The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (NOPR) with the goal of bringing light bulbs currently used in about 2 billion sockets under federal regulation. This is an attempt to expand the number of light bulbs subject to federal efficiency standards. In addition to traditional bulbs, the NOPR is also designed to include decorative fixtures, recessed lighting and track lighting.
During the Obama administration, steps were taken to extend energy-efficiency rules to more types of bulbs than were covered at the time. However, the Trump administration reversed this course after a lawsuit was filed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
The NOPR is another step in the rulemaking process, following a formal request for information issued by the DOE in May 2021, which sought input from manufacturers, consumers and other stakeholders on the potential impacts of the standard.
The NOPR does not propose a new standard. Rather, it wants to change the definitions of “general service lamps” and “general service incandescent lamps” to bring more bulbs under federal rules. The DOE indicated that it is still considering whether to initiate a “minimum efficacy standard” (a backstop) of 45 lumens per watt for these bulbs, in addition to another 3.4 billion bulbs, which, according to experts, would effectively encompass the entire market of common bulbs in the United States. As a result, the rule would remove bulbs that do not meet the new standards from retail shelves, which would most likely lead bulb manufacturers to call for a transition period during which time these older bulbs could still be sold.
What would be the impact on lighting if DOE’s proposed rule becomes law? According to Utility Dive, research conducted by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project finds that the lighting-related energy reduction resulting from the rule would eliminate 9.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.