By: Ibrahim Abdel Gelil

Electricity for lighting is responsible for 19% of total end-use electrical consumption and for 6% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This equals the total emissions from Germany and Japan combined. Over the next 20 years, global electricity consumption for lighting is expected to increase by 60%.

Shifting to efficient lighting technologies around the world would cut the amount of electricity used for lighting from 19% to 7%. This would save enough electricity to eliminate 705 of the world’s 2,670 coal-fired plants. In addition, it could save countries and end-users a considerable amount of money in reduced electricity bills, making these resources available for other human needs. Few actions can cut carbon emissions more effortlessly than the phase-out of inefficient lighting, making it one of the most effective and economically advantageous means to combat climate change.

Activities aimed at phasing out inefficient technologies have been increasingly introduced in recent years, yet market forces on their own have proven insufficient to achieve rapid lighting market transformation, especially in light of the urgent need to reduce emissions posed by climate change. Experiences throughout the world point to the need to coordinate global efforts and provide technical support to assist countries in introducing efficient lighting transformation programs.

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 100 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 100 countries analyzed, 19 were from the MENA region. Eliminating inefficient lighting in the region would save nearly 31.8 Twh of electricity and slash 19.9 Mt of CO2. This is equivalent to removing about 5 million vehicles off the road. The cost for the region to transition to efficient lighting, is around 2,8 billion USD, with a simple payback of 1.7 years. 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.

Some countries in the region 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. Six countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, and UAE) have already distributed around 99 million CFLs in total. Additionally, some countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon have announced that they will ban the sale of all incandescent bulbs by specific target years. For example Lebanon announced 2012 as a phasing out date of incandescent lamps.

Some driving forces would promote transition to efficient lighting in the region. These include:

Commitment to energy efficiency,

Energy efficiency recently gained even more political support in the Arab region when the League of Arab States (LAS) adopted the “Arab guidelines to improve electricity efficiency and its rationalization at the end use”. Based on the EC end use energy efficiency directive (2006/32/EC), this guideline is now being used by many Arab countries to develop their own National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAP). Switching to more efficient lighting fits this framework perfectly as a practical and cost effective action which could be easily integrated into such efforts.

pioneering initiatives

A number of countries in the region have developed successful initiatives to phase-out incandescent lamps. This sets an important example for the rest of countries. These initiatives highlight the economic and environmental benefits of efficient lighting systems, raise public awareness at all level of the policymaking hierarchy, and drive policy development.

Capacity for standards development, testing, and certification

Most countries within the region have National Standardization Bodies (NSBs) and have gained reasonable experience and capabilities in the area of standardization. Some countries are in the beginning stages of establishing National Accreditation Bodies (NABs). Sufficient capacity for accredited testing exists in many countries even with existence of international service providers.

Existence of power sector reform and energy pricing reform policies

The energy sector in most of the countries in the region has been under the control of the state. This role is now being revisited in order to attract direct foreign investment which is crucial to satisfy the growing demand for energy. Structural reforms are ongoing in order to improve efficiency and meet the requirements of competitive markets. A gradual process of energy sector reform is underway in many countries. In parallel, many countries throughout the region are implementing or planning energy price reforms to remove subsidies and/or restructure energy prices.

Evolving green building initiatives

Buildings are major energy consumers in the region. Energy efficiency codes for buildings have been proliferating in the region for the past few years. Some countries have started to establish national councils for green buildings, others are adopting LEED certification schemes, and several are developing their own certification systems. Enforcing minimum levels of lighting intensity (w/m2) in buildings would increase demand for efficient lighting technologies. Thus, energy efficiency codes for buildings constitute an essential element of any policy package aimed at improving energy efficiency at the national level. It would also support the market transformation to efficient lighting.

Local manufacture of lighting products

The region has reasonable capacity to produce lighting products in collaboration with international lighting manufacturers. This local capacity could be extended and developed to produce efficient systems. Initiatives to disseminate CFLs would increase market uptake and help to reduce the cost. Some local manufacturing capacity can be used to provide CFLs at the regional level and may lead to economies of scale that further facilitate market expansion and cost reduction.

Bulk distribution of CFLs is a positive first step forward in the market development of 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, and, helps 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. A group of international lighting experts from all sectors and geographical areas, in conjunction with the UNEP/GEF en.lighten initiative, recommends that countries implement an Integrated Approach, to ensure an effective transition to more efficient lighting. Key elements of this 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.

While many countries in the region such as Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Tunisia and Syria 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. Here, heavy energy price subsidies and the abundance of fossil fuels have hindered investment in energy efficiency. In order to achieve success, the benefits of energy efficiency and efficient lighting need to be communicated to decision-makers and the public in those countries.

Case studies from Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, and Morocco revealed 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.

Although the region has a number of important assets that can facilitate market transformation, there is economic, regulatory, or institutional barriers that can affect energy efficiency projects in general, and specifically efficient lighting initiatives.. These barriers may include: limited political awareness about the benefits of efficient lighting, lack of Minimum Energy Performance Standards, limited involvement of the private sector and stakeholders, lack of public awareness, and financial and cost barriers.

Mercury content of CFL has been a health, safety, and environmental concern. It should be noted that many international manufacturers make competitively priced CFLs with a mercury content of 2-3.5 mg. Moreover, several models of ENERGY STAR-rated CFLs have mercury content levels in the 1-2 mg range. By contrast, mercury thermometers contained nearly 500 milligrams of mercury—equivalent to the amount in more than 100 CFLs combined. On a lifecycle basis, CFLs emit less mercury to the environment than do incandescent bulbs, because they require less electricity to operate and, therefore, eliminate much of the mercury emitted by power production from coal.

During planning for phasing out ILs and the widespread use of CFLs in the region, careful design of a program to manage CFLs at their end of life must be considered. Environmental regulatory instruments, such as collection and recycling schemes for CFLs, in collaboration with local and international manufacturers needs to be developed. A list of designated collection facilities, which take back CFLs should be identified and communicated to consumers. Retailers also have a responsibility to tell their customers where they can take spent CFLs. The producer responsibility requirements should be part of those regulatory instruments.

Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Gelil is Director of the Environmental Management Program at the Arabian Gulf University.