Laying Down The Law: Lighting Legislation on Energy Efficiency

Published On
Mar 15, 2017

Milestones in January and February raised the bar on energy efficiency in the lighting industry. In January, Energy Star Lamps V2.0 took effect, and it was predicted to significantly influence lamps promoted by utility lighting rebate programs. In February, new Department of Energy (DOE) rules took effect, regulating the efficiency of metal-halide ballasts sold as part of new luminaires. These rules are expected to affect luminaire availability. Additionally, the 179D Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction (CBTD) expired on Dec. 31, 2016.

179D tax deduction

Created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the CBTD provided an accelerated tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot as an incentive to install energy-efficient building systems, including interior lighting. The tax deduction expired and renewed several times over the years, most recently with the passage of the 2015 PATH Act, which retroactively extended the CBTD from Dec. 31, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2016. However, PATH made it more difficult to qualify for the tax deduction by raising the energy-efficiency baseline from the 2001 to the 2007 version of the ASHRAE/IES 90.1 energy standard.

The CBTD expired on Dec. 31, 2016. As a popular tax provision, however, it may be renewed again in some form in the future. In the meantime, lighting upgrade projects completed in 2016 may qualify for the CBTD. For more details, visit

Lamps V2.0

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program is highly influential with utility rebate programs, which use it to qualify certain lighting products, notably lamps. In fact, about 95 percent of utility rebate programs use Energy Star to qualify lamps. In 2015, the EPA announced V2.0 of the Lamp Specification, which became effective Jan. 2, 2017. The updated specification raises the performance bar for lamps seeking Energy Star certification.

An analysis showed that none of the compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) qualifying for the older V1.1 specification qualify for V2.0. While utilities may continue promoting V1.1-compliant lamps, they are expected to shift their funding from CFLs to LEDs.

The EPA raised minimum required efficacy while modifying performance criteria. For omnidirectional lamps, V2.0 sets a minimum efficacy of 80 lumens per watt (LPW) if less than 90 CRI, or 70 LPW if 90-plus CRI. Minimum service life falls from 25,000 to 15,000 hours as a potential cost-reduction measure. Among directional lamps, V2.0 sets a minimum efficacy of 70 LPW for less than 90 CRI or 61 LPW for 90-plus CRI. For decorative lamps, minimum efficacy increased to 65 LPW. Additionally, the EPA introduced a streamlined procedure allowing manufacturers to certify decorative luminaires simply by adding an Energy Star-certified lamp.

Lamps V2.0 followed Luminaires V2.0, which was also released in 2015 and became effective June 2016. Luminaires V2.0 dissolved the distinction separating residential and commercial luminaires, added surface-mounted LED retrofit products, and expanded the outdoor luminaires category. For more information, visit

Metal-halide rules

In February, DOE rules took effect that regulate the efficiency of ballasts sold as part of new metal-halide luminaires. This was predicted to impact the availability of these luminaires. The DOE published the rules in 2014, giving manufacturers three years to comply.

The new rules updated previous energy standards that virtually eliminated probe-start lamps and ballasts from new medium-wattage (150–500W) luminaires, which represent the majority of metal-halide luminaire shipments. The rules strengthened energy standards for medium-wattage luminaires while creating new standards for low-wattage (50–149W) and high-wattage (501–1,000W) segments. Energy standards also are specific to ballast type and whether the luminaire is rated for indoor or outdoor applications. Compliant options include pulse-start magnetic and electronic ballasts.

Of the previous exemptions, two remain in effect: 480-volt electronic ballasts and regulated-lag ballasts designed for applications such as heavy industrial, security and street and tunnel lighting. Metal-halide luminaires rated only for 150W lamps, rated for use in wet locations, and containing a ballast rated at ambient air temperatures higher than 50°C are no longer exempt. Otherwise, the rules do not cover replacement ballasts nor lamp wattages larger than 1,000W.

In the past three years, manufacturers have assessed their products and continued, redesigned or discontinued them. Some gaps in availability may occur as metal-halide technology declines. The DOE predicted payback periods ranging from 4½ to 20 years, depending on various factors. As an exception, 1,000W lamp ballasts generate an expected payback of less than one year. In cases where luminaires are redesigned and reintroduced with a different ballast, the result may be an aftermarket mixing designs and redesigns.

For more information about new metal-halide luminaires, consult the luminaire manufacturers.

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