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The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa gave away free CFL bulbs, while on the campaign trail in 2009.  (Source: Getty Images)

CFL lightbulbs are burning out 3 years faster than originally expected, disappointing Californian regulators.  (Source: Paul Swansen/Flickr)

Less customers are buying CFL bulbs than expected, despite tax incentives that total nearly 3 dollars per bulb, cutting the price to one third the standard MSRP.  (Source: Walmart Corporate)
State government concludes that it will not realize the savings it expected

It was all flowers and roses when the state of California launched its $548M USD program to help promote consumer use of compact fluorescent lamps.  Manufacturers and utilities were onboard because they received bonus pay to enact rebate programs.  Citizens were happy as they received cheap CFL bulbs, which promised to save them money on power expenses.  And the politicians were happy, as they looked sufficiently "green" to satisfy the eco-minded voters.

Now that utopian vision of futuristic lighting has dissolved into rancor and disappointment.  A multi-million dollar program by the state designed to evaluate the actual results has concluded that energy savings were not as good as expected and that utilities were being over-rewarded for their performance.

At the heart of the problems is the fact that utility provider Pacific Gas & Electricity Corp (PG&E) has forced to cut estimates of CFL life average lifetimes from 9.3 years in 2006 to 6.3 years.  The shorter-than-expected lifetime was due largely to people turning CFL lights on and off, and the fact that CFL bulbs were often put in disadvantageous locations like bathrooms or recessed lighting.

The state studies say that the shorter lifetimes led to the utility missing its proposed energy cuts.  PG&E disagrees, claiming it narrowly made the targets.  Now state regulators are left to argue whether to award the utility its expected bonus pay.

Another thing working against PG&E is that, despite its up-front investment of $92M USD for a CFL rebate program, fewer bulbs were sold, fewer were screwed in, and they saved less energy than PG&E anticipated.  While Californians only pay $1.30 for the subsidized bulbs versus $4 in states where they were not subsidized, the citizens didn't all seem interested in jumping on board and moving away from traditional incandescent lighting.

One headache for utilities is that they are only rewarded for the energy saved by customers who, when surveyed, say they would not have otherwise purchased the bulbs.  

Still, for all PG&E's complaining, it did receive $104M USD from two rounds of funding ($143.7M USD initially, and $68M USD in December 2010) -- more than its rebate program, which it has not even completed.

The California government is now considering switching from rewarding utilities based on energy savings, to rewarding them based on the amount of adoption.  Many, including some utilities, argue that the switch would simplify the accounting process for everyone and reduce the penalties for cooperating utilities if, outside their control, the products fail to deliver the expected savings.

The aftermath of the California CFL mess is perhaps, just a sign of things to come.  California, the leading state in promoting CFLs, began phasing out incandescent light bulbs on January 1.  Next year the rest of the nation will follow.  By 2014, incandescent light bulbs will be gone from shelves, for better or worse.

The transition is a win for one party, at least -- China.  Chinese manufacturers produced the vast majority of the 100 million CFLs installed in California since 2006.

Worldwide, many nations, rich and poor are also eyeing major CFL campaigns.  The World Bank, as part of its charitable efforts, donated away five million CFL light bulbs in Bangladesh in one day alone.  Its also giving away CFL bulbs in many other nations in an effort to make lighting more affordable in impoverished nations. 

CFL lighting will likely eventually be replaced by LED lamps, which are currently almost prohibitively expensive, but offer even longer lifetimes.



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RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By StevoLincolnite on 1/25/2011 9:30:59 PM , Rating: 4
Incandescent light bulb's aren't allowed to be sold here in Australia and we were given promises how CFL was essentially our savior.

Not denying the electricity companies may have saved money...
Did we save money? Nope.
Incandescent bulbs were multiple times cheaper and the electricity companies just increased the costs of electricity anyway.

So far Halogen Bulbs are pretty much my only option until LED bulbs get cheaper as CFL's give me headaches.
Not to mention CFL's have Mercury which isn't good for the environment.


RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By Spuke on 1/25/2011 9:43:29 PM , Rating: 2
I bought 19 CFL's about 5 years ago. All are still working except for the one's used for the front and back porches (5), the outside garage lights (2), and the one's in my office (2). The one's used outside only lasted as long as the incandescents so I went back to those. Going to start replacing some interior lights with LED's sometime this year.


RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By michael67 on 1/26/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By michael67 on 1/26/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By kingius on 1/26/2011 7:14:00 AM , Rating: 2
The key is to buy 'warm white' ones.

I just switched out all of the ceiling lights on my boat for LED's and the saving on the battery is about six times; that is I can switch six ceiling lights out on and be using the same power as the old halogens.


RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By michael67 on 1/26/2011 6:20:41 PM , Rating: 1
Did i get a -1 because i posted a bad post.

Ore did i get it because i double posted, because the freaking ad website was taking for ever And i was thinking i miss-clicked and DT after years of people complaining still dose not have a edit button ?


RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By MrBlastman on 1/27/2011 12:19:44 PM , Rating: 2
I think you got a -1 for bad grammar and spelling, not because of the subject matter or the double-post.


RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By EricMartello on 1/28/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bathroom, Recessed lighting
By Dark Legion on 1/29/2011 4:24:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
yet most of them work in $30K per year tech jobs with no future - now that's funny.

Pot, meet kettle.
And no, what he said was not fully understandable. Sure, not everyone can speak/write English or had it as their first language, but that's not an excuse for those who can to butcher the language or get lazy. And if someone doesn't know, why not correct them and try to teach them, rather than have them making the same mistake every time.

To answer your question, many people do, which is evident alone in the comment section of most DT articles.


By Astral Abyss on 1/27/2011 12:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
"I bin using them sins they came out" was as far as I needed to read to determine the -1 was well deserved.


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