Energy Efficient Light Bulbs; a New Way to Save…Big

In energy, energy, family, Obama, oil, society on April 24, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Luddite-thinking legislation purporting to “throw back the oceans” regarding mandating the discontinuation  of incandescent bulb production  is wrong-headed. While I agree government is too intrusive by far, and legislating consumer choice is clearly wrong, some attention must be paid to the need for conserving energy through technology. If the new energy-efficient light bulbs cost three to ten times as much, but save much more than their cost in energy savings and related savings-like incandescent bulb-radiated-heat in the summer which causes the air conditioning to go on more often, then consumers will vote with their pocketbook, which they ALWAYS do when given a transparent and competitive marketplace.

It may be that the real problem here is the profit-making practices of the manufacturers, who insist on what some might say are unreasonably high profit margins for this and other “threshold” technologies, favoring short-term high profits over lower cost to users, but higher market penetration.

Would we be having this discussion if energy-efficient bulbs were priced the same, or close to the same as energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs? Many times in the past, replacement technologies that have been priced to succeed in a big way have dominated their markets in a short time.

Think computers. Each generation of computers has offered faster speeds, more efficiency and greater capacity than the one previous, while still declining in price (per calculation, per productivity \”load\” by any measure).

Monolithic control of this technology may be preventing wider adoption through lower pricing, and also preventing the attendant savings, easily estimated at up to seventy-eight Billion a year in the U.S.  (That’s Billions with a Big “B” folks!) at high levels of usage, calculated at ten percent of utility industry revenue total of $741 BB, with potentially much more in savings. That’s a lot of coal, oil and gas!

But…but…the free marketplace must be allowed to work, transparently and completely.

let’s make a change. Why don’t we offer every household a utility-installed set of the new energy-efficient light  bulbs; the  utility crew walks  through neighborhoods in door-to-door canvass, and replaces each and every incandescent light bulb with it’s energy- efficient replacement, even the newer LED lights that are coming soon. Although a voluntary program, the cost is added to the consumer’s electric bill, but offset completely each month  with monthly credits over two or three years equivalent to the estimated cost savings, easy to determine by computer-aided analysis of the bill. Net cost to consumer? Zero. The average U.S. household has from 25-35 incandescent bulbs. Replacing them all at a cost per household of 30 x$6.00=$180.00, plus $1.00 per bulb labor would cost  $210.00 total. Average yearly savings? $180.00. Payback time? 14-15 months, ideally, but by stretching “payback” out to two years approximately $9.50 per month, consumers actually save more than the cost!

Maybe the installation cost would be calculated at $2.00 instead of $1.00; maybe the bulb would e costed out at $7.00 instead of $6.00 (But note that bulb prices are declining as production volumes build). But that only changes the payback calculation slightly. The point is this could easily work!

Similarly for businesses, the same program of replacement would be offered, with similar credits to bills, and there are already Department of Energy tax credits available for new construction installation of energy- efficient bulbs, and for newer LED lights, which also qualify.

The customer wins because they save energy and reduce their costs, saving even more  after the initial costs are deducted. The collected incandescents would be recycled , with enough earnings to partly offset the installation costs. The utility would not be allowed to charge full retail for the bulbs, but required to install at their product cost, plus a nominal labor charge.  Incentives for the Utility are significant; since the energy savings to the consumer are notable, that in turn means less energy demand from power generation plants by the distribution system, amounting to over one hundred million tons of coal, over 40,000,000 million of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic feet less in natural gas usage. Less pollution of air and water, less maintenance costs, less brown-out’s, or worse, black-out’s, what’s not to like?

By some estimates, replacing 75% of existing incandescents would yield U.S.savings of many billions of dollars (That’s Billions with a big “B” folks!) for utilities in power generation costs, with comparable savings for consumers and business, and four times as much worldwide.

Phillips Industries, a leading manufacturer of energy efficient bulbs prepared a report describing some world-wide savings estimates.

Citizens must know that their decisions have consequences, pocketbook consequences, before they are willing to make changes. In America, less money for gas, or for beer and pretzels, for food or entertainment, is a consequence of high energy cost.

There is a “light” at the end of the energy tunnel, and it’s the bright light of savings!

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