In a move to save energy and citizens' money: it's lights out for the 60W light bulb - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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In a move to save energy and citizens' money: it's lights out for the 60W light bulb

Sunday, 4 September 2011
As of Thursday (1st September), the 60-watt light bulb, left, can no longer be produced nor marketed in the European Union. For some bizarre and unenlightened reason, this has caused upset.

Following the demise of the 100W light bulbs in 2009, 60W bulbs are to be removed from European supermarket shelves in order to encourage greater use of energy-saving alternatives.

This has prompted leading eurosceptic media to declare an absolute outrage since once stocks run out, householders “will have to rely on low-energy Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) instead”. Energy saving bulbs, while they do cost more at the outset, they save money in the long-term as they use a lower wattage and so consume less electricity. The main objection it seems is they take longer to get to full brightness. Mon dieu.

There are even reports of prices being hiked as consumers rush to “panic-buy” before they are gone for good. South West MEP Giles Chichester, who is the Conservatives’ energy spokesman in the European Parliament, has accused manufacturers this week of "exploiting a market opportunity" by raising the price of 60-watt bulbs. (According to the Telegraph, the price of traditional 60-watt bulbs has doubled since the EU announced its ban in 2008. One manufacturer which charged 16p in 2008 now charges 33p, and at Sainsbury's the price per bulb has gone up from 70p to £1.)

Incandescent light bulbs are being phased out by the European Union in a bid to cut energy consumption by 20 per cent by the year 2020. It is claimed that at current rates, member states will only achieve a reduction of 10 per cent and so these rules are being pressed ahead with urgency.

Gunther Oettinger, the European Energy Commissioner, has admitted that old-fashioned light bulbs will be missed but were a necessary sacrifice. “They have been part of our daily life for such a long time that it seems odd that they will disappear […] Europe can simply not afford to waste energy. It was for these reasons that heads of states back in 2007 set themselves an ambitions energy efficiency target," he said.

South West MEP Julie Girling is concerned more about the safety aspect. In a letter published in the Western Morning News, she writes: “What bothers me about all of this is not the loss of light bulbs themselves but, the requirement for 100% compliance with the EU and concerns around the safety of the new bulbs. There are many stories of individuals across the UK who are adversely affected by the new lights – suffering from migraines and other illness. Be assured, I will question the European Commission about the safety of these bulbs and report back to you with their response.

Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson on the other hand welcomes the next phase of the ban on incandescent light bulbs citing evidence that it will cut almost 5 million tonnes of CO2 and save the average household £55 per year.

"Europe-wide savings produced by this ban will negate the need for the equivalent of almost six Hinkley B nuclear power stations; plus all the toxic waste and de-commissioning costs that come with them," he said.

"Increasing energy efficiency is crucial to cutting CO2 emissions and protecting the environment. But as with the feed-in tariff for households to install solar panels on their roofs, protecting the environment often goes hand in hand with making drastic savings on energy bills."

He also issued a reminder: "energy saving light bulbs contain mercury, and need to be disposed of properly. Many retailers will do this for free, and I strongly urge people to take them up on the offer."

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