The time for retailers to lead on energy-efficient light bulbs is now

Right now, retailers are making many of the decisions that will determine what products will be on their shelves next year. One decision is whether to stop stocking inefficient lighting products in favor of more energy-efficient ones – such as LEDs – saving consumers money and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Months ago, this decision would have been an easy one, as new lighting efficiency regulations were slated to go into effect in January 2020.

Once implemented, these new standards would have raised the energy efficiency requirements for many household bulb types, saving consumers nearly $12 billion on their energy bills and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 25 coal-burning power plants annually.

But the Trump administration is trying to weaken these regulations, creating confusion for retailers.

Lighting efficiency standards slated to go into effect in 2020 can help save households $180 per year equal to a 12% cut in an average household’s electric bill. Click To Tweet

What will the final law of the land be? Retailers shouldn’t wait around to see – they should use their considerable market power to help preserve the transition to more energy-efficient lighting.

Given that consumers are showing growing preference for efficient LED bulbs, choosing to stock more energy-efficient lighting makes business sense. Additionally, this is a prime opportunity for retailers to demonstrate that they’re serious about acting on climate.

Trump administration rollbacks create regulatory uncertainty and risk for retailers. How did we get here?

For some background, this all started with the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) – the nation’s first standards for light bulbs – that President George W. Bush signed in 2007. The first phase of the lighting efficiency standards came into effect in 2012.

With documented benefits to consumers, the economy and the environment, Congress wanted to ensure that the EISA could weather any political transition. Therefore, important provisions were put in place to ensure that the second phase of lighting standards would be implemented by 2020. In addition, other legal provisions regarding energy efficiency standards are in place to prevent future administrations from weakening standards.

Graziella Siciliano, Senior Manager of Carbon and Energy

Unfortunately, the Trump administration – at the behest of a few lighting manufacturers such as General Electric Co., Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) and Sylvania – is battling EISA standards by putting forth amendments that would dramatically slow the momentum of the energy-efficient lighting transition in the U.S.

The administration’s action is destined for the courts, and if their proposed rollback is overturned – which is a strong possibility given the solid legal footing of the lighting legislation – it could leave retailers with inventory worth millions of dollars that they can’t sell.

Minimum energy performance standards for light bulbs are the second biggest energy saving initiative in the U.S., next to vehicle fuel economy standards. It is estimated that cumulatively the standard will result in $343 billion in cumulative savings for consumers and avoid annual emissions of 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2025.

Not only is the administration’s move on thin ice legally, but it will also hurt American consumers and the environment.

Using market power to preserve lighting efficiency is key.

However, retailers that sell a lot of light bulbs – such as Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes – can act to mitigate the impact. They can help create market certainty in the absence of regulatory clarity.

Various retailers have used their leadership and market power in the past to support greater lighting efficiency. For instance, in 2006 Walmart helped support the goals of the first phase of EISA lighting standards when it set a goal to sell 100 million compact florescent lamps, or CFLs, by 2007. Walmart recognized that while the initial price for CFLs was higher, customers would save energy and money in the long term.

In addition, large markets such as the European Union and states like California will continue to aggressively implement strong lighting energy efficiency standards.

Together these policy trends with retailer leadership can help preserve the national lighting efficiency transition, creating a future where it will no longer make sense for manufacturers to produce less efficient lighting technologies.

Retailers should embrace the January 2020 standards.

Therefore, instead of letting the uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration’s action slow down momentum, retailers can lead by making a public commitment to stock products in 2020 that meet the standard and stop stocking less efficient bulbs.

This decision will be consistent with retailer sustainability commitments and considerable past leadership on advancing energy-efficient lighting technologies.

The 2020 lighting transition marks another opportunity to make a positive change for consumers and the environment. So to retailers we say: Don’t wait. Lead!

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