UNEP report on light bulbs under consideration at COP16, Russia already making strides

Publish date: December 8, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG – The United Nations Environmental Programme released a report at the Cancun climate summit indicating that replacing all incandescent light bulb on the planet with compact florescent light bulbs – also called energy saving bulbs – would cut 246 million tons of carbon emissions annually.

The measure, according to the UNEP report, would also save $47 billion a year in energy bills, and reduce energy demand by 409 terawatt hours, and save the fuel equivalent of 35 million tons of oil.

One problem associated with using the compact florescent bulbs is their mecury content. However, the content of mercury in the bulbs has been reduced by their producers over the last 10 years by 80 percent to about three milligrams. For comparison, most older thermometers contain 170 more mercury.

The authors of the UNEP report underscore that there are other auxiliary benefits to using compact fluorescent, specifically that they will force kerosene lighting out of the picture, which is a large air pollution source – and air pollution is the cause of some 2.6 million deaths annually, according to the UNEP report.

Perspectives for Russia

A year ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law on energy savings and on increased energy efficiency directed toward inculcating energy saving technology. The law envisions a phasing out of incandescent bulbs. Already, many Russian store windows are carrying notices that production and sale of incandescent bulbs of 100 watts or more will take effect on January 1. In 2013, incandescent bulbs of 75 watts will cease production and sale, and in 2014, 25 watt bulbs will also disappear.

LED – the new generation

Another low energy source of light is light emitting diodes, or LED. This source can also bring light to places were compact flourscent cannot be used – for instance in instruments requiring impulse lighting like traffic signals and car blinkers.

Addressing a presidential inquiry on raising energy efficiency, the Russian Ministry of Energy put energy efficiency advice (in Russian) for the public and small businesses on its website.

One of the listed recommendations was using that using compact fluorescent lights. LED lights and sodium lights could lead to energy savingsof 20 to 80 percent. The advice has been heeded in may Russian regions.

LEDs in use in Russia’s regions

As an example, the Miass region is using LED street lights that were manufactured in a local plant a year ago. Each light installation costs about 12,000 roubles and pays for itself within only two and a half years, and works for 10. Beginning this year Chelyabinsk will also being to replace its streetlights as well. And LEDs are being installed in the Kemerovo Region, in St. Petersburg, in the Moscow satellite city of Korolyov and in Grozny, as well as other regions.

The city of Tikhvin in the Leningrad Region near St. Petersburg installed 30 LED streetlights, though the city has a total of 2600 streetlights. The new streetlights run on 92 watts, where a mecury lamp required 250 watts.

The plant were the lights that were manufactured for Tikhvin says that the current high costs will likely fall. First, more and more offerings from domestic producers are appearing on the Russian market. Second, the quality of domestically produced LED crystals available could also improve. Currently, only European manufactured LEDs are being used.

Supplementary equipment that would allow regulation of the amount of light that Tikhvin’s streetlights put out for purposes of saving energy when there is little car or foot traffic, can also be installed.   

LEDs don’t contain any harmful substances. They are based on silicon and germanium, and spent bulbs can be disposed of in regular dumps.

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