Global Ban Craze

Updated July 2012

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: “Switzerland banned the sale of all light bulbs of the Energy Efficiency Class F and G, which affects a few types of incandescent light bulbs. Most normal light bulbs are of Energy Efficiency Class E, and the Swiss regulation has exceptions for various kinds of special-purpose and decorative bulbs.”
Finland: is considering a ban by 2011.

Canada: plans ban in 2012 (Update: “On Nov 9, 2011, the federal government approved a proposal to delay new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs until Jan. 1, 2014”)

U.S.A.: gradual phase-out between 2012 and 2014 (a few of the most efficient Halogen Energy Savers may still pass the efficiency requirements). (Update: In 2011, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas and 14 other Republicans joined to introduce the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act or BULB Act (H.R. 91), which would have repealed Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.)

Israel: phase out of 60w and over incandescent lightbulbs has been implemented from 1st January 2012.

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

India: “While not a complete ban, the plan is to replace 400 million incandescent light bulbs with CFLs by 2012.”
People’s Republic of China: “China will ban imports and sales of certain incandescent light bulbs starting October 2012 to encourage the use of alternative lighting sources such as LEDs, with a 5-year plan of phasing-out incandescent light bulbs.”

Philippines: 2010.
Malaysia: “The Government will stop all production, import and sales of incandescent light bulbs by or before January 2014.”

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

Quotes and info from Wikipedia


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 their 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 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, and some on dimmers, sensors or timers.

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.

But only a small fraction of that light is incandescent. And global electricity consumption is only 4.5% of world total delivered energy.

“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. Please note that the majority of lights in the Commercial sector, and probably nearly all in the Industrial sector, are already fluorescent or HID. Transportation sector lighting is still mostly halogen, but that is not what this project aims at addressing.

Left is the Residential sector, which accounted for just under 15% of world delivered energy consumption in 2009 (according to EIA International Energy Outlook). Note: all types of energy.

Electricity is just under 30% of those 15% = 4.5% of total world energy consumption in the residential sector.

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) = 0.45% of total. And 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 most of this light is already fluorescent or HID? Doesn’t anyone see through this obvious fraud?

As lighting in the Commercial and Industrial sectors together represent a much larger portion of world energy consumption (again, according to EIA) and lamps are typically left on all day and/or all night (!), isn’t it obvious that the greatest savings can be achieved in those sectors? E.g. 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, or by reducing unnecessary over-illumination. None of which requires a global incandescent ban or a CFL push on the remaining private sector, though possibly a ban on Mercury Vapor lamps.

“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 long passed its best-before-date. The newer CFLs, even if they have admittedly been improved in size, colour, light-up time, affordability etc., and most 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, period.

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 already as it’s been harped and regurgitated millions of times in every conceivable 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.

U.S. Energy Statistics (updated)

Updated and amended January 2012

When it comes to how much energy lighting uses, a lot of numbers tend to be thrown around – often without references and context. This post is an attempt to give a referenced overview for those who wish to see the numbers in their proper perspective.

The most common mistake is to confuse lighting part of electricity use with lighting part of total energy consumption for a particular sector. Here are the numbers for lighting part of electricity and total energy consumption in various sectors, in quadrillion Btu (British thermal units).


World primary energy consumption 2009: 503.8 quadrillion Btu [1]

• Total U.S. energy consumption 2009: 95.61 [1] = 18.5% of world energy 
Delivered energy after electricity related losses of 26.78: 63.83 q Btu

U.S. end use energy consumption by sector 2009 [2]

1. Transportation sector: 26.95 = 28% (of delivered energy)
2. Industrial sector: 22.25 = 23% 
3. Commercial sector: 8.42 = 9%
4. Residential sector: (private homes): 11.22 = 12% 

U.S. electricity consumption: 12.24 = 12.7% of total U.S. energy


Transport sector energy consumption 2009: 26.95 [2]
Transport electricity consumption 2009: 0.02 [2]
Lighting part of transport electricity 2009: unknown


Industrial sector energy consumption 2009: 22.25 [2]
Industrial sector electricity consumption 2009: 3.0 [2]
Lighting part of industrial sector electricity 2006: estimated at c. 2% [3]


Commercial sector energy consumption 2009: 8.42 [2]
Commercial sector electricity consumption 2009: 4.53 [2]
Lighting (incl. street lighting) part of electricity 2008: 1.27 =25% [4]
= 15% of commercial energy consumption
= 2% of total U.S. delivered energy [4]


Residential sector energy consumption 2009: 11.22 qBtu [2]
Residential sector electricity consumption 2009: 4.7 qBtu [2]
Lighting part of household electricity 2009 = 0.71 qBtu = 15% [5]
= 6,3% of total residential energy consumption

Note: energy statistics is not an exact science and the more detailed information you seek, the more difficult it gets. Making estimates of national energy comsumption, and even energy consumption per sector, seems a fairly straightforward matter of collecting and compiling available data from energy importers, producers and distributors and making projections based on those numbers. When it comes to detailed splits of how this energy is used in each sector it gets a lot more complicated, time consuming and costly, as this requires surveying thousands of end users, in order to get a decent average. Survey Methods.


There are many ways of calculating percentages of distribution of different lamp in each sector: annual lamp and luminaire sales, as well as surveys of existing luminaire types, installed lamps and wattages, use per lamp and day, lumen-hours per year, lit floor space, energy consumption per lamp type etc. Finding recent, reliable and detailed info is difficult. I’ve found only one really thorough study made for the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002 [6]. (Solid State = LED) See the original document for more detailed tables, these two are just from the summary:

So, back in 2001, 14% of residential lamps was already fluorescent. And lamp distribution may look different now, as we have seen dramatic changes in lighting over the last decade due to the relentless CFL campaigns. According to Energy Star, CFLs accounted for nearly 28 percent of all residential light bulb sales in July 2011, from only 1 to 2 percent of residential lighting sales in 2000. [7]


1. EIA: International Energy Outlook 2011: World total primary energy consumption by region
2. EIA: Annual Energy Outlook 2010: Energy Consumption by Sector and Source (reference case)
3. EIA: How much electricity is used for lighting in the United States? “EIA’s most recent data available indicates that in 2006, 63 billion kWh were consumed for lighting in manufacturing facilities, which was equal to about 2% of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2006.”
4. U.S. DoE: Buildings Energy Data Book
5. U.S. Residential Electricity Consumption by End Use, 2009
6. U.S. DoE: National Lighting Inventory 2002
7. Earth Techling: “CFLs Transcend Blue States/Red States”