DOE to Implement Overdue Efficiency Standards for Light Bulbs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy finalized two rules today that will advance the energy efficiency of the nation’s light bulbs and create significant savings for consumers while avoiding millions of tons of carbon emissions.

The action will require all general service lamps (GSLs) to meet an efficiency threshold of 45 lumens per watt (LPW), effectively implementing the statutory backstop requirement that was due to go into effect on January 1, 2020. Today’s action will also ensure there are no loopholes in the definition of GSLs, finally completing the phase-out of older, inefficient incandescent light bulbs.

The following is a statement from NRDC energy efficiency advocate Joe Vukovich:

“Today’s announcement is brilliant news for consumers and the climate. Implementing these overdue and common-sense light bulb efficiency standards will result in annual utility bill savings of $3 billion for consumers and prevent 222 million tons of dangerous, climate-warming carbon pollution over the next 30 years, that’s equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of over 48 million vehicles.

“We are long overdue to phase out inefficient old-fashioned light bulbs as this progress was illegally delayed by the Trump administration for more than two years. LED bulbs, which will replace the old incandescents, use one-sixth the amount of energy to deliver the same amount of light and last at least 10 times longer.”


Similar light bulb efficiency standards went into effect in California and Nevada on January 1, 2020, and 2021, respectively, and incandescents were phased out in Europe back in mid-2018. There are still around a billion sockets in the U.S. that contain inefficient light bulbs, and incandescent and halogens still represent over a third of current U.S. sales.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) outlined a plan for the agency to phase out the sale of inefficient light bulbs. If certain conditions were not met, a backstop energy efficiency standard at the level of 45 lumens per watt (LPW) would go into effect on January 1, 2020. The Trump DOE issued a “final determination” in late 2019 declaring that it would not go forward with improved efficiency standards for the bulbs that fill roughly 6 billion U.S. sockets.

In addition, the EISA required the Department to review the list of bulbs that were initially exempted from compliance with 2007 GSL standard. In early 2017 DOE published an updated definition that brought unconventionally shaped light bulbs—roughly half of all household bulbs—into the standard’s scope. However, in 2019 the Trump DOE reversed that 2017 decision, reopening the loophole and allowing several types of bulbs to avoid compliance with stronger standards. 

For more details, see this new blog from Joe Vukovich.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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