Mainland urged to offer incentives to make low-energy bulbs easier to sell

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am

While Beijing has earned plaudits for its decision to phase out incandescent bulbs within 10 years, saving the energy equivalent of the Three Gorges Dam's output, promoting the high-priced low-energy lamps to the public will be no easy task.

The mainland makes more than 70 per cent of the world's energy-saving bulbs, but the domestic market has remained weak because of their high price compared with that of conventional bulbs.

According to a Xinhua report in 2005, only about one-third of the 1 billion energy-saving bulbs produced each year are sold domestically, while about 3 billion conventional bulbs are used. Energy-saving bulbs, also known as compact fluorescent lamps, sell for between 12 yuan and 30 yuan in Beijing supermarkets; conventional bulbs sell for between 2 yuan and 6 yuan.

Pan Jiahua , a senior researcher at the Research Centre for Sustainable Development of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is confident consumers will warm to the more efficient lights.

But others are less optimistic.

Yang Ailun of Greenpeace China says the mainland needs to introduce formal regulations and policies to ensure the adoption of energy-efficient bulbs.

She wants the government to make it compulsory for public buildings, hotels and offices to use efficient lighting. The government should also introduce incentives to help new developers pay for efficient lighting, for example, by encouraging banks to provide special loans, Ms Yang said.

People must be educated about environmental awareness, she said.

A manufacturer based in Anhui , who gave his name only as Mr Chen, said his company would not be affected by the phasing out of incandescent bulbs because it made both types. 'The incandescent bulbs are already slowly being phased out. This is a global trend most manufacturers understand, and the market is adapting,' he said.

The European Union has already announced a ban on the use of inefficient bulbs in homes from 2009.

Mr Chen said his factory's energy-efficient bulbs were all exported because building a brand on the mainland was difficult.

Foreign brands dominate the mainland market, with Philips and Siemens-owned Osram energy-saving bulbs being the biggest-selling brands. But as the mainland masters and eventually owns the technology to produce the bulbs, costs will drop.

In 2001, experts said it had already mastered the core technology, extending the life of bulbs from 5,000 to 8,000 hours and the strength of illumination to five or six times that of conventional bulbs.

Jiang Hongtao , of Shenzhen Goldenkayi Technology, said prices had almost halved since the efficient bulbs went on the market.

Bright ideas

While a regular incandescent bulb lasts for about 1,000 hours, a compact flourescent lamp can last up to: 15,000

China owns the core technology for manufacturing energy-saving bulbs and is the world's top producer. The number of bulbs turned out last year: 1.05b

One main factor hindering the adoption of energy-saving bulbs is the price, with costs compared to incandescent bulbs of up to: 600%

Of the mainland's total electricity consumption, lighting accounts for: 12%