It is now increasingly a mainstream market. In fact, a growing number of consumers is switching from traditional incandescent bulbs to low energy bulbs.
Research shows that more than 75 percent of all Europe’s office lighting is based on old lighting technology. This results in more than 2 billion Euros per year in unnecessary energy consumption (according to the European Lamp Companies Federation) and does not comply with current quality norms. Not only this. The European Commission estimates that we could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 million tonnes a year if energy saving light bulbs were used in both the domestic and services sectors. Some Member States have already begun acting on this. Netherlands and Belgium are prime examples, going as far as to set concrete timelines for completely phasing out the incandescent bulb.
A major development in the LEB market is the announcement by the European Commission that it is preparing a study on domestic lighting that could lead to the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs by 2009. The 120 year old filamentary bulb is likely to be replaced across most of Europe by compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs) which are the main offerings by most companies with halogen lamps and electronic controls like dimmers. The decision to ban incandescent light bulbs is part of a broader initiative, dubbed the ‘Ecodesign Directive’, that aims to improve the energy efficiency of lighting equipment and other energy-consuming products. The ban on incandescent light bulbs is expected to give a significant boost to this market across Europe. However, the proposal has yet to be approved by all Member States or the European Parliament.
“A major selling point for low energy bulbs is the potential for cost savings,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Akhil Sivanandan. “The long term savings in energy cost far outweigh the difference in initial pricing between incandescent bulbs and low energy bulbs. As consumer awareness and media attention on environmental issues increases, a higher number of consumers see the low energy bulbs as a viable and cheaper option to the incandescent light bulb.”
“However,” continues Sivanandan “incandescent lamps still have a few advantages over low energy bulbs. The colour rendition of incandescent lamps is superior to the low energy ones. Incandescent lamps also project light further than LEBs, while incandescent lamps are also much cheaper than LEBs up front. Consumers prefer the softer, yellow light of incandescent light bulbs to the harsher white light of compact fluorescent light bulbs, although some of the new LEBs on the market mimic the soft light given by incandescent light bulbs”.
A major issue that slows down the adoption of LEBs is the EU tariff in place for these bulbs produced in Asia, keeping the price unnecessarily high. Although the EU has recently announced plans to lift this tariff by 2009, no member state has given a definite commitment. In addition, the waste charges of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive act as a restraint. As a result, disposal is a problem due to the comparatively high levels of mercury present in compact fluorescent light bulbs. The directive puts the burden of disposal of LEBs squarely on the shoulders of the manufacturers and suppliers.
“The presence of mercury poses environmental and health problems,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Akhil Sivanandan. “Another hurdle to the market is the initial investment. If it is true that a growing number of consumers is switching from traditional incandescent bulbs to low energy bulbs, at the same time many people are unwilling to pay the extra amount for LEBs. A lack of awareness of the benefits is usually the main reason for this.”
The high emphasis on research and innovation in the market as well as the support being offered by the EU, will ensure that the market continues to expand. With the main issues being addressed jointly by manufacturers and Governments alike, the consumer is ensured a cheaper, more feasible alternative to the incandescent light bulb.
With new rules coming into effect soon in the EU, the LEBs market seems poised for explosive growth over the next few years. With companies developing newer and better technologies everyday, the market continues to grow and overtake the incandescent bulb market.
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