light bulbs’ inefficiency is a boon.

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One Response to “Euro Bulb Ban Begins”

  1. peter in dublin says:

    In my view the ban is wrong
    including that the energy savings issue is not all that clear cut
    once all factors are taken in

    Europeans (like Americans) choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (European Commission and 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 etc – 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/tubes were banned… they were bought less anyway.

    The need to save energy?
    Advice is good and welcome, but bans are another matter…
    people -not politicians – pay for energy and how they wish to use it.
    There is no energy shortage – on the contrary, more and more renewable sources are being developed –
    and if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would lead to more demand for efficient products – no need to legislate for it.

    As said, supposed savings don’t hold up anyway, for many reasons:
    about CFL brightness, lifespan, power factor, lifecycle, heat effect of ordinary bulbs, and other referenced research

    Brief examples
    Effect on Electricity Bills
    If energy use does indeed fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans,
    electricity companies make less money,
    and they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate, in covering their fixed overheads.
    They can’t just (like politicians seem to think) “save a power station”.
    Now, marketplace competition might have prevented such price rises –
    but power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition, grids that moreover have to be maintained at fixed costs.
    Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise
    – supposed money savings then affected…

    Since energy efficiency in effect means cheaper energy,
    people simply leave appliances on more than before
    This has actually been shown by Scottish and Cambridge research, as linked on the website
    (in the case of CFLs they’re supposed to be left on more anyway, to avoid cutting down on their lifespan)
    – in which case energy savings affected

    The fact that they are not as bright as stated is another reason against supposed savings
    See comparison test

    Also, since lifespan is lab tested in 3 hour cycles, any increased on-off switching reduces it, as does (as said) leaving the lights on to combat it.

    CFLs typically have a “power factor” of 0.5
    Power companies therefore typically need to generate more than twice as as much power
    than what your electricity meter – or CFL rating – shows, taking everything into consideration.
    Of course you end up having to pay for this anyway, in electricity charges being higher than they otherwise would have been.
    Without going into technicalities, this has to do with current and voltage phase differences set up when CFLs are used.
    There is nothing new or strange about this
    Industries are today penalized if they present such a work load to the power station.

    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.

    Direct ways to deal with emissions
    (for all else they contain too, whatever about CO2):

    The Taxation alternative
    A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
    We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
    This is simply a ban to reduce electricity consumption.

    Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce the consumption would be fairer and make more sense, also since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.

    A few euros/dollars tax that reduces the current sales (EU like the USA 2 billion sales per annum, UK 250-300 million pa)
    raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
    It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
    When sufficent low emission electricity delivery is in place, the ban can be lifted

    Taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply a better alternative for all concerned than bans.

    Of course an EU ban is underway, but in phases, supposedly with reviews in a couple of years time…
    maybe the debate in USA and Canada will be affected by the issues being raised over here?

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