If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Monday, July 9, 2012

Politics, Science, and the Effect of Bans

Updated July 10, July 11

From Savethebulb.org
Some sections of the "Ecodesign Regulation Failure?" post (some added highlighting, as also with other quotes below).

We are now 3 years into the European ban on incandescent lamps. Has it achieved the promised goals of energy savings? By this time we would have expected there to be some evidence that energy savings would be apparent. Working with Catherine Hessett, Coordinator of the Spectrum Alliance and a professional statistician we took a look at the published electricity supply figures for the UK between 2009 , before the ban and December 2011 looking for some significant and identifiable energy savings. Well there was a reduction in energy use however this was more commensurate with the reduction in economic activity brought about by the economic recession so we concluded, if there was a reduction in domestic energy use then it was so slight as to have been negligible and certainly not as significant as the legislation promised.

Thanks to the assistance of David Martin, MEP we placed a written question to the European Parliament on this issue...

1. What monitoring has taken place to measure the effectiveness of this regulation in achieving its objectives?
2. What proof is there that the expected reduction in energy use attributable to this regulation is now being achieved?

We have now received the answer:

Answer given by M. Oettinger
on behalf of the Commission

"It is still premature to draw conclusions as regards the effectiveness of the Regulation on household lamps 244/20091 as major categories of incandescent bulbs are only phased out in September 2011 (60W) and in September 2012 (40W and below), with retailers allowed to sell their remaining stocks even beyond those dates.
The Regulation will – like other regulations in the frame of the ecodesign process – be subject to a review in the light of technical progress, at the latest five years after its entry into force (2014). During this review, the Commission will collect data in a systematic way that will allow to judge the effectiveness of the regulation.

Apart from the fact this does not answer either of our direct questions this seems to show that there has either been no work so far on this topic or the results are similar to those that we found in the UK, i.e. there is no discernible energy saving being generated by the ban. As the legislation has to be reviewed next year if the work is not being done now the results will not be available next year to consider in the required review.

One interesting and useful piece of research that has recently been published is the Household Energy Use Study commissioned by DEFRA [Note, DEFRA is the UK Governmental Environment Department,
the pdf seems slow to download, Kevan has kindly made this easier loading alternative available]. This studied energy use in 251 owner occupier households between April 2010 and April 2011. It makes fascinating reading and when the full data is made available as is promised will allow some further interesting analysis. Meantime there are some interesting points that can be gleaned from the report.

As has been shown in previous studies the amount of lighting energy used in households is far more dependent on behaviour than the type of lighting equipment used. Ultimately the length of time a light is left switched on has significantly more influence on total energy used than the wattage of the lamp. Another interesting point is that the proportion of electricity used in households for lighting is now being overtaken by that used for Audio Visual and Computers in the home. Despite this no one so far is proposing that plasma large screen tellys are banned in favour of LED types that use a fraction of the electricity!

UK Dept of Environment (DEFRA) Household Energy Usage Survey   [ref Save The Bulb]

Page 423, Conclusion

Conclusions and Recommendations

This project is one of the biggest measurement campaigns ever made in Europe to assess the energy saving potential of domestic appliances. The high number of households monitored and analysed gives an accurate overview of the electrical consumption and, more importantly, allows the calculation of potential savings:
• in England, the total potential annual electricity saving per household ranges from 491 kWh to 677 kWh depending on the type of household;
• this total potential electricity saving is a minimum value because lighting savings are underestimated;
• the priority actions that should be carried out for demand side management (DSM) concern cold appliances, lighting, audiovisual sites and computer sites:
− replacing the inefficient cold appliances with the most efficient models could save up to 358 kWh/year per household;
− choosing a laptop instead of a desktop and reducing standby consumption could save up to 128 kWh/year for the computer site;
− using only audiovisual appliances with a standby power of less than 0.5 W could reduce this consumption of this type of appliance by 111 kWh/year.
Therefore it is important to:
• Enforce the regulation that bans putting appliances on the market with a standby power above 1 W or even 0.5 W.
• Implement standby power management procedures for computer appliances using power managers such as ENERGY STAR®.
• Implement a national programme to address standby power in appliances that are already installed. The objective is to remove this standby power consumption by simply cutting the electrical supply of the appliances by using manual switches or standby power managers, which are generally very cheap devices.
• Intensify and accelerate the setting of stricter consumption norms, and energy label class A+ or A++ appliances should, in a very short period, become the standard, particularly for cold appliances and clothes dryers.


Good Savethebulb point about follow-up after the ban.

To begin with, regardless of savings - why continue a ban in a couple of years time, when the "switchover objective" has been achieved:
The ban proponents themselves keep saying "people only buy cheap bulbs out of habit, they will be happy to see the savings, they will like the new bulbs once they get used to them", etc etc.
Then new purchases of old style incandescents are supposedly few, and allowable.
"Energy guzzling" vacuum tubes were not banned just because transistors came along, and still have appreciated uses.

While a 2014 EU review is promised (much the same as the USA, for that matter) the desire for an unbiased review of actual savings seems in doubt, from the above blog post.
Perhaps not surprising.
In general policy making, politicans, their hangaround cronies and their expensive hired-in consultants rarely if ever seem to follow up on what their grand promises might achieve... what politician wants to be proved wrong?
If challenged, they mumble about checking it in future, i.e. when they are out of office, so someone else can carry the can.

It is interesting to compare Politics and Science regarding fact based evidence for action, and indeed the greater scientific emphasis on follow-up evidence of supposed results...

Relevant here is the Cambridge Network and their Scientific Alliance advisory forum mission

“Scientific advances have provided, and will continue to provide, solutions to many environmental problems.
While differences of opinion are welcome and, indeed, play a vital role in the development of both science and society, the Scientific Alliance is concerned about the many ways in which science is misinterpreted and at times misrepresented.
If optimal use is to be made of currently available resources, policies must be based upon sound and reliable information. The Scientific Alliance provides a forum for addressing environmental problems based on sound science.”

The line-up as seen includes a whole range of scientists.
Unfortunately, as recently highlighted by the BBC relating to the Higgs boson discovery,
few scientists get politically involved, hence the unscientific bandying about of big bulb ban savings figures without regard for overall facts...
Even when they are involved - who listens?
Sir Alec Broers runs the Cambridge Network, "Alec Broers (1992 Head of Cambridge University Engineering Department, 1998 Knighted for services to education, 2001 President of The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2004 Becomes Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, 2008 becomes Chairman of Diamond Light Source Ltd., United Kingdom’s largest new scientific facility for 30 years)".
Note, "Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee".

The token nature of the light bulb ban in terms of energy savings was pointed out by the Network in their September 3, 2009 newsletter, extracts:

" A study by VITO consultants showed the following breakdown of lamp use in European homes in 2007:
• 54% incandescent (down from 85% in 1995 and still decreasing)
• 18% low-voltage halogen (and increasing)
• 5% mains-voltage halogen (and growing)
• 8% linear fluorescent
• 15% CFL
So, if we assume that all remaining filament bulbs are replaced by CFL at some point in the future,
that these bulbs are used to the same extent as those they replace,
and that the energy reduction per bulb is 80%,
the total reduction in EU energy use would be
0.54 x 0.8 x 0.76% = 0.33%.
This figure is almost certainly an overestimate, particularly as the inefficiency of conventional bulbs generates heat which supplements other forms of heating in winter.

Which begs the question: is it really worth it?
The problem is that legislators are unable to tackle the big issues of energy use effectively, so go for the soft target of a high profile domestic use of energy... this is gesture politics

LEDs might be substituted for CFLs in some respects, but the principle still holds.
Interestingly, the DEFRA study is largely similar to the VITO findings (with similar mis-labelling, since "Halogens" are of course "Incandescents" too), with some more halogens replacing simple incandescents, as was predicted, and with marginal LED usage, figure 452 page 327.
In the EU, seemingly for political reasons, the original VITO study was discounted in favor of a Bertoldi study which showed a higher usage of regular incandescents, that "just happened" to deliver "big savings from a ban"...

Neither way actually justifies a ban:
A decreased use of incandescents = lowered energy savings from a ban,
while maintained use of incandescents, like temporary allowed halogens = what people want to use....

Again, regarding the Savethebulb blog post stating that lights left on waste more energy than the choice of lights, the DEFRA study page referenced has some confirmation:

A high lighting consumption can be the result of a household having a high installed wattage, for example having a lot of halogen or incandescent bulbs, or as a result of long periods of lighting use...
What can be seen is that the households with the highest lighting consumptions are not the ones with the highest installed lighting wattage
[And yet] households who have [the lower wattage] CFL light bulbs may also be more concerned about saving energy than those households that have fewer or no CFL bulbs, and they may be more careful about how many lights they switch on and the length of time they are used for...[a point of irony in that case, since switching CFLs on and off shortens their lifespan, and they also have a power on surge]

DEFRA actually finds that households with several CFLs are the ones using up most electricity.... seemingly more than pure incandescent or CFL households.
Perhaps not surprising:
The well known rebound effect of using products more if usage is cheaper may be playing a role
(as researched, http://ceolas.net/#cc214x).
Committed environmentalist households that even use CFLs in say bathrooms might be more conscious about overall energy use.

Apart from actual energy use, there is the additional moral aspect of what "waste" actually is:
Unnecessarily leaving lights on = a "waste" of energy
The personal paid for choice of what product to use = not a "waste" of energy

Also, as Kevan says in his blog post, and as the DEFRA and other studies also point out, there is plenty of other household electricity use that is more wasteful, whether heating, cooling, or "stand-by use" of electronic equipment, or the other product usage mentioned (see Table 36, page 422 in DEFRA study).

More succintly, ignored by DEFRA but supported by their time data, environmentally relevant energy use actually caused by lighting is negligible:
Off-peak power plant energy is "wasted" regardless of what light bulb you use, especially coal, the main relevant source that is supposed to be saved...
Again referring to the DEFRA study:
The lighting usage graphs show that most lighting use is after 7pm,
and "the main peak was always between 21:00 and 23:00"... hardly surprising perhaps, but comes back to the issue of night time coal power plants for operational reasons burning off surplus fuel no-one in effect uses, as covered more on a separate blog page and more still on http://ceolas.net/#li172x.
Again, towards the end of the DEFRA study, it shows that main household electricity consumption is around 5pm - and always much more before 7pm than after it.
This confirms the radical disjoint between main lighting consumption times, and overall main consumption times - and therefore how base loading power plants (like coal) burn much the same energy during lighting times, regardless of the lights being on or off.
Also, as peak time is 5-7pm when quicker firing gas and hydro turbines typically supplement base loading power, they again are hardly wasted by the mostly later lighting use, and in any case are of less environmental concern than coal.

So, as overall switchover energy savings are small anyway, and there is no future shortage of low emission and renewable electricity sources, it is all simply about unnecessarily forcing citizens to make choices they would not voluntarily make (or the regulations would not be "necessary" in the first place), "feel good" savings that certainly "feels good" for light bulb manufacturers hawking patented expensive alternatives.

Of course, if "saving electricity" really was such a big deal, then the price of it (or say coal) could be shoved up, or electricity rationed
- still allowing people to make their own choices about how to use it in their own homes.

The retort "It's just about light bulbs" can be turned into "They start by banning light bulbs"
given all the other planned legislation.... which, regarding the above blog post, in the EU includes plans concerning those plasma screens too, though not seen any updates to the initial announcement (2009 Telegraph article).
As always, banned products have their own usage advantages, with plasma screens in contrast, wide angle viewing, and less motion blur compared with similar size LED screens for their price.

"They impose what seems efficient, and forget what is effective"

Rather than politicians taking scientific advice,
scientists are instead themselves adviced to find "suitable replacements",
when the "best" replacement might be "no" replacement.
The natural Fluorescent and LED advantages, as Tube and Sheet respectively,
are largely sacrificed in pursuing their use as Bulbs to replace incandescents.


Anonymous said...

could not agree more - paul

Sergio Martínez said...

Government consumer use advice is OK.
But not mean ban is good.
The DEFRA say "stand-by power must be limited"
But you can choose to use stand-by or not!
As you say, limiting energy use also affects what people want.

So, agree, if "Government must save electricity" they can just increase price, and let people decide what to do and how to reduce their use,
with the good consumer advice.

Also Government should deal with electricity production and grid instead, like you also say.

Anonymous said...

Household energy usage
Also USA Dept of Energy has good statistics US residential energy consumption surveys (RECS)
Mainly heating and cooling like you say.

Lighthouse said...

Thank you Steven,
yes the US Department of Energy also has good past surveys on household lighting use (which is the main area concerned with any incandescent ban), though they are only using estimates as of late.
The American lighting relevant surveys are linked in the http://ceolas.net/#li171x "Little society savings from a ban" section of the Ceolas site.