Congress Passes Bill that Regulates Lighting Industry
April 2, 2012 - 2:26pm

Throughout 2007, lawmakers and lobbyists delighted themselves with thoughts of all things green. The sustainability buzz spawned a slew of bills, both state and federal, advocating for a greener lighting marketplace. But in the waning days of last year, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), a mammoth energy bill that spells out—in exhausting detail—exactly how the lighting industry will be regulated. The law’s stipulations will begin to take effect in 2012, with the goal of being fully enacted by 2014.

Among the most contentious line items from the bill was what appeared to be an outright ban on incandescent bulbs; indeed, news stories trumpeted the death of Edison’s invention in the weeks and months following the bill's approval.

But according to the American Lighting Association, these reports are largely misguided, and the incandescent flame will not be extinguished that easily. The reality is that the bill doesn’t ban any existing technology; rather, it mandates higher efficiency standards for the products, measured in lumens per watt. That will mean new challenges as the industry adapts, but it doesn’t spell doom for the incandescent bulb.

“We pushed very, very vigorously to get a national bill passed, and fortunately we were able to get a seat at the table where the specifics were debated and hammered out between the advocates of energy efficiency and industry,” says Dick Upton, President of the American Lighting Association.

It was crucial to get a federal bill in order, Upton says, to head off the potentially crippling effect of multiple state-level regulations. In Residential Lighting’s May 2007 issue, editors noted nearly a dozen states that were considering energy-efficiency legislation. As a high-profile advocate of the lighting industry in Washington, D.C., the American Lighting Association suggested several amendments that were eventually adopted, including language that preempted any state-level legislation that might tumble out in the interim.

Both California and Nevada had already implemented efficiency requirements, and they’re allowed to proceed with their programs while the EISA unrolls. California’s law, which is already in effect, is somewhat more heavy-handed than the federal bill, and the American Lighting Association is working closely with the California Energy Commission to amend the concept.

The EISA drew the ire of Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who in March recommended a new law titled the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act that would effectively do away with the efficiency mandates unless the Comptroller General of the United States can independently verify the bill’s green goals. The legislation likely won’t move forward until 2009 or later, Upton says.

“(The American Lighting Association) is spending a large amount of time working on all these bills because the industry has a responsibility to [encourage] energy-efficient lighting in this country,” he says.

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