China Environmental Law

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Let there be (highly-efficient impact fluorescent) light in 2009!

January 2nd, 2009 · 6 Comments

China is developing an action plan that could place it at the forefront of the energy efficiency movement and stimulate the economy at the same time.  The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the planner, said it would be working in partnership with the United Nations Development Program and the Global Environment Fund on a project to phase out incandescent lamps and promote green lighting to save energy.

China makes a lot of the world’s light bulbs.  In 2007 it produced:

  • 4.44 billion incandescent lamps (about-one third of the world’s total), of which 2.98 billion were exported.
  • 3 billion highly-efficient impact fluorescent lamps last year (about 80 percent of the world’s total), of which 2.2 billion were exported.

China has already initiated efforts to subsidize and promote the use of energy efficient lighting.  In January of 2008, the NDRC and the Ministry of Finance launched a nationwide campaign to achieve a target of 150 million energy-efficient bulbs in use by 2010 (a target set for the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010)).  These efforts includes a “30-percent subsidy on wholesale purchases and 50 percent on retail sales of energy-efficient bulbs.”  Achieving this goal “could save 29 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and reduce emission of carbon dioxide by 29 million tons and sulfur dioxide by 290,000 tons annually.”

The complete elimination and replacement of incandescent bulbs would “save 48 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per annum.”  This sum is equal to (take your pick as to which sounds more impressive):

  • 60 percent of total electricity generated by the massive Three Gorges Dam each year, or
  • Tianjin’s total annual electricity consumption.

They both sound impressive to me, and producing the necessary bulbs will employ a lot of people.

Postscript: as too frequently occurs in news stories involving officially provided numbers, the reporter didn’t bother to check the figures provided by the government.  Every story reporting the phase-out plan noted that

Lighting now accounts for about 12 percent of China’s total electricity consumption, and the use of fluorescent bulbs could reportedly cut consumption by 60 to 80 percent.

OK, they did say “reportedly,” but how hard would it have been to check the number.  The quoted passage implies that use of fluorescents would cut total electricity consumption by 7.2 to 9.6% (60 to 80% of 12%).  China’s total electricity consumption in 2006 was 2.859 trillion kWh (it was probably at least 10% higher in 2007).  7.2 to 9.6% of this number produces as range of 205 to 274 billion kWh-numbers far greater than the 48 billion kWh savings predicted by a complete incandescent light phase out.  How hard is it to do the math?

Tags: 10th Five Year Plan · NDRC · energy efficiency

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Greg // Jan 3, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Those compact flourscent bulbs are VERY UNGREEN because of their mercury content. The new move is towards low cost LED lights which are even more efficient, very durable and brighter.

  • 2 cmcelwee // Jan 5, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Greg: they are only ungreen if the mercury is discharged into the environment during the production of the bulb or its disposal, and we know neither of those things will happen in China.

  • 3 Greg // Jan 5, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Of course, I will begin prostrating myself and knocking my head on the floor, I am just a foreigner.

    And of course these bulbs don’t break in homes or offices either. I see these bulbs in the same light as crop based biofuels.

  • 4 Rob Earley // Jan 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I’m not sure if I’m right on this or not, and I know there are people who know better than me…but I’m under the impression that the energy required to process the toxics in CFLs brings the lifecycle emissions related to CFLs way way up.

    As for LEDs…I understand these can be useful for street lamps and such, but based on what I’ve seen for in-home use…they are really not very nice…prove me wrong?

  • 5 cmcelwee // Jan 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Rob: you could be right on CFLs. I love lifecycle analysis; it shatters so many conventional opinions. Can anyone confirm Rob’s point? As to LEDs, I agree with your aesthetic judgement.

  • 6 Greg // Jan 6, 2009 at 2:35 am

    There are LED lamps on the market for home use, but the expense needs to come down and the designs need improvement. Still, they are a much safer alternative to compact flourescents.

    And life cycle analysis makes current hybrid technology look very bad next to mid 80s diesel Mercedes that can be improved with a couple of grand worth of engine and catalytic converter upgrades, and being able to combust vegetable oil or biodiesel in them.

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