Energy Department Announces New Light Standards

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Energy Department issued new standards for lighting that would save large amounts of energy by boosting the efficiency of fluorescent tubes common in office buildings and reflector lamps used in recessed fixtures in homes and retail stores.

"When it comes to saving money and growing our economy, energy efficiency isn't just low hanging fruit; it's fruit [lying] on the ground," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement yesterday.

The department said that from 2012, when its new standards will take effect, through 2042, the United States would save as much as $4 billion annually and avoid up to 594 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly the equivalent to removing 166 million cars from the road for a year.

The new rules are part of changes in lighting set in motion by the 2007 energy bill, which also mandated standards that will result in phasing out the 130-year-old incandescent light bulb by the middle of the next decade.

The rules issued yesterday will phase out less efficient fluorescent tubes. New standards will also apply to reflector lamps, the cone-shaped bulbs used in recessed and track lighting.

Groups that promote energy efficiency hailed the change.

"The impact is huge -- it's the biggest energy-saving rule ever to come out of the" Energy Department, said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. Using the department's figures, he said, "the savings would total between 500 billion and 1.2 trillion kilowatt hours over 30 years. The high-end estimate is roughly equal to the annual consumption of all the households in the U.S. for a year."

Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington-based nonprofit, said "The little light bulb: It's like the Goliath of energy savings." She said that lighting accounts for about 15 percent of energy use in homes, and up to 20 percent in offices.

The rules were just part of a flurry of activity and announcements on energy issues. Tomorrow, the administration is expected to grant California a waiver to set its own standards for automobile fuel efficiency, the final and now largely symbolic step in a process that started with the state's determination to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and led to the announcement in May of new federal standards that are about the same as California's.

"This puts the federal seal of approval on California's leadership in this area," said David Doniger, a climate policy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In addition, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will designate 24 tracts of public land in six Western states as special zones for utility-scale solar energy development. He said the department will fund environmental studies, open new solar-energy-permitting offices and speed reviews of industry proposals. The land falls under the control of the Bureau of Land Management.

Staff writer David Fahrenthold contributed to this report.

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