Lighting Industry Sues to Block California’s Jan. 1 Expanded Light Bulb Efficiency Standards

Dec. 24, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Two lighting industry trade associations are suing California in a desperate attempt to block the state’s updated light bulb efficiency standards from going into effect on January 1. The lawsuit puts at risk the billions of dollars Californians would save and millions of tons of climate pollution that would be avoided annually.

The lawsuit by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the American Lighting Association, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeks to reverse the California Energy Commission’s Nov. 13 decision to update its minimum efficiency standards for light bulbs, which added such common household types as the candle- and flame-shaped bulbs used in chandeliers and sconces, reflector bulbs used in recessed cans and track lighting, round globe bulbs, and the bulbs that can operate at three different light levels. The bulb types covered under the commission’s expanded standards are the same ones that the U.S. Department of Energy previously eliminated from being covered by national lighting efficiency standards. 

The bulbs added by the commission fill 260 million lighting sockets in California. Energy efficient LED and CFL bulbs will continue to be sold in the state after Jan. 1 but incandescent and halogen bulbs, which waste up to 90 percent of their energy as heat, will be removed from store shelves because they do not meet the minimum efficiency level of 45 lumens per watt.

The updated standards will save Californians as much as $2.4 billion on their annual utility bills – and avoid up to 13,600 gigawatt-hours of annual electricity use – once the current stock of inefficient bulbs turns over. These savings are in addition to California’s existing standards that went into effect in 2018 for the pear-shaped bulbs typically used in table and floor lamps, and small diameter reflector bulbs used in track and recessed lighting. 

Following is a statement from Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“California is thankfully moving ahead with its efficiency standards for light bulbs at the same time the Trump administration is doing all it can to roll back the national standards due to go into effect on January 1. Given the superior efficiency and longer life of LED light bulbs, there is absolutely no reason to keep using energy-wasting incandescents.

“This lawsuit is all about greedy manufacturers’ desperate attempts to keep selling Californians inefficient bulbs that burn out every year or so. The industry’s blatant disregard for the environmental damage and higher utility bills resulting from future sales of inefficient bulbs is shameful and we believe their legal challenge should fall flat on its face.”

Background on the standards can be found here: 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC   


Pat Remick



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