The first batch of products to be subjected to a production and import ban will be inefficient 100W bulbs. Lower wattages will follow, until all incandescent and inefficient halogens have disappear from the EU market by 2012.
The EU executive justifies the decision on the grounds that replacing energy-guzzling traditional bulbs with more efficient ones will cut the electricity bills of a European household by somewhere between €25 and €50 a year. Moreover, the EU will slash its annual CO2 emissions by around 15 million tonnes, it argues.
Although the various interests concerned have been generally happy with the aims of ban, the Commission's execution of the move is under fire from all sides.
Consumers want better protection
Consumer associations argued that while the overall goals of the legislation are good, they do not fully address consumer concerns. BEUC and ANEC issued a statement on Wednesday (26 August) asking the Commission to "take immediate measures" to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.
The organisations point out that the Commission must ensure that people suffering from conditions like light sensitivity can continue to buy incandescent light bulbs until suitable alternatives are on the market. Concerns have been raised that the flickering light of the efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) could trigger migraines or epilepsy seizures.
The groups also argue that the high mercury content of the new bulbs requires more attention.
"We urge the Commission to lower the limit values for mercury and to introduce a better recycling system. Although the current threshold is set at 5 mg of mercury per bulb, the best available technology enables the bulb to work with only 1-2 mg," said ANEC Secretary-General Stephen Russell. He added that consumers should be provided a free service to return used bulbs to the shops.
Environmentalists want stricter ban
Green campaigners, on the other hand, have argued that the Commission did not go far enough. WWF argued that in addition to inefficient incandescent bulbs, standard halogens should also be removed from the market.
The incandescent light bulb is a very inefficient way of producing light as it wastes 95% of the energy it uses as heat. But the standard halogen which will remain on the market is not much better, the NGO said in a release on Friday (28 August).
"Getting rid of incandescents is a no-brainer, but halogens are nearly as wasteful: we need to see the EU push innovative solutions into the market," said Mariangiola Fabbri, senior energy policy officer at WWF's European Policy Office.
Fabbri echoed consumer concerns that buyers will need accurate and simple information about the various alternatives.
"Simple information on packaging and recycling collection systems at points of sale are crucial to achieving real savings and changing consumers' habits," she added.
Commission insists alternatives sufficient
The Commission has countered criticism of the inflexible changeover by highlighting that consumers will find a variety of alternatives to their traditional bulbs.
In addition to CFLs, improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology will remain on the shelves, the EU executive says. It argues that these provide the same light quality as their less efficient versions.
The Commission expects that light emitting diode (LED) lamps, which are still in the early stages of commercialisation, will become real energy-saving alternatives in the future. In the meantime, it stresses that the banned lamps will not be taken off the shelves outright on 1 September, but can continue to be sold until stocks run out.