The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) announced ground-breaking consensus legislation, which will, for the first time ever, set federal efficiency standards for pole-mounted outdoor lighting.

“Installing more efficient lighting along our highways, streets and parking lots will better serve our nation’s long-term energy future,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. “This agreement is a big step to a more energy-efficient future.”

The consensus proposal resulted from input from lighting manufacturers, designers, energy advocates and utilities and creates three tiers for efficiency levels. Tier 1, which becomes effective three years after the bill’s enactment, sets minimum task lumens-per-watt (LPW) requirements based on backlight, uplight and glare (BUG) ratings. Tier 2 standards, which the Department of Energy (DOE) will establish, must be published in a final rule by DOE no later than Jan. 1, 2013, or 33 months after enactment, whichever is later. The DOE will establish Tier 3 standards by Jan. 1, 2015, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2021.

According to Evan Gaddis, NEMA president and CEO, this is the first time federal efficiency standards will apply to outdoor lighting applications. It is the result of achieving a consensus on an extraordinarily complex issue.

The legislation will regulate two types of lamps that are primarily used outdoors. After Jan. 1, 2016, high output double-ended quartz halogen lamps (a type of high-wattage incandescent lamp) must have a minimum efficiency of 27 LPW for lamps with a minimum rated initial lumen value of 6,000 and a maximum initial lumen value of 15,000. Also, 34 LPW is required for lamps rated with initial lumen value greater than 15,000 and less than 40,000.

After Jan. 1, 2016, no general-purpose mercury vapor lamp may be manufactured. These are the least efficient type of high-intensity discharge (HID) lamp and can be replaced with other types of HID lamps or other lamp types. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 banned new mercury vapor fixtures and ballasts, so sales have already been declining. This new provision would complete the transition away from mercury vapor lamps.

The legislation will yield substantial energy savings. Lighting uses approximately 22 percent of all the electricity generated in the United States, and outdoor lighting represents about 20 percent of that total. A 2007 DOE report estimated that outdoor lighting consumes more than 178 terawatt-hours annually, so this legislation is intended to curb that monstrous drain on the electrical grid.