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The En.lighten Initiative: Supporting Developing and Emerging Countries in the Shift towards Efficient Lighting


By: Laura Fuller, UNEP En.lighten initiative and Sonia Uribe, UNEP-DTIE

Activities aimed at phasing out inefficient technologies have increasingly been introduced in recent years, yet market forces alone have proven insufficient to achieve rapid transformation in the lighting market to respond to the climate change challenge.

The en.lighten initiative, created in 2009 as a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), OSRAM GmbH and Philips Lighting, with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Earth Fund, aims to fight address this need.

Electricity for lighting accounts for 19 percent of global power consumption and 6-8 percent (or 1900 million tons) of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, more than the total emissions of Germany and Japan combined. Moreover, for lighting alone, demand is expected to increase by 60 percent over the next 20 years.

More than 38 percent of future global energy demand for lighting could be avoided by switching to efficient lamps. Shifting from inefficient incandescent bulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescent (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) would cut world lighting energy demand significantly, saving countries, businesses and households considerable sums of money in reduced electricity bills. Few actions could reduce carbon emissions as cheaply and easily as the phase-out of inefficient lighting, making it one of the most effective and economically advantageous ways to combat climate change.

A number of countries and regions in the world have initiated successful steps to move to efficient lighting. In 2009, the EU banned traditional incandescent bulbs of 100 watts or more, a decision that will save about 32 million tons of CO2 a year. Together with energy efficiency regulations, the ban will save about €11 billion a year. In Australia, efficiency standards legislation will result in a ban on incandescent bulbs this year, more than 30 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity and 28 million tons of GHG emissions are expected to be saved between 2008 and 2020. In 2005, Cuba banned the import, trade and manufacture of incandescent lamps and almost 9.5 million inefficient bulbs were changed to CFLs, resulting in half a million tons of CO2 saved, the equivalent of taking 625,000 mid-size cars off the road.

The en.lighten initiative addresses the challenge of accelerating global market transformation to environmentally sustainable lighting technologies by developing a coordinated global strategy and providing technical support for the gradual phase-out of inefficient lighting. This will reduce global GHGs from the lighting sector and mercury released from coal combustion.

The program aims to strengthen country, government and private sector capacity to lead successful lighting market transformation programs through:

  • The promotion of high performance and efficient lighting technologies in developing countries;
  • The development of a global policy strategy to gradually eliminate inefficient and obsolete lighting products; and
  • The substitution of traditional fuel-based lighting with modern, efficient alternatives.

To accomplish these objectives, the initiative has established six expert task forces comprised of international representatives from governments (such as Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, India, Japan, Philippines and the U.S.), the private sector, civil society, academia, research organizations and international agencies (such as UNDP, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation) to develop guidance and technical recommendations.

Through these task forces, the en.lighten initiative aims to strengthen capacities among countries, governments and the private sector to lead successful lighting market transformation programs that will bring new technologies to developing countries while saving energy, money and protecting the environment. They will assist in laying the groundwork for the agreement of a global approach to the phase out of incandescent lamps by 2014.

Most countries around the world have not yet embarked upon the transition towards efficient lighting to take advantage of the opportunity to save energy, reduce CO2 emissions and save financial resources. The UNEP en.lighten initiative is committed to supporting these countries in their move to develop national energy efficient lighting initiatives for their own benefit and that of the larger global community.

For more information, please click here or contact Laura Fuller, UNEP en.lighten initiative.