Sunday, October 04, 2009

Small Steps

Via Cruel Mistriss Eli came across yet another courtesy fart for George Will at the Washington Post. Joe Romm was not amused, but you know Joe. Not one of the Village People. He does have a number of excellent links about lighting technology developments, programs and regulation.

David Henderson, got hisself an op ed, more thoughts on that perhaps later, and proceeded to be as simple as can be. Henderson said that it was wrong of the EU to mandate a switch to compact fluorescent bulbs and the US to impose efficiency standards on light bulbs that will by, 2012, eliminate the traditional incandescent.

Eli agrees with Henderson that the US approach is better. Romm agrees too, pointing out that this has already lead to creation of more efficient incandescents (most likely by making filaments that can burn brighter) and leaves a lot more room for technological innovation. Henderson, leaving no simple thought unwritten fears a backlash from users moaning

. . many people also have a decided dislike of CFLs and will greatly resent the ban. While they may last longer than incandescent bulbs, the upfront cost is high; the light produced is not as bright as that of incandescent bulbs; they are slow to achieve full brightness; the bulbs don't fit in many old lamps; they can't be dimmed; and their lifespan is greatly shortened by using them for less than 15 minutes at a time. The manufacturers of compact fluorescent lights have made improvements on some of these issues, but their reputation is not yet vindicated.
Because his analysis is superficial, he misses the obvious parallel with low flush toilets, in their time a threat to civilization and the American Way, but you know, by now no one really notices except the water and sanitation system operators who were spared the expense of dealing with a whole lot more of crap filled water and building a lot more plants, which was the whole point.

Beyond this, Henderson tries to do freakonomics
The environmental benefits of using only compact fluorescent bulbs are indirect -- and less than what could be realized by changing standards governing, for example, coal use. Consider: The benefit of "reducing inefficiency" depends on where the energy is coming from. Improving efficiency without eliminating a harmful source may just free energy that is then used elsewhere. If there is no net reduction in energy use, where is the benefit?
As Eli said, he misses the obvious parallel with low flush toilets. In this case electrical generating facilities are continually being built and renewed. Decrease demand by increasing efficiency and the utilities will build fewer plants. CFLs were originally introduced and subsidized by the utilities precisely to avoid building new plants and it worked, a lesson Henderson has either never learned or tossed down the memory hole. Given capital costs and coming carbon emission regulation it is clearly in the utilities benefit to take their least efficient coal plants off line if lighting power demand decreases.

Observant link clickers may also have noticed that Henderson did not mention how much electricity is used for home lighting. 101 Billion kWh (8.8% of all electricity consumed in US homes, which is about 1/3 of all use). This, of course is only one place where good regulations can significantly increase efficiency, refrigerators are a great example, falling by a factor of four since 1970 under the spur of technological development and efficiency regulations. Oh yeah, replacements of CFCs were not even a hiccup in spite of the technotrolls. As Eli has been saying, the solution is going to include a whole lot of solutions not a single kendo bash.



Anonymous said...

The Dutch made a weird discovery. When they replaced all incandescent lamps with CFLs, people found the light so cold, they turned up the thermostat a degree or two.
So any gains in energy for lighting were more than lost in energy for heating.
(can't point to a link).


skanky said...

The EU hasn't mandated a switch to CF, they're banning incandescents.

That may seem like the same thing, and a few years ago would have been, but LEDs are also an option and an increasingly viable one (eg see Philips' latest offerings).

How much the upcoming ban on incandescents coupled with CF's IMHO minor (they aren't slow any more, and you can get ones that can be dimmed) shortcomings has boosted the LED R&D is, to me, unknown, but I'd hazard a guess that it's been helpful.

Of course making it a ban does bring out some reactions in people. The Telegraph, for example, had a feature on "how to beat the ban", which was advertised on their front page. The main headline that day was about possible power cuts in nine years time due to lack of supply (vs demand).

Thomas Palm said...

EU has not banned incandescents, it is adding efficiency requirements that conventional incandescents can't match. Halogens, LED:s, CFLs are all viable alternatives. Unfortunately reporting on the issue has been largely misleading.

skanky said...

Thomas, interesting, thanks. The UK has, AFAIA*, specifically banned incandescents, and I probably conflated the two.

*But again, that may be down to misleading reporting.

Anonymous said...

"EIA estimates that in 2007, about 526 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity were used for lighting by the residential and commercial sectors."

The efficiency requirements would apply to more than just homes?

526 billion kwhs is a big pile of coal.


TokyoTom said...

Koen, Montreal had the same experience; turning off lights in office building in winter (off-peak) meant an increase in energy consumption for heating during daylight hours (on-peak).

Eli, Joe wouldn`t let my initial comment through, so I`ve tried again:

Something minor about progress being stymied by evil power companies & lack of competition, what Google`s up to, and why guys like Joe like to demonize others.