- The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday proposed to roll back energy efficiency standards on some types of light bulbs, triggering protests from advocates who say the Trump administration's move is costly, unnecessary and possibly illegal.
- DOE wants to reverse a 2017 decision made by the department to expand the types of light bulbs covered under stronger standards. Experts at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project say that by 2025, the changes would cause consumers to lose out on $12 billion a year in electricity savings.
- The proposed rulemaking would involve rewriting efficiency standards stemming from bipartisan comprehensive energy legislation passed in 2007, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), noted. That legislation has led to increased adoption of LEDs and encouraged innovation in new lighting products.
DOE's proposed rollback of light bulb standards puts at risk significant household energy savings and reduced emissions, according to ASE. And the group says the implications go even farther.
"This is about so much more than lightbulbs. It's about progress and innovation and making sure we have practical rules in place," ASE President Jason Hartke said in a statement. "I just don't understand the rationale behind trying to turn back the clock."
The department had determined in 2017, based on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, that seven additional categories of light bulbs should be covered under stricter efficiency standards starting in 2020, including those used in indoor recessed lighting and candelabra fixtures. Exemptions beyond 2020 were maintained for more than a dozen other bulb categories based on sales data, technical features and other criteria, ASE officials said.
They pointed to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that showed about 2.9 billion of the total light bulbs sold in 2015 fall under the new categories to be covered starting in 2020 by the higher efficiency standards. For comparison, ASE noted that about 3.5 billion of the most-common A-series lightbulbs were sold in the same year.
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated the rollback would almost cut in half the number of bulbs to be covered by 2020 energy-saving rules.
"Aside from the monetary benefits for consumers, the aggregate impact is enormous," Hartke said. "This is one of the most significant energy efficiency standards in U.S. history."
Leaders from the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy issued a joint statement condemning the DOE's proposal.
The rollback "would cost consumers billions of dollars and increase pollution that harms public health and the environment," the groups said. They estimated U.S. electricity use would increase by 80 billion kWh per year, without the new standards.
DOE's draft rule is open for public comment for 60 days and there will likely be a legal battle over the proposed cuts.
"This is another senseless and illegal Trump administration rollback that will needlessly hike our energy bills and spew tons more pollution into the air," Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC's Center for Energy Efficiency Standards, said in a statement.
Pointing to the 2017 decision to put new categories of light bulbs under the stricter standards, DOE in its proposed rulemaking said the agency determined "the legal basis underlying those revisions misconstrued existing law," and as a result they are being withdrawn.
But according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, the rollback plan "is most likely illegal, violating a federal law that prohibits DOE from weakening efficiency standards for products such as light bulbs."