DOE Lamp Proposal More Than Just More Efficient

It’s incredible when you think about it. Less than 10 years ago the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)—the legislation that prescribed the first efficiency standards on general service light bulbs—was signed into law. Now, the Department of Energy (DOE) is on the precipice of updating those standards to levels that effectively require LED technology. Under DOE’s current proposal, in about three years it will be illegal to manufacture compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)—the cornerstone of many utility programs for nearly a decade. The very symbol of energy efficiency (go ahead, Google energy efficiency and click images) is, well, not efficient enough.

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But what’s more, and what many casual observers may not have noticed, is the proposed standard’s scope. This is not simply an increase in the required efficiency for the same old bulbs. In an October public meeting, DOE proposed a new, broader definition of a “general service lamp.” (Lamp is geek for ‘light bulb.’) The standard will extend minimum efficiency requirements to many more lamp types that are essentially exempt right now. These newly-covered lamp types include the vast majority of what the utility program world calls specialty lamps. The most common of these are reflector lamps, like the 65-Watt BR30 lamp that is commonly used in residential recessed cans. Other common lamp types that would be covered by these standards include decorative lamps like candelabra, mini-base lamps (think chandelier) and globe-shape lamps, three-way lamps, and many others. We estimate DOE’s proposed definition would mean that more than 90 percent of currently exempted lamps sold on the market would now be subject to standards. And don’t kid yourself, specialty lamps are not a small market niche. Yes, some categories have very little share, but collectively, we estimate they represent more than 40 percent of sales. In other words, a large swath of the market will be subject to efficacy standards for the first time.

DOE has not yet issued a final rule. Who knows exactly what the future holds. But LEDs continue to eat up more and more of the market, and one thing is certain: the lighting market looks nothing like it did when EISA was passed.

What’s your perspective on the proposed standard? Comment below!

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