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Federal lightbulb plan will cost $300M in energy savings: Pembina

The federal government doesn't want to implement its planned incandescent light bulb ban until 2014. It's a delay that will negate 13 million tonnes of avoidable greenhouse gas emissions and more than $300 million in energy savings, the Pembina Institute argues, citing the government's own analysis.

Natural Resources Canada plans to prohibit the importation and shipment of 40, 60, 75 and 100 watt incandescent light bulbs commonly used in households and commercial facilities across Canada.

But the department recently announced it doesn't intend to implement the prohibition until 2014, two years later than initially planned.

"Delaying the phase out of inefficient light bulbs creates more harm than benefit, environmentally and economically," said Jesse Row in a press release issued by the Pembina Institute. "In fact, it means more pollution and higher electricity bills for Canadians."

Reliance on alternative lighting technology, such as compact fluorescent lamps, would have provided the cost and greenhouse gas savings. But since the government first proposed the ban, Canadians have expressed concerns regarding the safety of such alternatives, according to a Canada Gazette publication.

Disposal of the mercury-containing bulbs as well as the perceived health effects of ultraviolet radiation and electromagnetic fields associated with their operation are the primary reasons for concern, according to the Gazette.

The government proposes to delay the ban "in order to strengthen communication activities, to allow for technology innovations and to consider the concerns expressed about the availability of compliant technologies."

But the Pembina Institute doesn’t consider those valid reasons for a delay.

"The land, water and air impacts that result from generating 24 billion kilowatt-hours of unnecessary electricity have substantial implications for public health and the environment," wrote Pembina director Tim Weis in an open letter to Natural Resources Canada.

Government communication initiatives during the delay would focus on convincing Canadians that CFLs do not represent a health risk and that there are several existing alternatives to incandescent bulbs, with more to come in the future.

Additionally, Environment Canada would implement regulations that require manufacturers and importers to develop recycling programs for their burnt out CFLs.

"While we applaud the government’s efforts to make it easier for consumers to properly dispose of CFLs, those efforts could easily be applied in parallel with the implementation of energy efficient lighting regulations," wrote Pembina's Weis.

Meanwhile, some major consumers of Canadian electricity are implementing their own self-imposed lighting regulations.

Sears Canada announced last week plans to voluntarily replace more than 130 thousand incandescent bulbs with energy efficient LEDs in stores across the country, saving 16 million kilowatt hours all on its own.

The retailer also recently banned the sale of incandescent bulbs in all its stores. It is the first national retailer to do so.

Tyler Harbottle is completing a practicum at The Tyee. Contact him by email or on Twitter.

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