DOE Proposes to Roll Back Lamp Efficiency Standards

In what some groups see as a significant blow to the United States' journey toward increased energy efficiency, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced earlier this month that it wants to roll back its previously adopted efficiency standards for certain types of lamps.

In 2017, the DOE determined, based on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, stricter efficiency standards should cover seven additional categories of lamps, including those used in indoor recessed lighting and candelabra fixtures. The standards would go into effect in 2020.

In explaining its proposed reversal, the DOE stated, "On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published two final rules adopting revised definitions of general service lamp (GSL), general service incandescent lamp (GSIL) and other supplemental definitions, effective January 1, 2020. DOE has since determined that the legal basis underlying those revisions misconstrued existing law. As a result, DOE is issuing this notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to withdraw the definitions established in the January 19, 2017, final rules. DOE proposes to maintain the existing regulatory definitions for GSL and GSIL, which are the same as the statutory definitions of those terms."

While the proposed rollback would not prevent customers from purchasing energy-efficient lamps or force them to purchase low-efficiency bulbs, several organizations responded critically to the DOE's proposal. Two such organizations, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), suggested in a joint statement that, if the rollback did occur, "Consumers would lose at least $12 billion each year in electricity bill savings by 2025, amounting to about $100 per household per year." They also stated, "U.S. electricity use would increase by 80 billion [kilowatt-hours] per year, about the combined usage of all households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey."

Their joint release goes on to say that, "DOE's plan would also stifle innovation, eliminating a powerful regulatory incentive for manufacturers and retailers to invest in high-quality, energy-efficient LED light bulbs. LEDs, already a great deal for consumers, are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, color and light output. LEDs cost slightly more than other bulbs, but they pay consumers back through lower electricity bills within a few months, and last 10 years or longer."

Furthermore, according to the ASAP and the ACEEE, "The rollback plan is most likely illegal, violating a federal law that prohibits the DOE from weakening efficiency standards for products such as light bulbs, and will almost assuredly draw legal challenges."

The DOE plans a public meeting on the topic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2019, in Washington, D.C., which will also be broadcast via webinar. In addition, people who want to comment on the proposed rollback can share their concerns with the DOE via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, as well as e-mail or postal mail.

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