Energy Management and Lighting, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

ENERGY STAR Lighting: A Decades-Long Success Story Ending on a Bright Note

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is celebrating over 25 years of achievements in lighting efficiency. The celebration comes as the ENERGY STAR label for most lighting is poised to sunset after a long, successful run and the recently enacted federal sales ban on incandescent bulbs.

Since the ENERGY STAR label for lighting and lightbulbs was first introduced in 1997 to improve market uptake of energy-efficient lighting, well over 3 billion ENERGY STAR-certified lightbulbs have been sold in the United States. These sales have helped transform the lighting market and deliver electric energy savings of over 1 trillion kWh—equivalent to the annual carbon sequestration of over 800 million acres of forest in the United States—emphasizing that energy choices count and our collective decisions as consumers can have a big impact on the environment.

“The recent transformation of how America lights its homes and businesses is an ideal success story of how a simple partnership program can make astounding progress in addressing climate change,” said Joseph Goffman, principal deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The ENERGY STAR label has guided millions of consumers towards lightbulbs that provide better lighting quality and save money, all while avoiding extraordinary amounts of climate pollution.”

Back in 1997, the energy-efficient alternative to incandescent lighting was primarily compact fluorescent bulbs, and the U.S. lighting industry had struggled to create consumer demand. A lack of consumer awareness and education around lighting efficiency, combined with limited coordination among manufacturers, utilities, and retailers, created an opportunity for the EPA to generate a market signal to help boost consumer adoption through ENERGY STAR.

Over the next two decades, the EPA’s focus on product quality, branding, and consumer education helped transform the market with the help of dedicated industry partners. These efforts brought together manufacturers, retailers, utilities, test labs, certification bodies, utility program implementers, advocates, and government to collaborate in a voluntary partnership that delivered unprecedented environmental results—with some partners having been with the program for over 30 years since the inception of the Greenlights program, ENERGY STAR’s predecessor.

With these remarkable improvements in lighting efficiency and quality resulting from over two decades of innovation from the ENERGY STAR program in partnership with the lighting industry, the lighting market has transformed, and inefficient lightbulbs are a thing of the past.

In May 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy formalized a policy that enforces a 45 lumen-per-watt limit and ushers in a new era for lighting. The new federal standard, largely considered a ban on incandescent lightbulbs, came into effect Aug. 1, 2023. Now, only energy-efficient lightbulbs—predominantly LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and a small subset of CFLs (compact fluorescent lights)—can be sold in the U.S.

As a result of this new standard and widespread use of energy-efficient lighting, the ENERGY STAR label will be phased out from most lighting options effective at the end of 2024. ENERGY STAR will continue to certify and maintain specifications for downlights and string lights, which are not impacted by the federal standard.

ALSO READ: Back to Basics: How Businesses Can Participate in the ENERGY STAR Program

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