CFLs Could Cut World Energy for Lighting by 40 Percent


Aggressively replacing the world’s incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) could reduce lighting energy demand by nearly 40 percent and cut greenhouse gas emissions from day one, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

“By 2030, these savings would add up to 16.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide — more than twice the amount released in the United States every year,” WorldWatch said in its Vital Signs Update, released today.

Electric lighting consumes more than 19 percent of the world’s electricity, causing as much greenhouse gas pollution every year as half of all the light passenger vehicles on the road worldwide.

CFLs help lower energy demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they use about 75 percent less energy than traditional lightbulbs.

“CFLs are a winning technology, cleaning up pollution and saving consumers money on their energy bills at the same time,” said Alice McKeown, a researcher for Worldwatch.

Strong growth in CFL production and sales can be seen worldwide, according to the Institute.

Between 2001 and 2006, production of CFLs in China — which accounts for roughly 85 percent of global output — tripled from 750 million lightbulbs to 2.4 billion lightbulbs.

CFL-3.jpgSales of CFLs in the United States rose by more than 300 percent early in the decade, growing to 397 million lightbulbs in 2007.

At the same time, the total number of CFLs in use worldwide nearly doubled from an estimated 1.8 billion to 3.5 billion in 2003.

“CFLs are an important part of the solution to climate change and are available today, not somewhere down the line,” McKeown said. “We need to double our efforts to flip the switch for consumers worldwide.”

Change a Light, Change the World

October 1, 2008, was Change a Light Day, a rallying point for the Energy Star Change a Light, Change the World campaign.

Started eight years ago, the campaign is a national call to action to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs. It is sponsored by various U.S. federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and Department of Housing and Urban Development.



On average, each Energy Star-qualified CFL can prevent more than 400 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime, according to the campaign’s Web site. By replacing the five light fixtures you use most or the bulbs in them with Energy Star-qualified models, you can save more than $65 every year in energy costs.

“If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars,” the Web site says.

I missed Change a Light Day — but it’s never too late. My family has already replaced 18 incandescent bulbs in our home with CFLs and we’re phasing out the rest of them wherever possible.

Have you changed a light today?

CFL illustration.png

Photos and charts on this entry courtesy Energy Star

Additional Information:

U.S. Energy Star

Changing Planet

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn