The Department of Energy’s Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) has granted several companies two-year Exception Relief for certain T8 general service fluorescent lamps (GSFLs) that will be phased out by new efficiency standards effective July 14, 2012.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), Exception Relief has been granted to Philips Lighting Co. , GE Lighting , Osram Sylvania , Ushio America , Satco , Litetronics , Halco  and Premium Quality Lighting  with other applications pending. With the extension, these companies are allowed to produce 700 series T8 lamps until July 14, 2014.
This extension provides building owners a lower-cost option for applications where color rendering is less important, such as transition spaces, storage rooms and industrial applications.
A major factor in granting this Exception Relief was and continues to be the availability of critical materials used to make fluorescent lamps more efficient. Several rare earth oxides are used in phosphors for energy-efficient and high-color-rendering fluorescent lamps. According to DOE, as of July 2010, China — supplier of more than 95 percent of the global supply of rare earth oxides — tightened rare earth annual export quotas by 40 percent compared to 2009 and the price of these materials has increased dramatically.
In granting the exceptions, OHA stated, “We further believe a full two-year deferral...will not only allow adequate time for the supply situation in China to stabilize, but will permit development of other supply sources outside of China, realization of…emerging alternative technologies that utilize less rare earth material, and larger scale deployment of recycling initiatives.”
In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act , which established a series of energy conservation standards for a number of classes of general service fluorescent lamps/tubes (GSFLs), including T8 light bulbs, and directed that the Department of Energy (DOE) determine at a later date whether those standards should be updated.
After a review, on July 14, 2009, DOE published the amended standards. They do not explicitly prohibit the sale of T8 lamps but state that GSFLs that do not meet the amended performance standards, such as using too much energy for the amount of light they produce, can no longer be manufactured for sale. Compliance was required by July 14, 2012, unless Exception Relief was granted.