EU to turn off energy-guzzling light bulbs

Standard energy-guzzling incandescent light bulbs should be banned in Europe by 2012, a European Union panel of experts recommended on Monday.

"Incandescent bulbs will be phased out between September 2009 and September 2012," said a spokesman for the EU Presidency.

The proposals will be studied by the European Parliament and member states, and, if no objection is raised, they could be adopted in a fast-track procedure by the end of March.

Traditional incandescent bulbs have barely changed since they were first commercially produced by Thomas Edison in 1879, and efficiency improvements reached a limit about 50 years ago.

European households could initially save up to €50 ($65) a year by switching to more efficient halogen, LED and fluorescent CFL lamps, with greater savings as costs for the more expensive but longer-lasting bulbs fall.

The move could play into the hands of manufacturers of the most efficient CFL bulbs, mostly based in China, and could lead to the loss of 2,000 to 3,000 EU jobs, mostly in eastern Europe.

But Europe could save between €5bn and €10bn on energy bills, which could be used to create new jobs, including in emerging green industries.

Martin Goetzeler, chief of Siemens' light bulb unit Osram, said any ban would not affect its business because it already generated over 95 per cent of revenue with lamp types that are not affected, such as halogen, fluorescent and LED.

"Lightbulbs are a model that is being phased out due to its weak efficiency, and they play only a small role in Osram's overall business," he said.

Osram employs about 12,000 workers in Germany, of which about 800 make lightbulbs.

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