EU Technical Briefing Analysis

The Technical Briefing used as foundation for the EU decision to phase out incandescent bulbs – and eventually some halogen lamps – contains a number of seriously misleading statements which seem to be copied straight from a standard lighting industry PR-brochure.

Let’s look closer at some of the most crucial statements in it:

Household ‘Electricity’ vs ‘Energy’

“Lighting may represent up to a fifth of a household’s electricity consumption.”

This statement is a truly ingenious, or rather disingenuous, PR-phrase, invented in early 1990s and cleverly designed to grossly mislead without actually lying. What is conveniently not mentioned in it is that household electricity is often only around 20% of a household’s total energy consumption. 20% of 20% is only 4%!

Update/amendment June 4: Combining the EU Commission info on lighting share of household electricity [1] with Energy Statistics from EuroStat [2] it turns out that in EU-27 lighting is a mean of 10% of home electricity and 2.94% of total home energy use.

“There is a four to five-fold difference between the energy consumption of the least efficient and the most efficient lighting technologies available on the market. Today, the most energy efficient bulbs are compact fluorescent lamps. They achieve Class A according to the EU energy label on household lamps, while incandescent bulbs are class E or worst.”

Only in theory (see CFL Analysis for details and Summary).

“This means that upgrading the lamps could reduce a household’s total electricity consumption by up to 10-15% and save easily 50€ / year (taking into account the purchasing cost of lamps).”*

But if lighting is only an average of 10% of household electricity to begin with, only around 50% is incandescent, and CFLs save at best 75% of those 5%, how can one save 10-15% of household electricity by switching to poorer quality lamps??

*”Assuming 20 lamps in the household, which are initially all incandescent lamps and changed to compact fluorescent lamps of equivalent light output.”

This might have been true back in the 90s when this argument was still fresh. The preparatory study by EU’s own consultants – presumably the same consultants who wrote the technical briefing?? – showed that the share of household incandescent lamps has decreased from 85% in 1995 to only 54% in 2007 (and were expected to continue dropping, even without a ban). [2]

And having lamps installed does not mean everyone is using them every day, or for long periods of time. With all the energy saving information and rising electricity prices, one may safely assume more people have learned to turn off lights in rooms they don’t occupy. Many also have dimmers, sensors and timers installed and may already have reduced their lighting consumption to a necessary minimum.

Authors of this briefing may also have failed to take into account the number of people who absolutely hate CFLs and have already started stockpiling incandescent bulbs to last for many years ahead! [3, 4, 5]

“In the context of the commitment of European leaders to reduce primary energy consumption by 20% compared to projections for 2020, the Spring European Council 2007 invited the Commission to “rapidly submit proposals to enable increased energy efficiency requirements (…) on incandescent lamps and other forms of lighting in private households by 2009″. The emphasis on lighting was further supported by the European Parliament.”

Something is not right here. If EU legislators have been led to believe that 10-15% of domestic energy consumption can be saved, this peculiar focus on lighting is more understandable.

But when lighting is only around 3% of domestic energy comsumption and incandescent lighting in turn only half of that = 1.5% and what can realistically be saved is less than 0.25% of total EU energy use, this controversial decision makes a lot less sense. If I were a member of the EU Committee or Parliament, I’d be outraged at having been given misleading information to base decisions on!


For the technical briefing misinformation about CFL mercury impact, see my Mercury posts.

Lamp Descriptions

Under the heading “Lamp types and their pros and cons”, different lamp types are listed with a few advantages and disadvantages. Most of the info seems to be more or less correct, except where the incandescent bulb is called an “energy-guzzler” – hardly an appropriate term for a technical briefing and even less so as description of an incandescent lamp. Concordes and SUVs are “energy-guzzlers”, light bulbs are not. Let’s try and get back to a proper perspective here:

A 40W incandescent bulb (used 2.7 hrs/day as is the standard calculation) doesn’t use more energy per year than a toaster or hair dryer; a 60W bulb about as much as a steam iron; and a 100W bulb less than a coffee maker. [6]

Whereas the CFL, seemingly in a desperate attempt to find something positive to say about it, is called “money-saver” and “environmentally-friendly”. A lamp containing mercury cannot possibly be called environmentally-friendly! And in order to save money, all CFLs need to perform as promised and last as long as promised, without light loss, in all applications – which is far from the case!

1. Residential Lighting Consumption and Saving Potential in the Enlarged EU
2. Eurostat: Panorama of Energy
3. Telegraph: “Britons panic buying last stocks of conventional lightbulbs”
4. Telegraph: “Customers buy up traditional light bulbs before switch to low energy alternatives”
5. “Dagens Industri: “Svenskar hamstrar glödlampor inför förbud”
6. Energy Star: Appliances Fact Sheet


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