EU Considering Halogen Lamp Reprieve

Brussels are considering to delay the phasing out of mains voltage halogen lamps from 2016 to 2018. The result could be €8.6bn (£6.8bn) of lost efficiency savings, according to Clasp, a leading efficiency standards and labelling group, which co-authored the test report by the Swedish energy agency, Belgian government and the European council for an energy efficient economy (ECEEE).

“The development of LED lightbulbs has been surprisingly fast and powerful,” said Nils Borg, a report author and ECEEE director. “This report is evidence-based, with recent samples, and it really puts a new light on the proposal to delay the phase-out of incandescents which I hope will now be revisited.”

europe lamp salesLED price and performance data have moved faster than they expected and it is clear that LEDs can replace halogens without any problems. Many samples tested performed better than the commissions predictions for 2016 and one had a price even lower than their 2020 predictions. The report also shows that while the commission had expected compact fluorescent lamp sales to be four times higher than mains voltage halogen lamps in 2013, their actual sales were four times less. As a result, the EU market was “not on track to deliver the 39 terrawatt hours of savings” expected by 2020.

Sales of halogen lamps have risen in recent years as incandescent lamps have been phased out. Consumers have not turned to CFL as first thought; disliking the warm up period, colour rendering and often bigger size. In fact, CFL sales in 2013 were lower than they were in 2007. With LED lamps still commanding a price premium, it is easy to see that any delay in the halogen phase out will lead to more halogens being sold and less LEDs used to replace them. Test sample prices for the LED lamps ranged from €6.16 to €28.42 per 500 lumens (including VAT). The halogen lamps purchased had a price of €2.29 per 500 lumens. With much of Europe still struggling out of recession, not surprisingly, many consumers take the short term path of least upfront cost, even though the longer term benefits are substantial.

The proposed delay was an industry request, touting job losses as its main reason. For the major lamp manufacturers Osram and Philips, halogen lamps are a cash cow that generate handsome profits. And although Philips have led the market when it comes to pushing the virtues of LEDs, they are not going to throw cash away. According to CEO Frans van Houten, “the golden tail of conventional lamps will be with us for many years to come, it is under pressure but it doesn’t go away”.

Many people outside the industry have no appreciation of the difficulty of managing a huge technology shift that affects both factory footprint and people. You need big machines to make halogen lamps and those machines need to run at near capacity for you to make even a small profit. Managing the decline of conventional lamps is a difficult task. But delaying the halogen phase out because of potential job losses is not going to solve the problem.

By Julie Allen

26 Nov