This Little Light of Mine: States Push Changing Light Bulbs for Energy Savings


What if we told you that you could save money, energy, and carbon dioxide emissions just by replacing your light bulbs?  Many states are pushing new policies to encourage or even require the replacement of traditional wasteful incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) as a key step to achieving energy independence.

New CFLs provide bright, steady light, and a 15-watt CFL produces as much light as a 60-watt incandescent.  CFLs are four times more efficient than standard, incandescent bulbs and last nine to thirteen times as long.  If everyone bought just one CFL and replaced their old standard bulb, America would save $8 billion in energy costs, prevent the burning of 30 million pounds of coal, and save greenhouse gas emissions equal to two million cars.  Convert all the bulbs and the savings would be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Several countries, most recently Australia, have banned incandescent light bulbs by 2010.  Congress has introduced a ban on the inefficient bulbs.  At the state level,

  • California AB 722 would ban incandescent bulbs by 2012.
  • Connecticut HB 6550 would authorize the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to study whether energy efficient bulbs were available for consumers at competitive prices and create a list of inefficient incandescent bulbs, which would then be banned from sale.
  • Rhode Island SB 806 would also ban incandescent bulbs by 2012.
  • North Carolina HB 838 would ban the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2016.

Short of banning incandescent bulbs, a number of states already have programs that have programs through their utilities to give consumers economic incentives to use CFLs:

  • Washington gives a $2-$6 rebate on CFLs
  • Energy trust of Oregon gives incentives for using CFLs.  Oregon SB 1149 creates the Energy Trsut of Oregon, which administers this program and other energy efficiency programs.
  • In Iowa and Minnesota, Alliant Energy gives customer $2/bulb rebate for CFLs. Minnesota's Energy Conservation Program requires utilities to invest 1.5 percent of their revenue in energy conservation programs.
  • Connecticut is proposing HB 5937, whichwould provide an income tax credit for the purchase of compact fluorescent bulbs.

Decoupling Utility Rates to Encourage CFLs: Most dramatically, Southern California Edison has given away more than a million CFLs to its customers, because California has created a policy incentive program that rewards utilities when energy is conserved.  Crucially, California decoupled its regulations so that utilities' profits are no longer linked to simply increasing sales. Instead, the decoupling program sets separate targets for utility revenue and electricity usage; excess revenue is returned to consumers, shortfalls in revenue are added to the next year's consumer bills, so utilities find giving away CFLs is more profitable than burning more energy in its power plants.  Edison even has a novel program to provide students at Green Schools programs with bulbs to take home.

What these policies all have in common is a recognition that replacing the simple light bulb is a surprisingly important tool in cutting energy costs -- and saving the planet.


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