A decision by EU energy ministers to phase out the sale of all incandescent and poorly-performing light bulbs by 2010 was welcomed by environmental organisation WWF as a long-awaited first step towards improving energy efficiency in Europe.
Estimating that incandescent light bulbs consume up to five times as much energy as their newer, more efficient equivalents, the NGO predicts that their replacement should reduce domestic energy consumption for lighting by 60% and achieve yearly CO2 savings of 30 million tons in the EU.
The switchover to energy-efficient bulbs, agreed at a meeting in Luxembourg on 10 October, was first proposed at last year’s spring EU summit as part of an ambitious EU climate and energy legislative package.
Support for the new bulbs has proved controversial in the past as they are considerably more expensive. Concerns have also been raised about their adverse health impacts, such as headaches and rashes.
However, advocates point out that more efficient lights will be cheaper in the long run as they use significantly less energy and last longer. Costs for European consumers should also be reduced following the lifting of current anti-dumping duties on energy-saving lamps imported from China, which WWF describes as a further “positive move towards energy savings within the EU”.
But the NGO was disappointed that although energy ministers reiterated that improving energy efficiency was the “cornerstone” of the achievement of other climate and energy policy goals, they failed to commit to making last year’s EU pledge to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020 binding.
“Keeping energy efficiency as an optional tool will not lead us towards the much needed 30% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020,” lamented Mariangiola Fabbri, WWF’s energy policy officer, adding that “a target of 20% for primary energy savings must become mandatory in Europe”.
Ministers nevertheless urged national governments and the Commission to speed up the implementation of the 2006 Action Plan on energy efficiency, identified as a top priority by the French EU Presidency (EURACTIV 09/10/08).