Incandescent filament light bulbs use up to five times as much energy as efficient lights Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Traditional light bulbs are to be banned from 2010, EU energy ministers have decided.
By Louise Gray
The high energy filament bulbs are being phased out in order to improve energy efficiency and meet climate change targets.
The switchover, which will affect all of the European Union’s 500 million citizens, was first ordered at a Brussels summit last year as part of an ambitious energy policy to fight climate change.
A meeting of EU energy ministers, including the UK’s new secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Miliband decided to go ahead with the ban.
The move has previously proved controversial.
Traditional light bulbs are around 38p compared to £1.38 for the cheapest low energy models and campaigners have complained about affordability, as well as the cost of having to adapt fittings for the new bulbs.
The fluorescent bulbs generally take time to warm up and there have been complaints the light is too dim and has a tendency to flicker.
There are also worries over how the bulbs will be disposed of. Under new regulations for hazardous waste, councils are obliged to recycle low energy bulbs at considerable cost to the tax payer.
Incandescent filament light bulbs use up to five times as much energy as efficient lights such as “compact fluorescent lamps” (CFLs).
Advocates claim that replacing the worst-performing lamps with today’s best available technology will reduce domestic energy consumption for lighting by 60 per cent in the EU, equivalent to saving 30 million tons of CO2 pollution every year.
However questions remain over the cost, health impact and aesthetic quality of the new low-energy fluorescent bulbs.
There have been concerns low energy bulbs can cause headaches, rashes and even sunburn. If the bulbs break the toxic mecury inside can cause migraine and dizziness. The bulbs are also too big for some old-fashioned fittings, can look out of place in historic homes and are generally more expensive – although the EU has vowed cost will come down before 2010.
The Health Protection Agency warned consumers they should not stay close to open energy saving bulbs for more than an hour.
Environmental groups welcomed the ruling.
Mariangiola Fabbri , World Wildlife Fund energy policy officer, said legislation is needed to ensure energy efficiency.
She said: “Keeping energy efficiency as an optional tool will not lead us towards the much needed 30 per cent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020.”
Energy ministers also discussed the controversial target to generate 20 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020 at the meeting. The UK has argued that aviation should be removed from the target because it is not yet possible to run aeroplanes on renewables and it could ground the industry. But most other EU ministers at the meeting agreed aviation should remain part of the target.
The EU council is due to meet next week to discuss the target to reduce carbon emission by 20 per cent by 2020. Previously the EU had pledged this will be increased to 30 per cent as long as the rest of the developed world does the same.
But environmentalists fear this pledge will be dropped in the light of the economic crisis, scuppering hoped of an ambitious world target at the UN climate change talks planned for Copenhagen next year.