The lighting industry has its collective gaze fixed on California, which has proven to be a bellwether state in terms of energy legislation. On Jan. 1, 2010, the recently adopted California Title 20 requirements for lamps and portable luminaires will go into effect.
Part of a far-reaching state mandate issued by the California Energy Commission.  governing appliance efficiency regulations, Title 20 has officially altered the playing field for lighting retailers in the state, and manufacturers across North America that do business with California showrooms.
The lighting-related goals behind Title 20 — passed in December 2008 — are to reduce average statewide electrical energy consumption by not less than 50 percent from the 2007 levels for indoor residential lighting, and not less than 25 percent from the 2007 levels for indoor commercial and outdoor lighting by 2018.
And that might be just the tip of the iceberg.
“The adoption of energy-efficient residential lighting technology has been so slow, that California simply said we’ve got to do something about it and did it. And already we are seeing indications that this is going to be ongoing,” says Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering & Technology for the American Lighting Assn. (ALA), which worked closely with the California Energy Commission to ensure that the interests of the lighting industry were considered. “They’re going to tighten the screws still further.”
In spite of some inevitable industry grumbling, the final version of Title 20 presents opportunities for those lighting showrooms that can see the light, says ALA President Richard Upton. “We felt that was a significant piece of progress as opposed to what was originally discussed [limiting all portables to 35W]. If that had prevailed, the only thing that would have been sold in California would have been commodity fixtures.
“Title 20 is the law. It is the way it is,” he adds. “The best thing people can do is look at these issues and see how they can use it to their advantage. There is an opportunity for a retailer or manufacturer to work with these products and help promote them to get people in their stores.”
ALA worked closely with the California Energy Commission staff to develop five pathways for manufacturers to meet requirements regarding residential portable lamps.
“We feel this is very positive for the industry,” Upton says. “While there is some level of expense for members, its far less onerous and difficult than what would have been in place.”
The state law offers five options for complying with its energy-efficiency requirements:
There are two noteworthy exceptions. Portable wall-mount adjustables — also known as swing-arm lamps — can be sold as is without a bulb-in-the-box requirement. But the lamp is now limited to 57W through 2011, and 43W after that. Single-socket picture lights have a maximum wattage of 25W. If they have multiple sockets, the maximum allowed dips down to 15W.
The impact for the lighting industry in California will be significant, says McGowan. “Certainly, it’s going to begin to squeeze their sales of standard incandescent products. And it will become more complicated because there are all these requirements that they had not had before,” he says. “In California, these products will require number one, education in the part of the showroom sales force; and number two, changes in manufacturing and product marking and packaging. It does raise questions as to whether showrooms should recycle or even sell CFLs.”
Ensuring that the state law was fair and consistent was a key goal for the ALA. “We certainly wanted the laws to apply to all 50 states, or we wanted multiple ways to have manufacturers comply with the law so that they would still have the design freedom to build the products they think their customers wanted,” McGowan adds.
Ultimately, a federal legislation setting standards across the board would be the best solution to ensure fair and robust intestate commerce, says Upton. “We have to move away from individual states passing individual laws or requirements.”
A federal energy bill that recently passed in the U.S. House and will go under Senate consideration in October will likely mirror Title 20 and elevate these requirements to a national level. “This would pre-empt states taking action,” he says. “What you want to achieve is some type of legislation or language so that requirements are harmonized across [state] borders.”
Clark Linstone, President of Pacific Coast Lighting in California, says that the state’s leadership role in the issue of energy efficient residential lighting “presents a real challenge” to local retailers and manufacturers. A federal bill would help level the playing field.
Whether or not that occurs, retailers in California must take steps today to ensure they can take advantage of the opportunities tomorrow may bring. After all, the new year is just around the corner. “We have to prepare now,” Linstone says.