Energy efficiency regulation of lighting products

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Russell Loane of Lighting Council Australia discusses the current regulations in Australia, consumer preferences, advent of LEDs and the options for new regulations.

A group of Australian and New Zealand regulators has released a discussion document – ‘Product Profile – Incandescent, Halogen and Compact Fluorescent Lamps’ – on the future regulation of such lamps. The 68-page document contains a detailed analysis of these products in the Australian and New Zealand markets, and reaffirms that governments continue to view lighting products as low-hanging fruit when it comes to regulating the energy efficiency of electrical equipment. It contains options for future regulation of these products, including effective bans on halogen and incandescent lamps in the Australian marketplace.


The common pear-shaped incandescent lamp (the General Lighting Service or GLS lamp) has been banned from sale for a number of years. Australia was the first developed country to implement the ban – only Cuba was ahead of it. When announced, the initiative led to a large spike in the sale of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) as consumers in general embraced the measure as good for the environment.

What may not be so well known are the other lighting products also regulated for energy efficiency.

Australian Standard AS 4934.2:2011 specifies requirements for minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), maximum wattage and other requirements for incandescent and halogen lamps with a range of common shapes and caps, which operate at extra low voltage or at mains voltage. It covers lamps supplied individually or as part of a luminaire. Excluded from the scope are coloured lamps, automotive lamps and special purpose lamps (traffic signals, navigation lamps, oven lamps, infrared lamps and ‘rough use’ lamps).

Minimum requirements also apply to CFLs. MEPS for CFLs came into effect in Australia in November 2009, along with the sales restriction on GLS lamps. The regulations apply to CFLs with integrated means for controlling, starting and stable operation that are intended for domestic and similar general lighting purposes. The requirements apply to self-ballasted lamps of all voltages and wattages irrespective of the type of lamp cap, supplied as individual lamps or as part of a luminaire.


Initially it was thought that the ban on GLS lamps would result in substantial energy savings. The Australian Government estimated that phasing out incandescent lamps would save four million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road.

Subsequent developments suggest that the anticipated energy saving from the phase-out was too optimistic. Not envisaged by regulators was consumer preference for halogen lamps over CFLs – notwithstanding the spike in sales of CFLs when the phase-out was announced. A telling passage in the Product Profile reads:

Despite CFLs (and LEDs or light emitting diodes) representing a superior economic choice, sales of halogen lamps have continued to be significant and a new range of MV [mains voltage] omnidirectional halogen lamps has emerged as an alternative to CFLs as tungsten filament lamps were phased out. While somewhat more efficient than incandescent lamps, the ongoing use of halogen lamps is a lost opportunity with respect to savings that could otherwise be made with a full transition to CFL and LED lamps.


The widespread acceptance of LEDs across most applications of lighting in recent times has provided regulators with another opportunity to regulate lighting products. LEDs are inherently more energy efficient than

GLS lamps (currently up to five times more so) and are on a par in efficiency terms with fluorescent technology.


The document lists a range of options, including:

● no action (business as usual)
● increasing MEPS stringency
● a complete transition to CFL/LED technology
● endorsement labelling
● influencing lighting design to reduce overall energy consumption
● changing consumer behaviour through information campaigns, and
● grants and subsidies to encourage energy efficiency.

At the time of writing this article, regulators are at a consultation stage with stakeholders and there is no indication of which direction the new regulation will take. It can be safely assumed, however, that ‘no action’ is not an option. Considerable resources have already gone into producing the ‘Product Profile’ and, as indicated earlier, governments continue to look for greater energy efficiency dividends from lighting.

New regulations are likely to increase the stringency of minimum energy performance standards. The ‘Product Profile’ devotes considerable space to options for this measure.

Lighting Council Australia is consulting closely with its lamp supplier members in responding to the ‘Product Profile’. Our intention (and this is also the stated intention of the regulators) is to only support the phasing out of a lamp technology when viable alternatives are available. Careful consideration is required in the context of the increasing availability of LEDs.

Russell Loane OAM is the chairman of Lighting Council Australia.

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