research engineers


It may seem ages, but it has been only a little over 6 years: the outcry of nostalgia-fans over 'Brussels banning the bulb'. And lo and behold: He is back! Only, the LED look-a-likes use 10 times less energy and last 10-20 times longer than the good old incandescent lightbulb that has lit living rooms for almost a century. There is a —rapidly decreasing— price to pay, but payback is great.

So, all is well and we don't need 'Brussels' anymore?

It is not that simple. Residential lamps, by far the biggest application area of the incandescent bulb, are responsible for only one-third of the EU's lighting energy consumption. Non-residential lamps, including linear fluorescents and many special purpose lamps, constitute the rest. Ultimately, the new LED-technology can realise large energy savings there as well. Should 'Brussels' -and the rest of the world-- give up on regulating lighting efficiency, it stands to miss out on important energy savings and contributions to fighting climate change. As past experience has shown, it is an illusion to think that these developments will happen spontaneously, i.e. without Ecodesign measures.

But the timing for an overhaul of the current Ecodesign is a bit 'off'. At the moment the lighting industry is in a turmoil. Almost all major European manufacturers are trying to pull out of the consumer lighting business, retaining only professional lighting. The course of new (mainly Chinese) ownership for the consumer business is as yet uncertain. Will they continue to push energy efficiency up and prices down or will they try to consolidate and cash-in with a minimum of investment? On the technical front, the so-called 'integrated LED-luminaires' are being put forward as 'the future'. Apart from doubts that some have on the sustainability of such an option, there are problems in defining the exact difference of these new products with 'normal' light sources. Likewise, there is the phenomenon of 'smart' lamps that can change intensity and colour depending on sensors or manual settings. How to deal with the stand-by electricity use of these new smart products? How much do they actually save when used in a wider system-context?

VHK's role

Dealing with all of the above is the concern of the policy makers. Our role as analysts is to support the decision making with tools that can bring consensus and good decision making when the time is ripe. VHK was technical lead in the preparatory Ecodesign study on light sources that took place in 2014-2015. In that context we developed amongst others a comprehensive scenario tool covering past, present and future of the light source market. This MELISA model (Model for European Light Sources Analysis) shows the costs and benefits of possible measures both in terms of environmental as well as monetary impact. The objective is to achieve consensus with all stakeholders on the input data and the calculation method for that model so -for whatever decision will be taken- there is a clear consensual picture of what it means for all actors and society. A detailled description of the VHK MELISA model can be found on the European Commission MIDAS database.

Another task is the technical assistance in streamlining and avoiding any loopholes in the legislation. The Commission aims to combine the three Commission Regulations concerning Ecodesign of light sources into one simpler, more effective and more robust regulation. Since 2009 there have been several attempts by market actors to circumvent the Ecodesign lamp regulations e.g. by claiming that their normal incandescent bulbs are actually special purpose 'shockproof' or 'heat' lamps. Also, there are complaints by national market surveillance authorities (MSAs) and industry that certain requirements, e.g. on lamp life, are difficult and expensive to check. The objective is to reshape requirements and test procedures in order to allow for swift and thus effective intervention by surveillance authorities.

Lateral experience

VHK is well placed for this type of assistance. In the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s we gathered hands-on design and engineering experience in our work for Sirrah, one of the foremost Italian 'design' manufacturers in the field of luminaires. In the late 1980s we gathered policy support experience at national level, building technical-economic models for the Dutch utilities association and the Netherlands energy agency. At EU level we worked on Ecodesign for directional light sources (better known as 'spotlights') and the current Energy Label for light sources. The recently concluded preparatory study for the review of light-source regulations was done with Flemish technology institute VITO, former contractor of the Commission for the existing regulations on professional and non-directional light sources. VHK is currently assisting the Commission in the Impact Assessment process.


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