In an attempt to save electricity and help avoid power shortages this summer, the Japanese government is expected to ask major electronics retailers and home appliance makers to voluntarily put an end to both the sales and production of traditional incandescent light bulbs. The special request will be made to an industry group by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano and Environment Minister Goshi Hosono likely in the coming week. The industry group, Sho-ene Akari Forum (energy-saving light forum), which is made up of major electronics retailers and home appliance manufacturers, has offered signs that it will cooperate with the request. It is extraordinarily unusual for the government to request retailers or manufacturers to voluntarily discontinue selling or manufacturing a particular product.
Incandescent light bulbs use a lot of energy, and it is hoped that if they are no longer available, consumers will be forced to use energy-saving alternatives, such as light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent light bulbs. LED bulbs use 80 percent less electricity to produce light and last approximately 40 times as long as incandescent bulbs. They are initially more expensive, but the consumer saves money in the long-term with energy savings. Compact fluorescent lights also use less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and are cheaper than LEDs, but don’t last as long as the LED bulbs. The Institute of Energy Economics estimates that if all the incandescent and fluorescent lights in Japan were switched to LED bulbs, the country could decrease power consumption by nine percent annually, which is roughly equal to the amount of power generated by 13 nuclear reactors.
Incandescent bulbs were already slated for phasing out, and Toshiba Corp. has already completely switched its production from the old-fashioned, energy-wasting bulbs to the newer, more efficient LED lights. Japan’s existing basic energy plan stipulates that all commercially available lighting products be switched to LED or organic electroluminescence (EL) lights by the year 2020, with the intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and easing global warming.