CFLi increases carbon footprint!

Posted April 1, 2010 // Tagged as Blog // 9 Comments ↓

Again from Iceland Halldor Steinsen was awarded his MSc for research into the impacts of CFLi in the Icelandic market. His thesis makes interesting but disturbing reading Below is an extract from his conclusion:

Using the constructed base case, it has been shown that a switch to CFL is beneficial for Icelandic household economically. However, the benefit is much less than the public is led to believe in advertising by manufacturers. As shown in table 1, the break even point is somewhere between the 5th and 6th year. After 20 years, the savings amount to 9,7 Euros per year, for each household in Iceland.

It can therefore be concluded that Icelandic consumers are being misinformed about the true economic benefits of switching to CFL.

As mentioned earlier, the EU preparatory report by VITO, found the biggest environmental impact of lamps to be during their use phase. Their calculations assume the EU27 average for electricity generation, which is 31% from coal, 22% from oil and gas and 47% from renewable sources, of which 32% comes from nuclear power plants. Iceland obtains nearly 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources. The use phase therefore does not contribute to global warming. As has been shown, using parts of the EcoReport tool, adoption of regulation 244/2009 with universal household adoption of CFL in Iceland, results in more environmental costs both in Iceland and internationally.

This goes against the spirit and intention of EU regulation 244/2009.
In light of these results it is logical to ask further. If nothing else changes, at what point is the electricity generation ratio of a country such that switching to CFL causes more environmental damage than good ?

Iceland is not the only country in Europe with a high percentage of its electrical energy coming from sources that do not emit greenhouse gasses. If the benchmark is set for example at 60% or more, it is found that Austria, France, Lithuania, Norway (EFTA country), Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland (EFTA country) fall into this category. These countries have a combined population of ca. 106.3 million people. Is it possible that regulation 244/2009 with universal adoption of CFL in these countries would increase their contribution to global warming ?
This weakness in EU legislation to promote energy efficiency also raises questions about the most effective way of achieving energy efficiency in lighting.

„The amount of energy used is determined by the lighting equipment e.g. lamps and luminaries. It will also be determined by the lighting requirement for the application„ The validity of this point is perhaps best shown in the case of Japan. The country has the highest average lighting system efficacy installed in 2005. Despite this fact, they were along with South Korea, the second highest per capita consumer of light in the world in 2005. This is explained with higher illumination levels from fluorescent light sources and higher average operational hours of 3,7 hours per day. This suggests that lighting requirement as judged by the user is a significant contributor to energy consumption.

User behaviour in lighting is difficult to research in practice. Some studies have been done but this is still a relatively unresearched area.
Indication on possible ways forward can perhaps be had from a Swedish study on user behaviour in lighting by Bladh, M. And Krantz, H. Published in 2008. This study was a qualitative one with a cross section of family types and age groups. It showed that energy used for lighting is an interplay of various factors. The importance of the three most used lamps in a household is established. They account for more than half of the electric consumption for lighting in all cases but one. It also showed that people´s cost consciousness in relation to lighting is very low. Older people tend to consume less electricity for lighting than other age groups. This contradicts what is known about vision in older people. It is a well known fact that the human eye needs more light to perform as it gets older. Bladh and Krantz suggest that older people in general tend to have a more cost conscious behavior than other age groups. The lights that are not needed are simply turned off. This possibly suggests that user behavior is even more important than previously thought.

It is probably safe to say that we all want to protect the environment for ourselves and future generations. How do government regulators achieve that ? Banning the most popular lamp type on the market with the possible negative side effects shown in this research is questionable public policy.

The full text of the abstract can be downloaded here

9 Responses

  1. Da Burgenlandla

    April 6th, 2010 at 09:22

    there is a light bulb fan-page on facebook.

    the code for the badge is

    Save the light bulb

    Place it everywhere you can.

  2. Da Burgenlandla

    April 6th, 2010 at 10:22

    here’s the code for the badge to insert.

    Save the light bulb

  3. Da Burgenlandla

    April 6th, 2010 at 10:24

    okay I give up.
    I can’t place the code here in the comment field

    Sorry It is disabled in comments to reduce spam! Admin

  4. Malibu Mike

    May 21st, 2011 at 18:44

    I gave the fan page a like. Good thread.

  5. Bob Diamond

    June 7th, 2011 at 14:34

    Switch to LED (Light Emitting Diodes)!

    It’s a lot cheaper in the long run with its superior burning hours and it does not contain harm lead and mercury. LED also works better the colder the temperature is.

  6. Kevan Shaw

    June 7th, 2011 at 15:13

    Bob, LED products are still generally not in the ball park when you fully analyse costs over life or light output quality or quantity. Basically they are not inherently suitable as a general light source so any use of them as such is a bodge!

  7. Angshuman Bagchi

    May 14th, 2012 at 09:11

    Why would a switch to CFL in their market be beneficial when it can damage the atmosphere?

    Angshuman Bagchi

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