Legislation + Regulation

DOE Rolls Back Regulatory Definition of General-Service Lamps, Issues No Change to Incandescent Energy Standards, Says Backstop Provision Not Automatically Triggered

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued two new regulatory rules related to general-service lamps (incandescent/halogen, compact fluorescent, LED) and general service incandescent lamps.

The first rule negated an Obama-era rule that would expand the definition of general-service lamps to include incandescent reflector lamps and several previously exempted lamp types. The second concluded a new rulemaking process for general-service incandescent lamps that proposed no amendments to the energy standards. In its rulemaking, DOE indicated that the January 2020 backstop provision for a higher standard of 45 lumens/W for all general-service lamps would not automatically trigger.

Reversion to statutory definition
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007), which eliminated 40-100W general-service incandescent lamps from the market in 2012-2014, granted DOE the authority to regulate lamp types exempted from the law on two conditions. One, that consumers shifted from lower-efficacy general-service lamps to exempted lamp types, and two, that covering the exempted product could produce significant energy savings.

In January 2017, DOE published two final rules concerning the definition of general-service lamps, which resulted in the energy standards being applied to certain categories of lamps previously excluded, including three-way lamps, reflector lamps, candelabra lamps, and decorative globe-shaped lamps. The new rules were set to take effect in January 2020.

On February 6, 2019, DOE, now under the Trump Administration, issued a proposed rulemaking, stating it “determined that the legal basis underlying those revisions misconstrued existing law.” As a result, DOE proposed to withdraw the definitions established in the January 2017 rules. On August 30, 2019, the final rule came down confirming that the definition of general-service lamp in EISA 2007 was the sole legal definition for the purpose of the energy standards.

The move was welcomed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Energy and environmental organizations, however, were quick to condemn the move as eliminating significant energy and carbon reductions.

No new incandescent energy standards
On September 3, 2019, DOE issued a new proposed rule, this one concluding a rulemaking for general-service incandescent lamps. DOE decided not to amend existing standards, stating more stringent standards are not economically justified.

No automatic trigger of backstop provision
EISA 2017 contains a backstop provision that says if DOE did not complete a new rulemaking for general-service lamps by 2017 or if the new rulemaking did not achieve a minimum energy standard of 45 lumens/W, effective January 2020, DOE must prohibit the sale of all general-service lamps that are less efficacious. This would effectively eliminate halogen A-lamps from the market.

Energy and environmental organizations and various utilities and states argued the backstop provisions should go into effect in January 2020. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association and several manufacturers took a different position that the backstop provisions were not automatically triggered, and the Department of Energy agreed. DOE stated that the law only created an obligation to issue a rule by a certain date if general-service incandescent lamp standards needed to be amended, something it has proposed it doesn’t need to do at this time.

Energy and environmental groups were quick to condemn this as well. Noah Horowitz, Director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council, stated, “We will explore all options, including litigation, to stop this completely misguided and unlawful action. The Trump administration is illegally blocking the improved standards approved by a bipartisan Congress and supported by the lighting industry 12 years ago.” Several states, meanwhile—notably California, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont, and Washington—initiated their own lamp standards at the state level in anticipation of DOE’s actions.

In its own press statement, NEMA pointed out that LED lamps have achieved a majority share of lamp sales, suggesting the market is moving in the right direction without additional regulation. “The DOE final rule will not impact the market’s continuing, rapid adoption of energy-saving lighting in the next few years,” NEMA stated.

Learn more
Click here to see the DOE proposed rule related to general-service incandescent lamps. Click here to see the DOE final rule related to general-service lamp definitions and discussion of the backstop provision.

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Craig DiLouie


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