Posted September 6, 2019 By Sara Conzemius Jes Rivas

DOE rollback on lighting standard is a step backwards

If the lightbulb is the universal symbol for a bright idea, only darkness hangs over the Department of Energy (DOE)
This week the DOE rescinded an energy-saving light bulb standard that will in effect ensure that nearly half of the bulbs on the market today will remain inefficient. This decision removes certain types of bulbs from the 2017 definition of general service lamps, effectively eliminating the established higher efficiency standards for specialty lighting. This includes three-way bulbs, candle-shaped bulbs used in chandeliers and sconces, reflector bulbs used
in recessed cans and track lighting, and the round globe bulbs typically used in bathroom lighting fixtures.

In addition, DOE issued a notice that they may not enforce the standard enacted in 2007 which requires general service lamps to achieve greater efficiency as of Jan. 1, 2020. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) these decisions will “cost the average U.S. household more than $100 per year – which will add up to $14 billion in additional annual utility bill costs nationally as of 2025 and will require at least 25 power plants’ worth
of extra electricity every year.”

In no uncertain terms, this rollback sucks. Increasing efficiency standards for lighting helps customers save money on their electric bills and reduces the climate impacts caused by inefficient lighting. The LED technology that exists today could have easily met these standards and is already being adopted by consumers across the country. Meeting the standards was not a hard lift. Rather than putting the environmental impacts and the economic interests of customers first, DOE has caved to special interests in making this decision.

Utility programs played a key role in transforming the market for general service lamps, taking us from incandescent, to CFLs, to LEDs over the course of just 15 years. And, it seems, our work is not finished. But here’s
the silver lining: In the absence of leadership at the federal level, utilities once again have the opportunity to lead. Utilities can provide programs that focus on and protect customers and use specialty lighting programs as the mechanism for transforming the market and driving real and meaningful change.

Utilities should also use this time to prepare for new efficiency standards for A-lamps, regardless of this impending rollback. Because general service lamps buoy residential programs, if utilities enter into another program cycle with the same assumptions about lighting efficiencies and measure lives they are setting themselves up for whiplash. Politics is cyclical and these standards will likely change again under a new administration.

DOE’s proposal to abandon increased efficiency standards for A-lamps includes a 60-day comment period and an Oct. 15 meeting. Please add your comments today! For more information, find our previous blog post on this topic here, news articles here and here, and read the NRDC’s full response here.