Energy-efficient lighting technologies are economical, commercially viable and technologically available, but due to several barriers, they have not reached their market penetration potential. A growing number of countries in the Arab region have already taken actions to transit to more efficient lighting systems. Replacing incandescent lamps in the residential sector is one of the most obvious and easiest methods to achieve energy-efficiency in the region. The transition to efficient lighting can occur at a very low cost with existing technology and provide immediate results. The UNEP/GEF en.lighten initiative, developed estimates for 130 countries with the objective of calculating the potential electricity savings, CO2 emission reductions and the economic benefits that could be realized from phasing out inefficient lighting and replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Out of the 130 countries analyzed, 18 were from the Arab region. Eliminating inefficient lighting in the region would save nearly 37.8 Twh of electricity and slash 24.8 Mt of CO2. Lighting consumes nearly 34 percent of the total Arab’s electricity consumption. Potential energy savings and CO2 emission reduction varies between different countries based on their pattern of energy demand, fuel mix of electricity generation, and energy efficiency. Lighting represents the highest percentage of electricity consumption in Algeria (41.3 %) and Sudan (35.5%), while Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the largest consumers of electricity and thus have the highest saving potential.

Some Arab countries have already begun initiatives to transition to efficient lighting. These national programs are in various stages of development. To support the transition, countries have formulated different policies and measures and, in most cases the preferred approach has been the implementation of fiscal incentives to reduce the initial cost of the CFLs. Five countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and UAE) have already distributed around 30 million CFLs in total. Additionally, some countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Lebanon have announced that they will ban the sale of all incandescent bulbs by specific target years. Bulk distribution of CFLs is a positive first step forward to develop market for efficient lighting. It highlights the benefits of CFLs such as economic viability, reliability, and efficiency. It also serves to educate the public on the availability of this technology, overcome the barrier of initial high cost of CFLs, increase the demand for CFLs to encourage suppliers to enter the market, as well as helping to achieve quick and impactful load reduction of the power systems. However, bulk distribution programs are not sufficient to secure sustainable transformation to efficient lighting. These programs should be implemented within a broader and integrated policy framework. Key elements of this integrated approach include: the development of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), supporting policies to help restrict supply of inefficient lighting and promote demand of MEPS-compliant products; Monitoring Verification and Enforcement (MVE) mechanisms; and, environmentally sound waste management of CFLs at the end of their life.

Studies reveal significant similarities with regard to policies implemented for the switch to efficient lighting in the region. In almost all the countries examined, they have formulated a comprehensive policy package that; contains energy price reform, strengthens the legislative and institutional framework, provide fiscal incentives, develops standards and labeling schemes, and raises public awareness. Furthermore, almost all of countries in the region have been conducting public awareness campaigns to promote energy efficiency and efficient lighting, even if they don’t currently have any programs in place for switching to CFLs. In these cases, the effectiveness of such campaigns in changing consumer opinion and buying habits needs to be measured.

While many countries in the region, such as Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia have already established integrated energy-efficiency strategies, targets or legislation into their national energy policy frameworks, these steps are yet to be taken in other countries like the Gulf States (GCC). Here, heavy energy price subsidies and the abundance of fossil fuels have hindered investment in energy efficiency including efficient lighting.


Abdel Gelil, I., Draft Regional Report on Efficient lighting in the Middle East and North Africa, accessed on 24 May 2013 at http://www.enlighten-initiative.org/portal/Portals/26107/documents/ConferenceMaterial/MiddleEast_NorthAfrica/Regional%20Report%20MENA%20Final.pdf

Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Gelil is Academic Chair of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan AI Nahayan, and Director of the Environmental Management Program at the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain.