Australia Screws in Compact Fluorescent Lights Nationwide

CANBERRA, Australia, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - Trumpeting it as a "world first," the Australian government is mandating a nationwide phase out of inefficient, old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs by 2010.

The new policy, announced Tuesday by Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull should reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by four million tonnes two years later. Household lighting costs could be reduced by up to 66 percent, the minister said.

"The most effective and immediate way we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by using energy more efficiently," Turnbull said.

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More efficient compact fluorescent bulbs were introduced in the mid-1990s. (Photo credit unknown)
The reduction in emissions will increase as the phaseout progresses and the annual average reduction between 2008-2012 is estimated at around 800,000 tonnes.

By 2015, Turnbull says, the annual cut in emissions will be an estimated four million tonnes per year.

But Australian Greens and environmentalists said much more progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions could be made if Australian industry reduced its reliance on coal-fired power and coal exports.

Turnbull said that working with its state and territory counterparts, the Australian government will gradually phase out all incandescent light bulbs and is aiming for full enforcement of the new light bulb standards legislation by 2009 to 2010.

Exceptions will be made for special needs, such as medical lighting and oven lights.

"Electric lighting is a vital part of our lives; globally it generates emissions equal to 70 percent of those from all the world’s passenger vehicles, but it is still very inefficient. We have been using incandescent light bulbs for 125 years and up to 90 percent of the energy each light bulb uses is wasted, mainly as heat."

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Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Photo courtesy Parliament of Australia)
"A normal light bulb is too hot to hold – that heat is wasted and globally represents millions of tonnes of CO2 [the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide] that needn’t have been emitted into the atmosphere if we had used more efficient forms of lighting."

"These more efficient lights, such as the compact fluorescent light bulb, use around 20 percent of the electricity to produce the same amount of light."

A compact fluorescent light bulb can last between four and 10 times longer than the average incandescent light bulb, the minister said. "While they may be more expensive to buy up front, they can pay for themselves in lower power bills within a year."

The Australian Greens today challenged the environment minister to support more meaningful energy efficiency measures than banning incandescent light globes when Parliament resumes next week.

Greens climate change and energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said Turnbull's decision to phase out inefficient light globes was welcome but he would achieve much more by backing Greens' energy efficiency measures.

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Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
"The federal government last year rejected Greens' amendments requiring big energy users to implement energy savings identified in mandatory audits," Senator Milne said. "Parliament will be debating energy efficiency next week and I will be reintroducing the amendments. If the government is serious about energy efficiency then it will support them.

"In 2001, the 250 largest users of energy in Australia were responsible for 35 percent of total energy emissions," Milne said. "If they were required to implement energy efficiency measures, they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 million tonnes a year."

"This makes Minister Turnbull's 800,000 tonnes per year saving from light bulbs look paltry," she said.

"It's all well and good to replace light globes but the government continues to avoid adopting measures that will help make the deep greenhouse gas reduction targets needed at the same time as it supports activities that increase emissions, including an expansion of the coal industry and injecting billions into roads.

"The proposed Anvil Hill coal mine in New South Wales will generate 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, whereas the light bulb change will reduce emissions by 800,000 tonnes per annum," Milne said.

Greenpeace Australia did not comment on the lightbulbs, but instead today shut down the Kooragang coal loader at Newcastle to warn of the New South Wales government’s plans to double the terminal’s output and approve new mines after a scheduled March 24 election.

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To demonstrate that the coal industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change, Greenpeace activists shut down Kooragang Island coal loader in Newcastle. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace Australia)
Wearing "Stop Anvil Hill" banners, the activists warned that the New South Wales government has plans to approve or expand at least eight mines in the Hunter Valley, which they said would be a “climate change disaster.”

Activists chained themselves to conveyor belts at the terminal. New South Wales' biggest coal export terminal, it exports 64 million metric tonnes of coal a year, an amount Greenpeace says will be nearly doubled if the government of Premier Morris Iemma takes the March election.

The activists were removed by NSW Police this afternoon and taken to Waratah Police Station.

Other environmentalists welcomed the light bulb policy, but emphasized that most of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions come from industry, such as coal-fired power stations.

"It is a good, positive step. But it is a very small step. It needs to be followed through with a lot of different measures," Australian Conservation Foundation, ACF, spokesman Josh Meadows told ABC radio.

The ACF is urging the national government of Prime Minister John Howard to set national targets for emission reductions and renewable energy.

Prime Minister Howard has aligned Australia with the United States in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, but has recently showed signs of accepting the reality of climate change.

Earlier this month, Howard said Australia is likely to be involved in a carbon trading scheme as part of the government's plan to tackle climate change.

In his weekly recorded message, Howard said carbon trading is part of the solution to the problem of climate change. "Market mechanisms, including carbon pricing, will be integral to any long-term response to climate change," he said.

Howard said there is undeniable evidence that the climate is changing. "But the answer is not knee-jerk responses that harm the national interest."

The Howard government's response is changing lightbulbs. In Australia, lighting currently represents around 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from households, and around 25 percent of emissions from the commercial sector.