Partners in a new United Nations-led initiative want to ensure that as the most inefficient light bulbs disappear from retailers' shelves in the United States and Europe, those incandescent and halogen bulbs aren't sold in developing countries.
Last month, at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum in Copenhagen, the U.N. Environment Programme, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a model lighting regulation that will enable developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to easily adopt energy-efficiency standards as stringent as those in the United States and Europe.
Phaseouts and bans have succeeded in sharply contracting the global market for incandescent light bulbs. Over the past decade, annual global sales have fallen from 12 billion units to 2 billion units.
The problem, according to Noah Horowitz, senior scientist and director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards with NRDC, is that electricity-wasting bulbs are still widely available in developing countries.
According to Horowitz, a minimum light bulb energy-efficiency standard of 45lm/W takes effect in the United States on January 1, 2020. The new standard will require light bulbs to be at least as efficient as today’s CFL and LED light bulbs. In Europe, a phaseout of halogen bulbs takes effect in September 2018.
"With few exceptions," Horowitz wrote in an email, "minimum energy efficiency standards for everyday light bulbs do not exist in developing countries. Inefficient incandescent bulbs are still widely available in these countries and will continue to be purchased by consumers due to their really low purchase cost. A governmental phaseout of inefficient bulbs is needed to help ensure that consumers buy LED light bulbs and not the inefficient alternatives."
If adopted by all the countries currently lacking lighting regulations, the guidelines would produce $18 billion in electricity savings, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 160 million metric tons, each year.
Guidelines ready to be "cut and pasted" into law
Horowitz wrote in a blog post that the guidelines are "ready to be "cut and pasted" into law by any country ready to take the next step and adopt them.”
For now, the model regulation guidelines apply only to general service lamps. The United for Efficiency (U4E) project, the U.N.-led public-private partnership that developed the guidelines, said that future updates will cover outdoor street lighting, office and industrial lighting, and other lighting categories.
Under the guidelines, countries can choose "Option A", which is designed to remove incandescent, halogen and most CFL bulbs from the market and leapfrog directly to LED bulbs, or "Option B", which also aims to drive incandescent and halogen bulbs from the market and favors LED bulbs, but still permits the use of CFLs.
The U4E project partners urge countries to choose Option A as it yields higher energy savings and avoids the use of mercury.
The U.N.-led effort could help governments in developing and emerging countries curb rising electricity consumption.