SSL business news: NRDC again sues DOE; M&A action stirs

Feb. 28, 2020
The Natural Resources Defense Council asks the court to force the DOE to implement lamp efficiency standards while Legrand buys Focal Point and in the UK DW Windsor buys Pulsar.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has returned to court filing suit against the US Department of Energy (DOE), attempting to force the agency to implement lamp efficiency legislation approved by the US Congress. Legrand has continued to build out its expanding portfolio of lighting manufacturers, acquiring Chicago-based Focal Point. Across the Atlantic in the UK, DW Windsor has entered into an asset purchase agreement (APA) to buy Pulsar.

DOE suits

We have written extensively about the DOE’s action under the Trump administration to essentially try and roll back energy efficiency guidelines for replacement lamps or bulbs. We first learned about the DOE plans about one year ago. Ultimately, the DOE has acted twice to eliminate the requirement of more efficient lamps. First it changed the definition of a general service lamp so that some lamps (globes, 3-way lamps, candelabras, and more) that had been previously exempted from efficiency policy would remain exempt despite a DOE plan that would have moved such products into the classification of general service lamps. Secondly, the DOE decided to not enforce legislation that would have required more efficient A-lamps starting Jan. 1, 2020.

The first action prompted broad legal response back in November 2019. The NRDC acted with other environmental organizations to sue the DOE over the first of the decisions. Separately, a group of states and a couple of large US cities filed a similar but separate suit. Those actions are essentially queued, awaiting action by the legal system.

Second suit

Now the NRDC is also taking action against the DOE for the second regulatory move. “The Department of Energy seems dead-set on keeping energy-wasting incandescent and halogen bulbs on the market despite the fact that many countries around the world have already decided to phase them out,” said Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards. “The United States could soon become the world’s dumping ground for these incredibly inefficient bulbs, which increase Americans’ energy bills and lead to millions of tons of additional carbon pollution every year.”

Again the NRDC is joined in its action by Earthjustice (Sierra Club, Consumer Federation of America, and Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants), the US Public Interest Research Group, and Environment America. Moreover, the group of states and cities that acted before has again filed a parallel suit against the DOE.

“The Energy Department has attacked the light bulb efficiency standards with a one-two punch that puts at risk the up to $14 billion a year of utility bill savings consumers were due to receive,” Horowitz said. “First, the agency cut the scope of the standards in half without any technical justification, and then declared that they weren’t going to update the standards for the remaining ones, even though they were required to do so by law.”

M&A activity

Moving to the M&A actions, Legrand seems intent in becoming a major lighting company even though the company’s heritage was in controls. Its most prominent acquisition in the lighting space was Finelite back in 2017.

Focal Point becomes Legrand’s fifth acquisition of a lighting company. “Today’s acquisition of Focal Point aligns with Legrand’s strategy of investing in companies with shared vision and values, customer-centric culture, and focus on complementary market segments,” said Legrand North and Central America president and CEO John Selldorff. “Focal Point’s strong brand, proven relationships, and impressive product portfolio aligns well with our architectural lighting businesses, and I’m confident this acquisition will expand not just Legrand’s portfolio but our capacity to serve new market segments and customers.”

The UK acquisition, meanwhile, was apparently driven by the desire of DW Windsor to add more dynamic, color-tunable lighting to its portfolio. “Creative and experience lighting are exciting growth markets: the acquisition of Pulsar was, therefore, a logical step in the evolution of the Group – which includes DW Windsor and IoT specialist Urban Control,” said Terry Dean, CEO and group chairman for DW Windsor. “We have big plans for the rejuvenation of the Pulsar brand. The APA strengthens our portfolio and demonstrates our commitment to providing lighting that enhances our public realm. We believe the union of brands offers our specifiers a comprehensive toolkit of professional lighting solutions suitable for a wide variety of lighting applications, both within the UK and internationally.”