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Back to EurekAlert! A Service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

 

A bright idea in efficient lighting

After shedding light on what could make compact fluorescent light bulbs more attractive to businesses and consumers, a program that introduced shorter, brighter and less expensive bulbs has seen shining success.

About three years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy, with help from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, decided to combat the reasons that businesses and consumers were not buying energy-efficient, long-lasting alternatives to conventional incandescent bulbs.

"We knew that one of the main barriers was size, because many of the compact fluorescents on the market were too long to fit in existing fixtures," said Terry Shoemaker, who is involved in program communications and outreach activities.

On behalf of DOE's Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs, Laboratory staff members met with manufacturers and potential large-quantity buyers such as owners and operators of multifamily housing to gain an understanding of their interests and needs.

"As a result, we developed a technology procurement program for improved, smaller compact fluorescent light bulbs, called subcompact fluorescents or sub-CFLs," Shoemaker said. "We wrote the specifications for bulbs that would meet customer requirements and issued a competitive solicitation to suppliers to produce the bulbs for the program."

Pacific Northwest signed agreements with four suppliers and negotiated prices and terms for their products. Once the agreements were in place, volume buyers could purchase any of 17 new models introduced through the program directly from the participating manufacturers. By early 2001, sales reached more than 2.5 million bulbs—more than twice the program's goal.

"We are very pleased to have helped introduce these innovative, energy-efficient light bulbs, and we're especially pleased to see how their sales have grown," said Jim Brodrick, DOE's program manager for the Sub-CFL Technology Procurement Program. The sales figures translate into more than $100 million in energy savings and an avoided release of nearly a million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment over the lives of the bulbs.

After such success, DOE began transferring the program to the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance in spring 2001. NEEA, a nonprofit group of electric utilities, state governments, public interest groups and industry representatives, will manage the program with continued support from the Laboratory.

"DOE achieved its goal. Today the market is responding to the growing popularity of sub-CFLs," said Linda Sandahl, program manager at the Laboratory. "As NEEA takes over, they will focus on outreach to retailers, especially small and medium retailers who would like to offer these products."

As part of its ENERGY STAR® Residential Lighting Program, NEEA is channeling sub-CFL sales through a distributor that makes bulk purchases and passes the savings on to the individual retailers. The bulbs, which meet the same strict performance criteria, are available from NEEA's website, www.betterbulbsdirect.com.

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