Total greenhouse benefit of the phase-out
It is expected that phasing-out inefficient incandescent light bulbs will reduce Australia's greenhouse emissions by 28 million tonnes between 2008 and 2020.
This is equivalent to permanently decommissioning a small coal-fired power station or taking more than 500,000 cars off the road.
Production of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) compared to incandescent light bulbs
CFLs are technically more complex systems and more energy intensive to produce than traditional incandescent light bulbs.
A recent lifecycle analysis which compared a CFL and an equivalent incandescent bulb concluded that the energy used to manufacture and transport the bulbs was only about 2 per cent of the total energy used during the life of the CFL.
The analysis also considered other environmental impacts but concluded that the impact due to energy use dominated all others – CFLs being by far the more energy efficient alternative.
Mercury released into the environment
Using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) does not release more mercury into the environment through using than incandescent light bulbs? In fact, less mercury is released into the environment from using CFLs than incandescent light bulbs — even though CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury. The minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for CFLs includes a maximum mercury level of 5 milligrams per lamp.
This is because burning coal to produce electricity releases mercury. CFLs use only about 20 per cent of the electricity that incandescent bulbs use to produce the same amount of light, therefore requiring less electricity to be generated.
The result is CFLs release about 80 per cent less mercury than incandescent light bulbs.
All fluorescent lamps, including compact fluorescent lamps, contain very small amounts of elemental mercury which is essential for the operation of these types of lamps.