SA to phase out inefficient bulbs by 2016

8 December 2011

South Africa is to phase out all incandescent light bulbs and replace them with energy-efficient ones by 2016, making it the first African country to undertake a comprehensive national transition away from inefficient lighting.

The move, announced on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Durban on Wednesday, is linked to the global en.lighten Initiative by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is aimed at helping countries combat climate change through the transition to energy-efficient lighting.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner told reporters the move would allow South Africa to electrify over four-million more homes with the power saved from phasing out incandescent light bulbs.

“Fast-tracking more energy-efficient lighting is without a doubt one of the ‘low hanging fruit’, offering not only emissions savings but also cost savings to a company or a household budget,” Steiner said in Durban.

He said the aim of achieving a global phase-out of ordinary light bulbs by 2016 was not only possible but “infinitely doable”.

Move towards efficient lighting

South Africa will be working with UNEP to share lessons learned with other African countries willing to phase out incandescent light bulbs, said Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.

“We encourage all countries that have not yet phased out inefficient lighting to join the UNEP Global partnership and work with us to move towards an efficient lighting world to mitigate climate change,” Peters said.

South Africa’s power supply is under pressure from a growing economy, and this would be greatly mitigated by the phasing out of incandescent lamps, allowing the electricity saved to be directed to other social pressing needs.

Over 25 developing countries from four continents have joined the partnership, with Uruguay becoming the first nation to support the initiative in August this year.

Incandescent lamps have already been phased out, or are scheduled to be phased out, in most OECD countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam and other developing countries.

However, over 130 countries still market inefficient incandescent lamps. “Lack of awareness about the energy-saving and financial benefits of efficient lamps is a key deterrent for their market penetration in developing countries,” UNEP said.

Energy saving alternatives

Up to 95% of the energy emitted by incandescent lamps is in the form of heat and only 5% light, making their efficiency inherently low. They also only last around 1 000 hours, which is significantly shorter than energy-saving lamps, which can last up to 12 000 hours.

A principal, readily available alternative lighting solution comes in the form of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Unlike older incandescent light bulbs, CFLs produce an equivalent amount of light using 75% less energy. They also last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

There has been criticism around the health hazards of the mercury used in CFLs, which complicates their disposal. The en.lighten Initiative will support countries in setting up legislation and sustainable end-of-life approaches for spent lamps.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are also becoming more prevalent in the market. They do not contain mercury and have other advantages such as longer life, warm light colour similar to incandescent lamps, and low heat generation.

Almost 20% of global consumption

Meanwhile, research shows that, using current economic and energy efficiency trends, it is projected that global demand for artificial light will be 60% higher by 2030 if no switch to efficient lighting occurs.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 2007 the total electricity consumption due to lighting was at 2 650 terawatt-hours – representing almost 19% of the global electricity consumption.

The total global greenhouse gas emissions accrued to lighting electricity consumption was estimated by the IEA in 2005 at approximately 8% of world emissions, or 70% of world passenger vehicle emissions.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews