New Energy Standards Seek to Dim Emissions

New Energy Standards Seek to Dim Emissions

Adoption of new standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy to improve the energy efficiency of fluorescent lamp ballasts will save the amount of energy used by 13 million homes each year, the department estimates.

Along with the energy savings, the new standards are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons of carbon and by 60,000 tons of nitrous oxide over the next 20 years -- the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of 1 million cars for 15 years.

The standards, adopted and announced by the DOE, target commercial and industrial applications. The savings from existing and new appliance standards, including the fluorescent lamp ballasts standards, should be approximately 18 quads by 2020 -- more energy than used by all U.S. homes in one year.

A quad is one quadrillion (10 to the 15th power) British thermal units, or BTU. A BTU, in turn, is a measurement unit for heat equal to the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water from 62 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

The efficiency of electronic ballasts, a major component in fluorescent light fixtures, has a direct impact on energy consumption. Electronic ballasts are far more efficient than magnetic ballasts, because they raise the electrical frequency to levels that improve the efficiency of the fluorescent tube.

Since 1989, existing lighting and appliance efficiency standards have saved 3.8 quads and significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the DOE announcement, the new standards will go into effect on April 1, 2005. After that, fluorescent lamp ballasts produced by lighting manufacturers for commercial and industrial new construction or the renovation market must be electronic ballasts that meet the new standards.

Magnetic ballasts will be available until 2010 for building owners to maintain current systems.

Industries Agree

The new standards are based on an agreement between the lighting industry and energy efficiency advocates that mark a more open, negotiated process for setting higher efficiency standards. Parties to the agreement include the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, the Oregon Office of Energy, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.