NEMA Supports Revision of General Service Lamp Definition

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has expressed its support for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposal to revise its January 2017 definitions rule for general service lamps. In a proposed rule released on Feb. 6, DOE stated that it misconstrued existing law and could not legally justify its January 2017 definitions of general service incandescent lamp and general service lamp, and that the department was proposing to align DOE definitions with those established by Congress in 2007 because that reflected what Congress intended.

In March 2017, NEMA sought judicial review of the DOE January 2017 general service lamp definitions rule. In its July 2017 settlement of NEMA legal action, DOE agreed to reassess the assumptions and determinations made in January 2017 regarding the scope of products defined as general service lamps. DOE took this action in light of information the department had declined to consider earlier in the rulemaking as well as because of NEMA legal arguments.

General service lamps are characterized by a number of common attributes: they emit omnidirectional light; they emit light across a broad range of lumen outputs from 310 lumens to 2600 lumens; they have a medium screw base; they are household lamps and serve domestic residential voltages from 110-130 volts; and while the bare spiral CFL is the exception, these lamps also possess a common bulb shape of certain dimensions known as A-17 or A-19, which the consumer recognizes as a pear shape bulb. In defining general service lamps, Congress identified three-types of light bulb technologies that share all of these elements: general service incandescent, compact fluorescent and LED lamps.

In a Final Rule issued Jan. 19, 2017, DOE concluded that the definitions should also include light bulbs that only provided very low light output up to 380 lumens; light bulbs that only provided directional lighting (reflector lamps); light bulbs with small candelabra bases and other decorative bulb shapes; and light bulbs in higher voltage ranges more often used in Europe; and included some brighter light bulbs above 2600 lumens that were rarely used in household applications. NEMA argued that the inclusion of these specialty light bulbs in the definition of general service lamp was inconsistent with the text of the law and they were not general service light bulbs. Congress stated these lamps were not included in its definition of general service lamp.

NEMA looks forward to contributing to the public discussion of energy conservation standards for general service light bulbs that DOE indicated it would pursue in the coming weeks. NEMA concurs with DOE analysis that it is not rolling back any standards applicable to these lamps. It is not legally possible to backslide from a point DOE could not legally stand upon in the first place. To think otherwise would erode the rule of law and the primacy of Congress in establishing public policy.

Important for the upcoming policy discussion on energy conservation standards for these lamps will be the recognition that consumers, retailers and manufacturers have, without government regulation, already driven energy savings in the general service lamp category faster than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. NEMA Lamp Index displays that quarterly shipments of general service LED lamp surpassed shipments of both general service incandescent and compact fluorescent lamps in the third quarter of 2017. As of the third quarter of 2018, LED lamp shipments account for 65 percent of general service lamp shipments. Based on historical shipment data and rated lamp life for general service lamps, NEMA estimates that approximately 75-77 percent of general service lamp sockets are occupied by general service LEDs and compact fluorescent lamps.

NEMA has published additional information on this issue on its website.

The NEMA Lamp Index is also on its website.

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