DOE plan to roll Back energy efficiency standards on some lightbulbs to cost consumers $12 billion in electricity savings by 2025.

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By Terri Williams
For business

The Department of Energy recently released a report proposing changes to the definition of general service lamp (GSL) and general service incandescent lamp (GSIL) to exclude five specialty incandescent lights: vibration service lamps, rough service lamps, 3-way incandescent lamps, shatter-resistant incandescent, and higher lumen (2,601 – 3,300 lm) incandescent lamps. Some other lamp types, such as incandescent reflector lamps, T-shape lamps and candelabra base lamps in various shapes, would continue to be excluded or exempted.

In 2017, the DOE stated that these additional categories of light bulbs should be included in the stricter efficiency standards, which will go into effect next year, but now, the Department may reverse its original decision, and instead decide that these lamps should not be subject to the 2020 standards.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), with support from General Electric Lighting, LEDVANCE, Westinghouse Lighting and the American Lighting Association are in favor of excluding these lamps.

On the other hand, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance are some of the organizations against narrowing the definitions to exclude these lamps from stricter efficiency standards.

Negative Consequences of this Plan

If the standards are rolled back, how will this affect consumers? “Energy efficiency standards make sure we can buy light bulbs for our homes and businesses that don’t needlessly waste energy and increase our energy bills, according to Noah Horowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center of Energy Efficiency Standards. He notes that the average home has 40 lighting sockets, and says the difference in energy costs can really add up.

“But now the Department of Energy wants to change course on the next phase of energy-saving standards going into effect January 1,” he says. “Instead of the energy-wasting versions being phased out as scheduled, it wants to exclude what it terms ‘specialty bulbs:’ three-way bulbs, reflector bulbs used in recessed cans and floodlights, candle-shaped bulbs used in chandeliers and sconces, and round globe bulbs typically used in bathroom lighting fixtures, from the definition of bulbs to be covered.”

If the scope is narrowed, Horwitz says the cost to consumers will be substantial.  “It will cost consumers an additional $12 billion on their utility bills – amounting to about $100 per household per year – and lead to the generation of the amount of electricity that comes from 25 coal-burning power plants every year – pumping 34 million more tons of climate-changing carbon dioxide pollution into our air every year,” he explains.

“The inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs that the Department of Energy wants to exclude are designed to go into 2.7 billion sockets—just under half of all of America’s conventional lighting sockets, and that’s huge.”

Whether the standards are rolled back or not, why should consumers continue to embrace energy-efficient light bulbs? “The old incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient that up to 90 percent of the energy they use is wasted as heat – and that’s why you can burn yourself if you touch them,” Horowitz says. “Not so with the most efficient bulbs — LEDs, which produce the same quality of light, are also dimmable.”

In addition, Horowitz says LEDs can last 10 to 25 years under normal operation of three hours per day. “Compare that to one to two years for most incandescents and halogens,” he says. “And they can save consumers $50 to $100 over each bulb’s lifetime.”

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Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.