Feds move to tighten efficiency rules for household lamps

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The Department of Energy is looking to regulate two types of household lamps.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced Monday in the Federal Register it is considering new energy conservation standards for general service fluorescent lamps (GSFLs) and incandescent reflector lamps (IRLs). 

The Energy Department estimates the rules will save the public billions in energy bills over the next three decades and have substantial environmental benefits. But the agency also expects the rules will cost manufacturers more than $90 million, which could lead some to close up shop and cut jobs. It is weighing the costs with the benefits.

"The (Energy Policy and Conservation Act) requires the U.S. Department of Energy to determine whether more-stringent, amended standards would be technologically feasible and economically justified, and would save a significant amount of energy," the agency wrote.

This is the Energy Department's latest effort to reform the lighting industry. In January, the agency began enforcing new rules that effectively ban the most popular type of incandescent light bulbs, which Thomas Edison made famous in the late 1800s. 

The proposed rules would apply to general service fluorescent lamps and incandescent reflector lamps, which fall under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

They would establish more stringent requirements for these types of lamps.

The incandescent reflector lamps would be the most affected by the new rules. The agency estimates the industry could lose nearly 30 percent of its value, or about $52 million, because of the rules.

"Additionally, manufacturers of IRLs stated in interviews with (the Energy Department) that there is the potential for IRL manufacturers to close existing U.S. manufacturing plants or for a potential loss of domestic IRL manufacturing employment based on the energy conservation standards proposed for IRLs," the agency wrote.

The general service fluorescent lamps are more widely circulated, so the rules are not expected to have as big of an impact on this industry and no job losses are anticipated. But the industry could still lose nearly $40 million, the agency estimates.

On the flip side, the proposed standards for the general service fluorescent lamps would save consumers between $3.1 billion and $8.1 billion, while the incandescent reflector lamps rules would save the public between $180 million and $280 million, the agency estimates.

Furthermore, the rules would have significant environmental benefits. Carbon dioxide reductions from the GSFL standards would save the government between $1.3 billion and $17 billion, the agency estimates. 

The Energy Department will hold a public hearing on Thursday to discuss the proposed rules. The public has 60 days to comment.