13th May 2021

EU to turn off old-style light bulbs by 2012

Households across the 27-country EU bloc over the next four years are set to switch from traditional, incandescent light bulbs to models that will help savings in energy bills and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

"By replacing last century lamps by more performant technologies, European homes will keep the same quality of lighting, while saving energy, CO2 and money," EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said on Monday (8 December), after EU member state experts backed a timetable drafted by his team.

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  • Incandescent light bulbs should become history between 2009 and 2012 (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission is set to formally adopt the phase-out plan in March next year. Subsequently, it will seek to win the approval of EU lawmakers as well as EU governments.

"I believe that energy efficiency measures are the ones most important for the union's security of supply and competitiveness," Mr Piebalgs said.

Current bulbs - the type pioneered by Thomas Edison in 1879 - consume four times more electricity compared to low-energy models.

Each household could save up to €50 per year, Mr Piebalgs said, while the entire EU would annually save as much electricity as is consumed by Romania and cut 15 million tonnes of CO2 emission.

This would allow it to re-inject between €5-10 billion into the union's economy every year, according to the commission calculations.

Changes have to be gradual, commissioner Piebalgs stressed however, so that manufacturers could adapt production as well as ensure the same quality of lighting.

The European Lamp Companies Federation - representing leading manufacturers - have welcomed the push, saying that 85 percent of lamps currently used in European homes are not energy efficient.

But a different message came from center-right British MEP John Bowis, who warned that energy efficient fluorescent lighting could cause discomfort to people suffering from epilepsy, or migraine.

"This is one of those occasions where we must strike the right balance between the environment and health," Mr Bowis said, urging that no total ban of incandescent bulbs should kick in before "adequate alternatives" are brought into production.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace "regrets" that the most exacting technological standards are not to come into force straight away.

"The EU has watered down its ambition and has not brought in the highest existing standard," the environmental organisation said in a statement.

EU's old-style lightbulbs to become history

Europe is seeking to get rid of traditional incandescent light bulbs as part of an overall step to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming - the move could reduce the EU's CO2 emissions by 25 million tonnes a year.

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