LED Lights are the Solution. Compact Fluorescent Lamps Burn Out Faster Than Expected

LED LightsCalifornia’s experience is notable because energy experts have placed high hopes on compact fluorescent lamps. Often spiral-shaped, they screw into existing light sockets and offer energy savings of about 75% over traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Many nations are relying on them to help cut emissions from power plants and stretch electricity supplies further. The United Nations says 8% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are linked to lighting, and that adoption of compact fluorescent lights could cut pollution.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa handed out free compact fluorescent light bulbs

The World Bank has helped dozens of mostly poor nations begin the switch to the bulbs to make electric lighting more affordable. Last June, for example, Bangladesh gave away five million of the bulbs in a single day.

No state has done more to promote compact fluorescent lamps than California. On Jan. 1, the state began phasing out sales of incandescent bulbs, one year ahead of the rest of the nation. A federal law that takes effect in January 2012 requires a 28% improvement in lighting efficiency for conventional bulbs in standard wattages. Compact fluorescent lamps are the logical substitute for traditional incandescent light bulbs, which won’t be available in stores after 2014.

California utilities have used ratepayer funds to subsidize sales of more than 100 million of the bulbs since 2006, most of them made in China. It is part of a comprehensive state effort to use energy-efficiency techniques as a substitute for power production. Subsidized bulbs cost an average of $1.30 in California versus $4 for bulbs not carrying utility subsidies.

California utility regulators have spent millions of dollars over the past three years to commission evaluation reports and field studies. The conclusion is that it is difficult to accurately predict or measure energy savings. It is also difficult to design incentive plans that reward—but don’t overly reward—utilities for their promotional efforts.

When it set up its bulb program in 2006, PG&E Corp. thought its customers would buy 53 million compact fluorescent bulbs by 2008. It allotted $92 million for rebates, the most of any utility in the state. Researchers hired by the California Public Utilities Commission concluded earlier this year that fewer bulbs were sold, fewer were screwed in, and they saved less energy than PG&E anticipated.

As a result of these and other adjustments, energy savings attributed to PG&E were pegged at 451.6 million kilowatt hours by regulators, or 73% lessthan the 1.7 billion kilowatt hours projected by PG&E for the 2006-2008 program.

LED Lights lamps bulbs

One hitch was the compact-fluorescent burnout rate. When PG&E began its 2006-2008 program, it figured the useful life of each bulb would be 9.4 years. Now, with experience, it has cut the estimate to 6.3 years, which limits the energy savings. Field tests show higher burnout rates in certain locations, such as bathrooms and in recessed lighting. Turning them on and off a lot also appears to impair longevity.

California regulators have debated whether utilities should be held to the energy savings they promised in order to earn bonus pay. Staff of the state utilities commission said utilities missed their overall-energy savings targets, partly because of disappointing results from light bulbs. Utilities disagree with many of the staff’s conclusions.

For more of the article by Rebecca Smith at the Wall St Journal, go to http://www.wsj.com