By Jonathan Stearns
Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) — The European Union decided to ban the sale of traditional light bulbs by September 2012 to reduce electricity consumption and protect the environment, threatening retail cost increases for consumers.
The prohibition on the type of bulb invented by Thomas Edison in 1879 aims to expand the EU market for energy-saving lighting made by companies such as Royal Philips Electronics NV. Traditional incandescent bulbs use five times more electricity than energy-saving bulbs including compact fluorescent lamps, which cost more in stores while lowering consumption bills.
“This groundbreaking measure delivers a clear message about the EU’s commitment to reach its energy-efficiency and climate- protection targets,” European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in a statement today in Brussels. The phase-out, starting next September with the brightest incandescent bulbs, stems from a law that allows the European Commission to set ecological performance standards for consumer goods.
The planned restriction comes as the EU seeks to improve energy efficiency by 20 percent in 2020 and to fight climate change. As part of its environmental campaign, the EU aims to reduce greenhouse gases that are linked to fossil fuels and blamed for global warming by a fifth in 2020 compared with 1990.
About 1.8 billion incandescent and 350 million energy-saving light bulbs were sold in the EU last year, according to Amsterdam- based Philips, the world’s biggest maker of light bulbs.
‘Significant But Affordable’
The retail cost increase for consumers as a result of the switch to energy-saving bulbs will be “significant but affordable,” said the commission, the 27-nation EU’s regulatory arm. The more efficient lighting can cost as little as a package of cigarettes and will bring “substantial savings” over the lifecycle of the product, it said.
The cheapest incandescent bulbs cost 60 euro cents ($0.77) while the price of alternatives ranges from 2 euros to 10 euros, said the commission. The phase-out over three years will start with bulbs that are at least 100 watts and expand gradually to cover the rest.
“It’s a real green revolution that’s happening,” Energy and Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo of France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said in a statement.
The ban may also lead to the loss of as many as 3,000 jobs in Europe because most incandescent bulbs sold in the EU are made there, while most integrated electronic lights such as compact fluorescent lamps are made outside the region, said the commission.
The risk of job losses is outweighed by the benefits resulting from a projected 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in households’ electricity consumption, the commission said. Households will be able to save between 25 euros and 50 euros a year on electricity bills, allowing 5 billion euros to 10 billion euros to be “reinjected” into the European economy annually, according to the EU regulator.
To bolster its energy-saving and environmental policies, the EU in October let import tariffs on Chinese integrated electronic compact fluorescent lamps lapse. The duties had been in force since 2001 and punished Chinese exporters for undermining EU producers such as Osram GmbH, a unit of Siemens AG, by selling the bulbs in Europe below cost — a practice known as dumping.
In October 2007, when the duties were due to expire, the EU prolonged them for a year after Osram demanded more trade protection. The case split the industry because Philips and two other lighting companies in the EU — General Electric Co. and Havells Sylvania — had called for an end to the duties.
European producers including Philips import energy-efficient light bulbs from China as well as making them in the EU.
EU sales of integrated electronic compact fluorescent lamps nearly doubled to 214 million units in the 12 months through June 2006 compared with 2003, the bloc said last year. The market share of dumped imports from China rose to between 47 percent and 57 percent from between 20 percent and 30 percent in that period, the EU said.
Including non-dumped imports, China’s share of the EU market for the product was about 72 percent in the 12 months to mid-2006, the bloc said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Brussels on firstname.lastname@example.org