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Parliamentary questions
11 February 2009
Answer given by Mr Piebalgs on behalf of the Commission

By presenting legislation aiming at phasing out the less energy efficient lamps, the Commission implements the mandate from Parliament and the Council as laid down in the Ecodesign Directive(1).

In the context of the commitment of European leaders to reduce primary energy consumption by 20 % compared to projections for 2020, the Spring European Council 2007 invited the Commission to ‘rapidly submit proposals to enable increased energy efficiency requirements (…) on incandescent lamps and other forms of lighting in private households by 2009’.

In its resolution of 31 January 2008 on the action plan for Energy Efficiency, Parliament stressed ‘the importance of the Commission's keeping to the proposed timetable for the withdrawal of the most inefficient lightbulbs from the market’.

In October 2008, the Council of energy ministers invited the Commission to ‘submit in 2008 a draft Regulation that will launch a gradual process of phasing out until incandescent lamps and all the worst-performing lights are banned.’

1. EU citizens are expected to save close to 40 TWh (TeraWatt Hour) (roughly the electrictity consumption of Romania, or of 11 million European households, or the equivalent of the yearly output of 10 power stations of 500 megawatts), and to reduce their CO2 emission by about 15 million tons per year. Five to ten billion euros per year are expected to be reinjected into the EU economy.

2. When adopting the Ecodesign Directive, Parliament and the Council mandated the Commission to adopt implementing measures setting ecodesign requirements (including on energy efficiency) on specific products, including lighting in the domestic sector (Article 16 of the directive). The directive's legal basis is Article 95 of the Treaty, therefore its aim is to ensure the free movement of goods within the Community through harmonised requirements on the environmental performance of products. The draft regulation on household lamps will not ‘ban incandescent bulbs’. It will impose energy efficiency requirements on all household lamps. Incandescent bulbs (and some halogen lamps) are not able to fulfil the requirements, so they will be phased out everywhere in the Community in a harmonised way. The subsidiarity principle is respected, as diverging national requirements on products (such as initiatives in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland etc. to phase out incandescent bulbs through requirements that differ in timing and ambition) would have posed obstacles to the free movement of goods within the Community.

3. The draft regulation sets requirements also on the claims that manufacturers are making on the packaging of compact fluorescent lamps, so that consumers can select the lamps that are the most suitable for their specific needs. This includes proper information on equivalence with incandescent lamps, on light levels initially and after aging, and on whether the lamp is designed to withstand frequent switching. Compact fluorescent lamps are able to provide as much light as incandescent bulbs.

4. An extensive technical-environmental-economic study looked into the different lamp technologies in order to determine their improvement potential as regards their environmental impact over the full life cycle. The study is available from the website It concluded that of all currently available lamp technologies on the market, compact fluorescent lamps have the smallest impact on the environment, due to the energy they save in the use phase.

5. The study referred to under point 4 researched also use patterns specific to compact fluorescent lamps, and as a result assumed a higher number of operational hours per year for these lamps.

6. The study referred to under point 4 looked into the issue of space heating and concluded that incandescent lamps are not an efficient way to regulate indoor temperature. The location on the ceiling is inefficient, electrical heating itself is inefficient compared to other forms of heating (e.g. gas or heat pumps), the heating can be unnecessary in the summer period and result in increased cooling needs, and not all rooms need heating.

7. Mercury is an important component of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) that plays a role in their energy efficiency and also other parameters such as lifetime and warm-up times. There are up to 5 milligrams (0 005 grams) of mercury contained in a CFL (compared to 0,5 g in dental amalgam filling or several grams in older thermometers). The 5 mg limit is set in the Restriction on Hazardous Substances Directive(2) and will be reviewed before July 2010.

Under the Waste Electronic and Electric Equipment (WEEE) Directive(3), the collection and recycling of WEEE, including energy saving lamps, is being organised in all Member States. Member States have to ensure that users of electrical and electronic equipment are given the necessary information about the requirement not to dispose lamps as unsorted municipal waste and to collect such waste separately, as well as about the return and collection system available to them. When consumers take back their burned-out CFLs to collection points, the mercury content has to be removed from the lamps and not released to the environment.

Even in the worst possible case that a CFL goes to the landfill, during its lifetime it will have saved more mercury emissions from electricity production in coal power plants (compared to the mercury emissions related to the incandescent bulbs’ electricity need) than is contained in the CFL itself, so the overall mercury pollution balance will be positive.

8. The proportion of incandescent bulbs is completely marginal in Commission buildings (some spotlights in halls, more rarely lamps in toilets, or in very limited numbers in offices). The few incandescent bulbs have been replaced by energy saving bulbs to the extent possible. The major part of the lighting equipment installed in the Commission buildings are linear fluorescent lamps or compact fluorescent lamps without integrated ballast.

(1)Directive 2005/32/EC, OJ L 191, 22.7.2005.
(2)Directive 2002/95/EC, OJ L 37, 13.2.2003.
(3)Directive 2002/96/EC, OJ L 37, 13.2.2003.

OJ C 189, 13/07/2010
An nuashonrú is déanaí: 23 Feabhra 2009Fógra dlíthiúil