Lighting Associations Drop Lawsuit to Block New California Light Bulb Standards

SACRAMENTO – Two national lighting associations have dropped their lawsuit attempting to thwart California’s updated light bulb efficiency standards, which are identical to national ones rolled back by the Trump administration last year. The California standards, which went into effect Jan. 1 for bulbs filling 260 million sockets in the state, will save Californians billions of dollars on their energy bills and avoid millions of tons of carbon-warming pollution.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the American Lighting Association yesterday ended their legal challenge to the California Energy Commission’s Nov. 13 decision to expand its minimum efficiency standards for bulbs. The move came two weeks after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California refused to issue a temporary restraining order at their request.

Following is a statement from Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council: 

“The lighting industry finally came to its senses and discontinued its desperate efforts to block California’s common-sense light bulb efficiency standards, which are poised to save consumers billions of dollars on their utility bills. All bulbs sold in California must now be efficient ones, meaning that the world’s fifth-largest economy will only be illuminated by energy-saving models, furthering its competitiveness and environmental leadership. “

The associations were fighting the addition of such common household types as the candle- and flame-shaped bulbs used in chandeliers and sconces, reflector bulbs used in recessed cans and track lighting, round globe bulbs, and the bulbs that can operate at three different light levels – the same models the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently eliminated from being covered by national lighting efficiency standards. NRDC and others have sued over the rollback.

“While it’s unfortunate that the Trump administration rolled back the federal light bulb efficiency standards, we remain optimistic that a lawsuit filed by NRDC, Earthjustice, and the attorneys general from 15 states will successfully restore those standards too. This will ensure that energy-wasting incandescent and halogen bulbs can no longer be sold in all fifty states, as envisioned by Congress when it wrote the law back in 2007,” Horowitz said. 

LED and CFL bulbs can still be sold in California but incandescent and halogen bulbs, which waste up to 90 percent of their energy as heat, do not meet the minimum efficiency level of 45 lumens per watt. 

The updated standards will save Californians as much as $2.4 billion on their annual utility bills – and avoid up to 13,600 gigawatt-hours of annual electricity use – once the current stock of inefficient bulbs turns over. The savings are in addition to state standards that went into effect in 2018 for the pear-shaped bulbs used in table and floor lamps, and small diameter reflector bulbs for track and recessed lighting. DOE also recently said it would not update national standards to their level.

Background on the California standards is here. Information on selecting efficient bulbs is here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC