September 1, 2009 / 2:10 PM / 10 years ago

EU starts stamping out energy guzzling light bulbs

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe started eradicating traditional energy-guzzling light bulbs on Tuesday, angering some consumers who had grown attached to their warm glow and cheap price.

An employee shows a traditional light bulb (R) and two low-energy consumption bulbs at the Osram factory in Molsheim, eastern France December 11, 2008. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The move was part of European Union efforts to boost energy efficiency by a fifth by 2020 in the fight against global warming and to cut dependency on costly gas imports for electricity production.

Factories must immediately stop producing frosted incandescent bulbs and the least efficient 100-watt clear bulbs, but shops will be allowed to sell bulbs already in stock.

Traditional bulbs will be progressively replaced until 2012 with efficient alternatives such as halogen bulbs and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, which consume up to 80 percent less energy.

Traditional incandescent bulbs have barely changed since they were first produced commercially by Thomas Edison in 1879, and efficiency improvements reached a limit about 50 years ago.

But some European media criticized Brussels bureaucrats for intruding too far into citizens’ lives and highlighted complaints that the new bulbs cause migraines and skin problems.

Research published on Monday showed some Europeans were hoarding the older bulbs, with sales of incandescent bulbs up 35 percent in the first half of the year in Germany.

“Industry has much to do to improve the lighting,” said Jo Leinen, the German chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee. “But I think after the initial excitement, people will get used to the eco-bulbs.”

European households could initially save up to 50 euros ($71.80) a year by switching, with greater savings in later years as costs for the more expensive but longer-lasting eco-bulbs fall, said the EU’s executive European Commission, which first proposed the ban.

There were signs that shops could keep selling the older bulbs for weeks to come.

“I never heard of any ban — nobody told me,” said the cashier at a Brussels hardware store where a Reuters correspondent bought a 100-watt incandescent bulb from a stack of hundreds.

European manufacturers say the phase-out could play into the hands of Chinese CFL producers and could lead to the loss of 2,000 to 3,000 EU jobs, mostly in eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary.

But the European Commission said they had been given ample time to adapt and had access to hundreds of millions of euros of EU funding for eco-friendly products.

Reporting by Pete Harrison

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