The Battle of the Bulbs

Featured, InfoElectro - E-Newsletter — By on October 10, 2011 7:34 pm

The Timing on the End of Incandescent

A federal law that will shut the lights on traditional incandescent bulbs by 2012 may get a possible last-minute extension, causing some concern among Canadian light manufacturers that are already phasing out the energy-guzzling lamp.

Under Canada’s Energy Efficiency Act, the manufacture and import of certain inefficient incandescent lights will stop by the end of 2012:100 W and 75 W bulbs by Jan. 1st, and 60 W and 40 W bulbs by Dec. 31st. According to the government, this could help Canadians reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their homes and workplaces by more than six million tonnes a year.

In April, the federal government announced it may extend the phase-out deadlines to 2014—Jan. 1st for 100 W and 75 W bulbs, and Dec. 31st for 60 W and 40 W bulbs—citing public concerns about the perceived health issues and mercury content of CFLs. Currently considering the impact of this amendment on stakeholders, the government will announce its decision this fall; at the time of writing, no decision had been made.

“Manufacturers have already made the necessary changes to their operations in ordering, production, packaging and so on to meet the 2012 deadline. So we oppose this extension and think the government should stick to the original date. We support energy conservation, and energy-efficient lighting is right way to go,” says Wayne Edwards, VP, Sustainability & Electrical Safety at Electro-Federation Canada.

The development has yielded mixed responses from Canadian lamp manufacturers, which have already made significant changes to their business practices to adjust to the original Canadian regulations. These companies recognize the business value in forging ahead with sustainable light products, as similar lighting laws have been implemented in many other countries in which they may sell products. Australia, the European Union, the U.S., Brazil and Venezuela have all passed legislation to significantly curb the use of the common bulb, and Russia, Argentina and Malaysia are planning to do the same.

Reflecting the broader shifts in energy conservation is the introduction in June of ISO 50001, the new international standard for energy management systems, providing further impetus for light manufacturers to keep up with this global trend.

Further reinforcing the business argument to speed up the transition to sustainable light products is a recent report on the global lighting industry by leading business consultancy McKinsey & Company, which forecasted light-emitting diode lighting will grow at an annual rate of 35% from 2010 to 2016, and then 15% per year from 2016 to 2020, resulting in a market share of 60% by 2020.

The move away from the conventional lamp is already being embraced by some retailers, with Sears Canada announcing in May that it would stop selling incandescent as well as halogen lighting in its stores, making it the first national Canadian retailer to do so.

“With our longstanding commitment to more sustainable lighting products, we are certainly supportive of the legislation with its current time frame. We think this is where the industry needs to go to be responsible stewards of the future,” says Sheryl Keller, Senior Manager,Strategic Marketing at Philips Lighting Canada.

In August, the US Department of Energy announced Philips Lighting as the winner of the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition for their 10-watt LED in the 60-watt replacement bulb category.  The Department of Energy’s L Prize challenged the lighting industry to develop high performance, energy-saving replacements for conventional light bulbs.

“If the extension goes through, Philips will still be able to support the needs of the category. But we fully support keeping the original legislated date. Alternate solutions are available today, and we don’t see any reason to wait. We think it’s the right thing to do,” Keller says.

Montreal-based Standard Products Inc. is likewise taking a proactive approach to greener lighting by focusing much more on fluorescent, LED, halogen and HID lamps, so that incandescent lights now account for only 10% of its total lamp sales. But for the privately-held family-owned business, adapting to the new legislation has posed some challenges.

“It has a huge impact on time and resources. We have had to coordinate complex project work that involves many areas of our business, including product development, engineering, supply chain, marketing, IT, and sales, in order to plan the discontinuation and introduction of products,” says David Nathaniel, President.

The best way for the Canadian government to proceed, Nathaniel says, is to synchronize its lighting laws with those in the U.S., or else proceed with the 2014 extension to give industry more time to adapt.

“We support harmonization with the U.S. legislation; we think that would be the best scenario for Canadians. If that is not possible, then we support the delay in implementation to allow more time for alternative products to develop and become more affordable,” Nathaniel says.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act in the U.S., production or import of incandescent bulbs for its market will cease at various points over the next three years: 100W by Jan. 1, 2012; 75W by Jan. 1, 2013; and, 60W and 40W by Jan. 1, 2014. Another key difference in the two countries’ light regulations is that, in the U.S., these bulbs must become 30% more energy-efficient by their respective deadlines, while in Canada, no such levels were mandated, leaving the decision up to individual manufacturers.

“We had asked the government to consider harmonizing with the U.S. approach and regulate the wattages down to the same levels across all four types of bulbs, because North America is essentially one large market for most major companies,” says Joseph Howley, manager of industry relations at GE.

Recently, GE announced the arrival between now and next fall of a full line of low-watt LED lights that are the world’s first omnidirectional LEDs. The Energy Smart product linewill include a 13 W LED replacement for the 60 W incandescent and a 9 W LED replacement for the 40 W incandescent, both of which will have a lifespan of 25,000 hours.

Howley says GE will adapt to the extension if it goes through, but either way, the company will continue to innovate in energy-efficient light products.

Says Howley: “Sustainability is built into our DNA. We’re always looking for the next best technology that provides light more efficiently.”

Says Wayne Edwards of EFC: “EFC will continue to closely monitor this situation, reinforce maintaining the originally planned dates and keep members abreast of developments.”

Written by Sharon Aschaiek. Sharon writes about a wide range of subjects for trade and consumer publications.


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