Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

'Green' light bulb fears rejected

A low energy bulb
Partially-sighted people are concerned about the new bulbs

The government has rejected claims that partially-sighted people will suffer when new low energy light bulbs are introduced across the UK.

Peers said the new bulbs did not produce enough light for reading.

But energy innovation minister Lord Hunt said alternatives such as "halogen lookalike bulbs" were available.

He also rejected fears about the impact on the environment of the mercury in low energy bulbs which become compulsory under EU law this year.

Lord Hunt defended the decision to ditch the current "incandescent" bulbs, arguing the move was needed to fight climate change.

'Reduced brightness'

He said: "Incandescent light bulbs waste 95% of the energy they use as heat. Phasing these out and replacing them with efficient alternatives can help reduce emissions and energy bills.

How many politicians did it take to change a light bulb policy?
Lord Harrison

"We are pleased that UK retailers and energy suppliers are voluntarily phasing out these lamps before European rules are introduced later this year."

But Labour peer Lord Harrison said he was "incandescent" about the "reduced brightness of these new lamps which make life difficult for people with poor eyesight".

He said there also concerns about the "poor quality" of the bulbs and their safety.

He asked: "Just who and where were these decisions made? Indeed, how many politicians did it take to change a light bulb policy?"

Mercury

Lord Hunt said the government was talking to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) about brighter alternatives, such as "halogen lookalike lamps", and he said the quality and technology of low energy bulbs had improved.

He also hit back at claims by former Chancellor Lord Lawson that the move to low energy bulbs would increase the risk of mercury poisoning the environment.

For the vast majority of people it is possible to achieve the same lighting effect with new energy efficient bulbs available on the high street - the real issue is knowing what to get
RNIB

He claimed the bulbs contained a smaller amount of the substance than mercury thermometers, which the EU has banned, but the government was looking at safer alternatives such as LED lights, which did not contain any mercury and had a longer life.

"We very much hope we can see the new technology come to market in the next few years," he told peers.

Lib Dem peer Lord Redesdale backed the move to low-energy light bulbs, describing it as "one of the most positive moves the government has made recently".

He claimed that the Palace of Westminster had saved 61% of its energy costs by swapping to low energy bulbs.

'Bulk buying'

But Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the Conservative shadow environment minister, said people would be spending more on heating their homes through the switch to low energy light bulbs and claimed some peers were "bulk buying" incandescent bulbs.

Lord Hunt said there was a balance to be struck between the impact of manufacturing and home use but "overall I have no doubt whatsoever that, overall, not only does it reduce the use of energy but it does save the cost of householders' bills".

The RNIB said it was concerned about the move to low energy bulbs, as people did not know about the alternatives that were available for the partially sighted.

It said: "RNIB recognises that many blind and partially sighted people are concerned about the effectiveness of energy efficient light bulbs.

"However, for the vast majority of people it is possible to achieve the same lighting effect with new energy efficient bulbs available on the high street - the real issue is knowing what to get."

The RNIB recommends not replacing hallway and stair lights with new energy efficient bulbs, but suggests a tungsten halogen bulb instead, and advises people to look for bulbs recommended by the Energy Saving Trust for the rest of the house.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
The bulb hoarders
30 Jun 08 |  Magazine
Shedding light on call to ban bulb
20 Apr 06 |  Science & Environment
Cracking down on energy waste
26 Nov 04 |  Business

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific