In 2022, the European Commission announced that it is outlawing the use of general-purpose compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). The lamps, which have been in common use for decades, had been shown to emit toxic levels of mercury.
The move is a no-brainer — and authorities across other continents have either followed suit or put the wheels in motion. But aside from the obvious positive impact on public health, the ban will have a huge bearing on the wide-scale adoption of energy-efficient LED lighting.
Essentially, those who’ve typically been a little slow on the uptake now have no choice but to embrace greener, cleaner alternatives. But isn’t choice always a good thing? Let’s consider.
First of all, who’s banning what?
A global consensus on which bulbs to ban and when has been difficult to reach, with nations and governments generally moving at a glacial pace. After years of pressure from non-governmental organisations such as CLASP, it was confirmed in February 2022 that all EU nations would be required to phase out fluorescent lighting starting in 2023.
CLASP and other climate action groups are working to convince EU policy makers to make their voice heard globally, claiming that a vote to ban fluorescent lighting worldwide “would not only eliminate 232 metric tonnes of mercury globally, but would also avoid 3.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from power stations between 2025 and 2050.” That would be like taking more than 30 million passenger cars off the roads each year for the next 25 years, according to average emissions figures published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In the US, the Department of Energy (DoE) issued new rulings in May 2022 that require lighting products to meet new standards. These include the elimination of incandescent and halogen lamps. The decision was a long time coming, with initial efforts made to reduce public lighting inefficiency as early as George W. Bush’s presidency in 2007. It’s been a winding and bumpy road, with the DoE and several climate groups being sued by 15 state attorneys general as recently as 2020 before President Biden ordered a fresh review in 2021.
Australian climate groups have also been pushing to ban energy-inefficient lighting since 2007, achieving a ruling in 2009 that led to the phasing out of incandescent bulbs —although some decorative incandescent lamps remain on the market. Halogen lamps were due to be phased out in 2020, but the ban was delayed until 2021 to align more closely with the EU timeline.
Exploiting the Paradox of Choice
This “kicking the can down the road” approach has been a source of immense frustration for climate groups and concerned onlookers who recognise the urgency of the ongoing climate and energy crises. Still, progress has been made, and the good news is that an increasing number of manufacturers and consumers now have no choice but to turn to alternatives such as LED.
Sometimes doing the right thing is a matter of not having the choice to do the wrong thing. The Paradox of Choice theory states that rather than providing freedom, having too many options actually complicates the decision-making process and causes more stress in the long run. Bans on conventional and fluorescent lighting remove those choices from building owners and city decision-makers, steering – or rather forcing – them to explore LED lighting as not just the better option, but the only option.
Connected LED lighting is a cleaner, greener alternative
LED lighting is far more reliable and energy-efficient than CFL and incandescent lighting. LED lighting retrofits can reduce lighting-related energy consumption by 50% or more. And because an LED lamp lasts 40 or more times longer than an a incandescent bulb, packaging waste and shipping-related emissions are drastically reduced.
Energy savings increase when LED lighting is connected and properly managed, monitored, and controlled. Connected LED lighting systems can push energy reductions to as much as 80% over conventional systems. Connected lighting networks can also lay the groundwork for digital smart building and smart city platforms that bring together multiple functions and applications.
Suddenly, those who’ve been dragging their feet when it comes to modernising their lighting now find themselves well positioned to leapfrog generations of technology. The foot-draggers can now go straight from energy-wasting conventional lighting to energy-saving connected LED lighting, maximising energy efficiency and taking advantage of the latest developments in data-enabled smart capabilities.
Don’t bemoan the ban
If businesses and cities converted all of their conventional light points to LED or connected LED, global electricity savings could total as much as 1,132 TWh per year, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 494 million households. The switch would save a total of €177 billion per year in electricity costs while taking more than 553 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
On a more local level — say, a mid-size European city of 200,000 inhabitants — switching all conventional lighting to LED could save over 78,000 MWh annually. That’s over €26 million per year. Consider what could be achieved with that money.
If you’re a building owner or city manager, you don’t have to do everything everywhere all at once. You can purchase and install connected LEDs and take full advantage of their energy-efficiency and illumination benefits immediately, then bring connected capabilities online if and when they make sense. Connected LED lighting systems like Interact from Signify are fully scalable, so you can start in one area, or one building, and initiate a wider rollout as you see fit.
Deciding exactly what to do now is less important than deciding to do something. Climate change is accelerating and the global cost-of-living crisis is putting immense strain on national economies. The growing number of CFL and incandescent lighting bans can help, by making LED adoption ever more attractive.
Signify’s Green Switch program is designed to help you take decisive action now — action that won’t come a moment too soon.
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