UN helps to speed up adoption of energy-saving lights

25 September 2009 – Efforts to replace inefficient incandescent lamps with energy-saving light bulbs, thus cutting both consumers’ bills and greenhouse gas emissions, will be speeded up under a United Nations-backed initiative launched today.

Globally, 70 per cent of lighting sales consist of inefficient incandescent lamps, and a shift to energy-efficient alternatives would cut the world’s electricity demand for lighting by some 18 per cent, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which launched the project with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a partnership of 178 countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.

The nearly $20-million initiative, the Global Market Transformation for Efficient Lighting Platform, is to be implemented in collaboration with the OSRAM and Philips companies.

“This new project aims to accelerate growing national initiatives to replace old bulbs into a global one by overcoming market barriers in developing economies and by setting international energy and performance standards in order to build consumer confidence,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

“In terms of climate change, this is among the lowest of low-hanging fruit. Eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked with lighting; this project can by 2014 make a big dent in these while saving people money too.”

Global demand for artificial light is projected to be 80 per cent higher by 2030, with a great deal of that linked to the construction and operation of new buildings in developing economies including China. If lighting technologies and efficiencies do not improve, global demand will reach almost twice the output of all modern nuclear power plants, according to the GEF.

Some 25 per cent of the energy consumed by energy-saving lights, known as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is converted to visible light, compared to only 5 per cent for an incandescent lamp. Up to 95 per cent of the energy emitted by incandescent lamps is heat. They last around 1,000 hours – significantly shorter than CFLs, with life spans of 6,000 to 12,000 hours.

Historically, the main barrier to the deployment of CFLs was their high initial cost.

When first launched in the early 1980s, CFLs were 20 to 30 times more expensive, but costs have steadily declined through use and increased competition and they now retail for about four times the price of an incandescent lamp.


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