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Why has the EU acted?

Incandescent light bulbs have served us well for decades - what have we got to gain from switching to alternatives?
European energy commissioner Günther Oettinger explains.


  • The EU has banned old-style incandescent bulbs of 100W and higher and started switching to greener lighting.
  • It is gradually removing all wasteful bulbs from the European market.
  • By 2020, this will save enough energy to power 11 million households a year, while cutting average household electricity bills by €25 a year.

Günther H Oettinger, Member of the European Commission in charge of Energy


Gradual change

The new rules for light bulbs are based on solid science and the wishes of consumer organisations and industry.

This is why inefficient lighting will be phased out over a number of years, to allow both consumers and companies to adapt to the change gradually.

Longer-lasting and cheaper

More efficient modern bulbs offer the same advantages as their predecessors and much more.

By switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, families and companies can reduce their negative contribution to climate change and save money at the same time.

The initial higher cost is quickly recouped, as these bulbs use only a quarter or a fifth of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs, and last 6 to 10 times longer.

Over its lifetime, a single compact fluorescent bulb will save you some €60 - and as more people buy these new bulbs, they will get cheaper.

LED bulbs - the future?

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are another type of energy-saving light bulb that offers even more advantages. As efficient as compact fluorescent bulbs, they don't contain mercury and have a much longer life.

Old bulbs optimised

To ease the transition, you can still use an improved type of incandescent bulb that uses halogen technology.

These look much like the old bulbs and they give the same type and quality of light - as soon as they are switched on.

More choice

Paradoxically, the ban on inefficient lighting is giving consumers a wider choice of lighting types. In response to the demand for alternatives, companies are putting new types of bulbs on the market more quickly than they would otherwise have done.

Packaging and safety

The legislation on light bulbs includes requirements for clear packaging and labelling, so you will know when buying a bulb how long it will last, how much energy it uses, the quality of light it produces and how best to dispose of used or broken bulbs.

There are also EU rules on the disposal of compact fluorescent bulbs, which requires particular care.

Just as bright for just as long

Contrary to popular belief, compact fluorescent bulbs can produce just as much light as traditional light bulbs - just compare the amount of brightness indicated on the packaging.

EU rules also require lifetime to be stated on the packaging, based on an average of one switch on and off for every hour of operation. And for even more frequent switching, you can buy compact fluorescent bulbs made specially for that purpose.

Günther H. Oettinger

European Commissioner for Energy