DOE Decision to rescind 2017 expanded definition of General Service Lamps

On September 5, 2019, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Appliance and Equipment Standards Program announced a decision to withdraw the 2017 expansion of the General Service Incandescent Lamp definition that broadened the range of covered products to include decorative medium-base and MR-type lamps. The following information is provided as background information on this topic.

IES Approach to Energy Efficiency
IES energy efficiency efforts are focused on energy use in buildings and the environment without proposing product-specific energy-efficiency requirements. Most importantly, we emphasize quality lighting criteria for vision, health, and safety as being independent of energy concerns, while advocating energy-efficient solutions to meet these criteria. Accordingly, the IES partners with ASHRAE in co-sponsoring the 90.1 and 90.2 energy standards, and with ASHRAE, the DOE, AIA and the USGBC to write the Advanced Energy Design Guides, including the latest series on “Achieving Zero Energy.” We also collaborate with ASHRAE, the USGBC and the ICC on Standard 189.1 which informs the International Green Construction Code, and we communicate and collaborate with numerous other energy-focused organizations and government agencies. Our emphasis is to put forward our lighting standards as the baseline from which energy efficiency can be achieved, while remaining neutral on the selection of technologies and products.

A Brief History of DOE Rulemaking and Actions Leading to the 2019 Final Rule
The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA), initiated a series of congressional acts directing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to establish minimum energy conservation standards for a variety of consumer products and commercial and industrial equipment, including certain varieties of electric light sources. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) amended EPCA to expand coverage to include general service lamps (GSLs).

EISA 2007 also directed DOE to undertake an energy conservation standards rulemaking for GSLs, to be completed by January 1, 2017. If DOE had decided to amend the efficacy standards for General Service Incandescent Lamps (GSILs) and had not completed the rulemaking by January 1, 2017, or if the rulemaking did not produce savings greater than or equal to the savings from a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt, a portion of the statute commonly referred to as the “backstop” requirement directs the DOE to prohibit sales of GSLs that do not meet a minimum 45 lumens per watt standard, beginning on January 1, 2020. The DOE was, however, prohibited from working on parts of this rulemaking due to a Congressional Appropriations Rider known as the Burgess Amendment.

In January of 2017 the DOE published Final Rules expanding the definition of GSL, GSIL, and related terms, bringing additional categories of incandescent lamps within the definitions of GSL. These included reflector lamps, decorative and globe lamps, and MR lamps, with the Final Rules to take effect January 1, 2020.

DOE Actions, 2019
On February 11, 2019 the DOE issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to withdraw the 2017 revised definitions of GSL and GSIL lamps before the rules were to go into effect. On September 5, 2019, a DOE document was published formally withdrawing the January 2017 changes to the definitions of GSL lamps, thereby maintaining the 2007 statutory definitions. The “backstop” of a minimum 45 lumens per watt was furthermore reiterated by DOE as not being “triggered” or applicable at this time.

Also published on September 5, 2019 was a Notice of Proposed Determination (NOPD) stating that the “DOE will initiate a rulemaking for GSLs that, among other requirements, determines whether standards in effect for GSILs, a subset of GSLs, should be amended.” The DOE cannot amend a standard unless the amendment results in significant energy savings, is technologically feasible, and is economically justified. This NOPD states that the “DOE has tentatively determined that current standards for GSILs do not need to be amended because more stringent standards are not economically justified” and requests comments on the NOPD.

While the 2017 regulations would have prevented the sale of some lower-efficiency light sources, the rapid market transformation to LED lighting has outpaced the regulations. Consumers have embraced this new technology as replacements for older, less efficient sources, with lower-cost LED lamps often selling for less than the traditional sources they are replacing.

Federal regulations should address LED lighting products to ensure consistent quality levels and to minimize the number of poor quality products entering the marketplace. The DOE still has an important role to play in setting levels of performance for lighting products and monitoring them for the public good.