Department of Energy withdraws rules that would have expanded energy-efficient lightbulb requirements

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published a final rule on September 5 that withdraws rules made during the Obama administration that apply higher energy-efficiency requirements to some specialty lightbulbs. The department also published a separate proposed rule saying that current energy-efficiency standards do not need to change.

This means that certain types of lightbulbs—rough service lamps, vibration service lamps, 3-way incandescent lamps, high lumen lamps, and shatter-resistant lamps—will no longer be required to meet higher energy-efficiency requirements. Those bulbs—which are often used in chandeliers, bathroom fixtures, and commercial applications—would have fallen under those requirements starting in January 2020. Had the prior rule gone into effect, consumers would have seen different light bulbs for sale in stores starting in 2020. The DOE’s new rules will maintain the existing definition of general service lamps.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) gave the DOE the responsibility to manage an energy conservation program for consumer products, including lightbulbs. Under the program, consumers are not allowed to purchase lightbulbs that fall within the definition of general service lamps (GSLs) that don’t meet energy-efficiency standards.

The law defined GSLs to include general service incandescent lamps (GSILs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), general service light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lamps, and other lamps that the Secretary of Energy determines are used similarly to traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Following amendments made to the EPCA in 2007, the DOE has been deciding whether to change the energy conservation standards for GSLs and whether to add particular kinds of lightbulbs to the definition of GSLs. The new DOE rules maintain the energy conservation standards for GSLs as well as the types of lightbulbs to which it applies.

During the Obama administration, the DOE issued two rules that expanded the definition of GSLs to lightbulbs that had been exempt from some energy-efficiency rules. Those rules were published in the Federal Register but had not gone into effect. In issuing its rule, the DOE said the revised definitions of general service lamps “included certain GSILs as GSLs in a manner that is not consistent with the best reading of the statute.” The DOE scheduled the withdrawal of the previous rules effective October 7.