EU bans inefficient toxic lighting at home, proposes to manufacture & export abroad

(eceee news, 1 Sep 2021) Today, revised lighting rules under the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives comes into force, the first of two steps to save ~40 TWh annually. Additionally, under the RoHS Directive, the European Commission plans to ban virtually all mercury-containing fluorescent lamps in 12–18 months, a move expected to increase annual savings by a further 20 TWh. Ironically, the Commission is also proposing to allow most of these hazardous products to be manufactured, exported and traded into markets outside the EU.

Today, 1 September, the revised lighting regulations under the EU Ecodesign Directive goes into force, banning retrofit compact fluorescent lamps (CFL.i) and T12 “fat” linear fluorescent lamps across the 27 EU member states [1]. Europe is the first region in the world to ban these common mercury-containing lamps, citing economic and environmental criteria when setting regulations under Ecodesign. In a second stage, most linear T8 fluorescent lamps will be banned 1 September 2023.

The revised energy label for lighting also comes into effect today, which requires a light source to produce 210 lm/W to get an A rating. Today, no lamp on the EU market can reach that level, but lighting (LED) efficiency continues to improve. The revised ecodesign and labelling requirements for lighting products are expected to save Europe 41.9 TWh annually by 2030.

Speeding up EU phase out, additional savings

However, the European Commission is moving faster to phase-out fluorescent lighting under a different environmental regulation: it has recently published draft revisions to the regulations under EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive that would ban virtually all fluorescent lamps for sale in the EU in 12 to 18 months.

The RoHS regulations will phase-out virtually all fluorescent lighting and save the EU an additional average of 20 TWh/year over the analysis period, while avoiding approx. 5 metric tonnes of toxic mercury. Thus the proposed regulations under RoHS represent an increased ambition in environmental, climate and energy efficiency policy.

Ban at home, keep exporting

Ironically, today, 1 September, DG Environment of the European Commission is presenting its proposal to amend the lighting exemptions in Annex A of the global Minamata Convention on Mercury, where EU is one of the Parties. Contrary to its ambitions at home, the EU is proposing to continue to allow sales and export of virtually all mercury-containing fluorescent lamps. The Commission’s proposal is simply to remove halophosphate fluorescent lamps, a technology that was banned in Europe ten years ago under EC No 245/2009.

In contrast, the African Lighting Amendment to the Minamata Convention proposes to phase-out all common mercury-based fluorescent lighting products – including compact and linear fluorescent lamps – by 2025, a few years behind the phase-out dates for these same products in Europe.

“The EU is a global leader in transitioning markets to better, cleaner and more efficient lighting products. Earlier this year, SADC introduced new lighting standards based on EU lighting regulation adopted in 2019 in line with SADC Energy Ministers’ decree to phase-out inefficient lighting,” commented Kudakwashe Ndhlukula, Executive Director of the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

SACREEE and fellow regional efficiency centres in sub-Saharan Africa are working to protect their markets from becoming dumping grounds for lighting products rejected elsewhere. There is concern that fluorescent export markets like Europe will turn their attention to Africa and other under-regulated markets given efficiency policy development and implementation capacity is limited.

[1]: The formal title of the regulation: Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/2020 of 1 October 2019 laying down ecodesign requirements for light sources and separate control gears pursuant to Directive 2009/125/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Commission Regulations (EC) No 244/2009, (EC) No 245/2009 and (EU) No 1194/2012.