Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Global Ban Craze

Seems more and more countries are being persuaded to phase out incandescent lamps:

Cuba: banned incandescent bulbs 2005.
Brazil: initiated phase-out 2005.
Venezuela: initiated phase-out 2005.
Argentina: bulbs will be banned by 2011.

European Union: gradual phase-out between Sept. 2009 and September 2012.
Italy (EU member): speeded up ban by 2011.
United Kingdom (EU member): speeded up ban by 2011.
Switzerland: 2009.
Finland: is considering a ban by 2011.

Russia: phase-out between 2011-2014, starting with the 100W like in EU.
Tajikistan: has banned import & production 2009.

Canada: plans ban in 2012.
U.S.A.: gradual phase-out between 2012 and 2014 (a few of the most efficient Halogen Energy Saves may still pass the efficiency requirements).

Australia: started ban 1 November 2009. (Lamps must be over 15 lm/W which means some Halogen Energy Savers still qualify.)
New Zeeland: 2007 ban plan got scrapped by the new government 2008.

Philippines: 2010.


But not even this is enough to satisfy the vested interests and duped do-gooders:

Global Phase-Out of Old Bulbs Announced by UN, GEF, and Industry

Ever since I read this press release two months ago, I've been too stunned for words. But now I want to make a few comments:

The close to $20 million initiative, the Global Market Transformation for Efficient Lighting Platform that will be implemented in collaboration with the private sector companies OSRAM and Philips, is aimed at reducing the bills of electricity consumers in developing economies while delivering cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.
I would guess it is more aimed at increasing profits for OSRAM and Philips and funding for involved organisations.

It is also aimed at replacing fuel-based lighting systems, such as kerosene, that is linked with health-hazardous indoor air pollution.
 This is good! Or would be, if the plan was to hand out free solar-powered LEDs rather than free CFLs, which are health-hazardous if dropped or not recycled properly. But LEDs are still too dim, too imperfect and too expensive to give away for free, and as manufacturers still meet (often justified) consumer resistence to their CFLs due to lingering quality problems, it seems the plan is now to dump them on unsuspecting developing countries who can't afford to be choosers.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-secretary General and UNEP Executive Director: “This new project aims to accelerate growing national initiatives to replace old bulbs into a global one by overcoming market barriers in developing economies and by setting international energy and performance standards in order to build consumer confidence."
I guess manufacturers are in a hurry to find an alternative outlet for their unwanted CFLs before LEDs become good and affordable enough to take over thir part of the market. So now they need the help of the UN to "accelerate the plan" and "overcome market barriers" (such as high price for decent quality and dimmable lamps, mediocre light quality, gradual light loss, temperature sensitivity, varying durability, mercury content & recycling difficulties).

Globally, 70% of total lighting market sales are still made up of inefficient incandescent lamps.
But, um, sales do not necessarily reflect use:

- Since incandescent bulbs have a much shorter life than fluorescent and High Intensity Discharge lamps, there will be more incandescent lamps sold, while old tubes and HID lamps keep burning year after year.

- At home, a family may have numerous light points installed but only use a few every day, for just a few minutes or hours at a time.
A market shift, from incandescent lamps to energy-efficient alternatives, would cut the world’s electricity demand for lighting by an estimated 18%.
But this is what the notes at the bottom of the press release says:
Some additional facts and figures

• The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that in 2007 total electricity consumption for lighting was 2,650 TWh. This represents almost 19% of global electricity use.
How is it possible to save 18 out of 19% when only a small fraction of those alleged 19% is incandescent in the first place?

"Eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked with lighting."
If that is true it does not come from incandescent lighting.

Estimates clearly include all sectors, and the majority of lights in the Commercial sector, and probably nearly all in the Industrial sector, are already fluorescent or HID. (Transportation sector is a separate issue altogether.)

Left is the Residential sector, which accounted for only about 15% of world delivered energy consumption (note: all types of energy, not just electricity) in 2006 (according to EIA International Energy Outlook 2009).

In EU and USA, lighting is estimated at a mean of around 9-10% of household electricity = 2-3% of total household energy consumption (source: EuroStat and EIA). Of the lamps in the residential sector, most but not all are incandescent, and of those that are, only some are suitable for replacement.

Statistics for the rest of the world are often incomplete, conflicting, non-existent or hard to come by, but I doubt it is much more than in EU and USA.

OSRAM representative Martin Goetzeler, CEO: "The lever is enormous. Over 1/3 of the electricity used worldwide for lighting today could be saved. That corresponds to half the electricity consumption of China."
Above it was 18%.

How is it possible to save either "18%" or "over 33%" of world electricity used for lighting when a) lighting is only 19% in the first place and b) most of this light is already fluorescent or HID?

As lamps in the Commercial and Industrial sectors together represent 62.5% of world energy consumption (again according to EIA) and are usually left on all day and/or all night, isn't it obvious that the greatest savings can be achieved by upgrading existing linear halophosphate FL tubes with magnetic ballasts to triphosphor tubes with electronic ballasts or metal halide downlights in offices, and to switch from mercury vapour street lights to ceramic metal halide and high-pressure sodium for highways? None of which requires a global incandescent ban.

"Historically, the main barrier hampering the deployment of energy efficient lighting products was their high initial cost. When first launched in the early 1980s, CFLs were 20 to 30 times more expensive to produce than their incandescent equivalents. However, CFL costs have steadily declined through use and increased competition. They now retail for about four times the price of an incandescent lamp. Consumers have traditionally been slow to come on board and according to some reports, were initially unimpressed by early models, disliking the look and functionality of these models."
Not just initially, a whole new generation have never even seen the early horrendous models so that argument has passed its best-before-date. The newer CFLs, even if they have admittedly been improved in size, colour, light-up time, affordability etc., and no longer hum and flicker, still leave much to be desired when it comes to colour rendering and general light quality. Since the light is not incandescent, it cannot ever give that incandescent light quality, so loved by people all over the world.

The only viable replacement is the Halogen Energy Saver - which oddly enough gets no attention at all despite being probably the best, cheapest and most problem-free and environmentally-friendly replacement on the market today.
"Manufacturers are of the view that consumers need to understand how using energy saving bulbs will allow for long term cost savings, as well as be assured of the quality and reliability of new models, as well as the growing number of energy saving options that are and will become available."
I'm sure consumers understand this as it's been harped and regurgitated millions of times in every conveivable medium for 20 years now. Many still prefer quality over quantity. I think manufacturers and legislators need to understand that there is still good reason not embrace the CFL - if it was such a great product, it would sell itself and no legislation or freebie campaigns would be necessary.

The new global project, which will include a centre of excellence of lighting, will build on and support further commercialization and market penetration among several developing countries that have already made efforts to promote the adoption of CFLs and to phase-out incandescent lamps—some with GEF support and the involvement of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
1. How can a project aimed at lowering light quality all over the world have the audacity to name a centre "excellence of lighting"? Talk about Orwellian!

2. What about the possible health- and environmental consequences of distributing CFLs free of charge in countries where many are still struggling with literacy and daily survival? CFLs contain mercury and need to be a) handled with care and b) recycled correctly. Will the initiators of this campaign accept personal responsibility for making sure the CFLs are not accidentally broken around children and pregnant mothers, and that every single bulb get properly recycled after use?

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Philips doesn't even wait for a governmental ban but initiates a phase-out singlehandedly, making it sound like a saintly sacrifice to help the environment when it is just a matter of getting rid of that pesky light bulb with too small a profit margin, in favour of more profitable lamps such as the hard-to-sell-CFL - naturally without mentioning any of its drawbacks such as mercury content etc.

Philips announces the phase-out of incandescent lamps in the GCC

And again this absurd focus on the small part of lighting that is used in private homes and not a word about things that could make a real difference, such as phasing out inefficient standard halophospate fluorescent tubes for offices or mercury vapour street lights.


  1. Welcome back!
    politicians and their manufacturer supporters (or is that the other way round)
    keep trying to bamboozle people with supposed great savings for them, savings that would only arise in any case from people buying what they want to use (no point in banning impoular products, and while some say it's great to
    force manufacturers to make more efficient products, efficiency of course forces changes in products apart from increasing their cost, which is why for example even direct replacement GLS Halogens apart from cost are different from
    ordinary incandescent lights also in appearance, construction, light quality, albeit to lesser extent than other lights).

    Savings, to the extent they are there, are only one reason for using any light,
    and ordinary people -not politicians- pay for
    the electricity they use.
    Of course, light bulbs don't give out any CO2 gas either, such emissions are planned to be brought down anyway, and even if they weren't, then taxation on the bulbs would be better for all sides, money which could do more for the environment than any remaining light bulbs
    was causing related problems.

    While the decisions might not be reversed,
    taxation arguments might see favour before they're implemented,
    and what's happening with light bulbs is of course also about to happen with many other household or other products (as with TV sets in California recently) so the arguments still hold.
    Growing skepticism about the benefit of reducing CO2 emissions ie that temperature changes will happen anyway, whatever about CO2 being one of the causes or not, might also lead to future reviews.
    People can of course stockpile, to the extent they can foresee what they want to use,
    but it doesn't take away from bans being wrong.

    The token ban decisions show in a dramatic and concrete way that "politicians are doing something"
    - the skepticism among the general public being met by a flood of statistics.
    If you put on a serious face and throw out a lot of figures, then "you must be right".
    Of course, then there's also the need for politicians to help out manufacturers that they've pressurized to make CFLs (with China outsourcing),
    which may be why the Halogen alternatives you mention take a back seat in these global
    UN-related initiatives we have seen.

    PS Ireland banned from September like rest of EU,
    the early ban was an attention-grabbing ploy by local politicians, EU countries can't of course ban ahead of others in a common market without special dispensation for direct health reasons that don't apply in this case (eg Swedish snuff not being available elsewhere and such) - which of course the local politicians knew about.

  2. Wall street journal has echoed what you said about halogen alternatives etc..

    "...So if you're GE or Philips or Sylvania, the demise of the plain vanilla lightbulb is less a threat than an opportunity--an opportunity, in particular, to replace a product that you can sell for 50 cents with one that sells for $3 or more.
    Yes, the $3 bulb lasts longer. Yes, it cuts your electricity bill.
    Mr. Moorehead says that when every one of those four billion light sockets has an energy-saving bulb in it, the country will be saving $18 billion a year on its electric bill. That's $4.50 per bulb--and the bulb makers are standing by to make sure a substantial portion of those "savings" get transformed into profits for them.
    Now it may be that those bulbs are worth more--because they last longer, etc.
    But some of those bulbs, like compact fluorescents and Philips' new "Halogena-IR" bulb, are already available.
    Currently they command all of 5% of the lightbulb market.
    That means that, whatever value proposition GE and Philips are selling, consumers aren't buying.
    What we bulb buyers needed, it seemed, was a little nudge. Or, if you want to be cynical about it, the bulb business decided to migrate its customers to more-expensive--and presumably higher-margin--products by banning the low-cost competition.

    "I was kind of involved at the very beginning" of this legislation, Mr. Moorehead says modestly.
    Indeed, in December 2006, Philips announced a campaign to encourage governments all around the world to phase out low-cost bulbs by 2015.
    What's remarkable about this bit of market interference is that there is, basically, nothing wrong with the present-day, Edison-style lightbulb.
    It's not a lawn dart or a lead-painted toy or a magnet that will perforate your kid's intestines if he swallows it. It is what it is, and for most people in most applications, it was good enough."

  3. Thanks for the article quotes! Your link however, does not seem to be about light bulbs?

    You wrote: "PS Ireland banned from September like rest of EU, the early ban was an attention-grabbing ploy by local politicians"

    I see, I'll revise that bit then.

    "EU countries can't of course ban ahead of others in a common market without special dispensation for direct health reasons that don't apply in this case (eg Swedish snuff not being available elsewhere and such)..."

    Hm, this obviously didn't stop England from starting ahead of schedule with a "volontary scheme":

    The Telegraph: "Retailers stopped replenishing supplies of conventional incandescent 100W bulbs at the start of the year under a voluntary government scheme to force people to buy green compact fluorescent lights."

  4. Re link
    yes should be

    Re bans
    voluntary schemes are different from legislation that contravenes Brussels rules
    (the Irish initiative was about passing legislation before the rest)
    That said, I doubt the EU would interfere with countries quickening a phase out once it's started.
    As seen with state subsidies to airlines etc
    (especially if big EU countries are involved)
    the EU authorities don't of course always follow what they say their rules are....
    ....but yes the Ireland bulb ban was at the same time as the others in any case.