Billions of Sockets up for Grabs

Shutterstock/ Grigvovan
Published On
Jan 15, 2020

The Department of Energy recently issued two regulatory rules related to general-service lamps (incandescent/halogen, compact fluorescent and LED) and general-service incandescent lamps.

The first rule negated an Obama administration policy expanding the definition of general-service lamps to include incandescent reflector lamps and several previously exempt lamp types. The second concluded a new rulemaking process for general- service incandescent lamps that proposed no changes to the energy standards. In its rulemaking, the DOE indicated that the January 2020 backstop provision for a higher standard of 45 lumens per watt (W) for all general-service lamps would not be automatically triggered.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 created higher efficiency standards targeting 40–100W incandescent general-service lamps, which were phased out from 2012 to 2014. This bold legislative action put billions of sockets up for grabs.

Since then, a number of remarkable trends have occurred. CFLs briefly surged in popularity before declining under competition from compliant halogen A-lamps that offered a similar quality to incandescents, and LED lamps that were growing in quality and efficacy while declining in price. LED lamps then surged to capture a sizable majority of the market.

According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), LED accounted for 71% of A-lamp shipments in the first quarter of 2019, followed by 25% for halogen A-lamps and 5% for CFLs. Based on data from the Energy Information Administration as reported by NEMA, residential lighting energy consumption declined a remarkable 57% between 2001 and 2018.

Despite these gains, however, the total number of incandescent/halogen lamps has been estimated at about 45% of the general-service lamp market, including the categories exempted from regulation.

EISA 2007 granted the DOE the authority to regulate exempted lamp types on two conditions. The first is that consumers shifted from lower-efficacy, general-service lamps to exempted lamp types, and the second, that covering the exempted product could produce significant energy savings. This occurred with rough- and vibration-service lamps, which resulted in wattage being limited to 40W and placed in one per package.

In January 2017, the DOE published two final rules concerning the definition of general-service lamps that resulted in standards being applied to certain previously excluded lamp categories: three-way, reflector, candelabra and decorative globe-shaped lamps. The rules were set to take effect this month.

In February, the DOE issued a proposed rulemaking, stating it “determined that the legal basis underlying those revisions misconstrued existing law.” The DOE proposed to withdraw the definitions established in the January 2017 rules. On Aug. 30, 2019, the final rule came down confirming that the definition of general-service lamp in EISA 2007 was the sole legal definition for the purpose of the energy standards.

NEMA welcomed the move. Energy and environmental organizations, however, were quick to condemn the move as eliminating significant energy and carbon reductions.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 3, 2019, the DOE issued a new proposed rule for general- service incandescent lamps. The DOE decided not to amend existing standards and stated more stringent standards are not economically justified.

EISA 2017 has a backstop provision that says if the DOE did not complete a new rulemaking for general-service lamps by 2017, or if the new rulemaking did not achieve a minimum energy standard of 45 lumens per watt, effective this month, the DOE must prohibit the sale of all general-service lamps that are less efficacious, effectively eliminating halogen A-lamps from the market.

Energy and environmental organizations and various utilities and states argued the backstop provisions should go into effect this month. NEMA and several lamp manufacturers took the position that the backstop provisions were not automatically triggered, and the DOE agreed.

Localized energy Energy and environmental groups quickly condemned, this as well. California, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont and Washington initiated state-level lamp standards in anticipation of the DOE’s actions.

Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York said, “We will explore all options, including litigation, to stop this completely misguided and unlawful action.”

In its own press statement, NEMA pointed out that LED lamps have achieved a majority share of A-lamp sales, suggesting the market is moving in the right direction without additional regulation. “The DOE final rule will not impact the market’s continuing, rapid adoption of energy-saving lighting in the next few years,” NEMA stated.

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.