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Has the ban on incandescent in the UAE changed our lighting habits?

The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Meteorology launching the ban on inefficient lighting products last year.

It’s been one year since the UAE’s indoor lighting regulation came into effect, prohibiting inefficient and low-quality lamps from entering the market and setting a new list of criteria for the industry.

Announced by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Meteorology (ESMA) early last year, the legislation imposed an import ban on incandescent lamps from 1 July 2014, and a sales ban from 1 January 2015.

‘When the UAE announced this regulation, they gave the market one year to consume all the stock,’ says Tamer Darwish, UAE sales manager at GE Lighting.

Indeed, it is difficult today to find incandescent bulbs in the market; existing products have been removed from retail stores and the Federal Customs Authority is not allowing new ones to enter the country.


Getting ESMA certification

So far, GE Lighting – which sells its products through distributors in the UAE – appears to be the only lighting manufacturer to have obtained the ESMA certification, a mandatory requirement since the new regulation came into effect.

Major global players such as Philips and Osram are reportedly in the process of getting certified.

‘It was a long journey. We had several meetings with the ESMA team to discuss all the points that needed to be covered and we went for an online application, which was a bit complicated at the beginning. It’s like a race and everyone is in the process,’ says Darwish.

Financial affordability is not generally an issue, and LED has developed so much in the UAE that consumers no longer see a disadvantage when comparing it with halogen”

Kinga Kalocsai, GE Lighting

Six months later, after submitting various third-party documents, GE Lighting got its certification, which guarantees that its products meet ESMA’s criteria.


New requirements

ESMA’s requirements cover electrical safety, energy efficiency and energy labelling, as well as functionality, hazardous substances and safe disposal.

For example, all lighting products entering the UAE or manufactured locally must meet the Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS) and comply with the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme for low-voltage equipment. In addition, there has to be energy labels on the packaging.

The regulation includes a few exemptions based on industry feedback, where certain incandescent lamps below 16W for specific applications are still permitted. Moreover, the ban only applies to non-directional lamps.

‘The guideline states that the UAE Lighting Regulation will not affect directional lamps,’ confirms Darwish. That means the ban does not apply to lamps with reflective surfaces or special purpose lamps such as those used in household appliances, traffic lights, and infrared lamps.


Market response

According to research conducted by the UAE’s Ecological Footprint Initiative to support ESMA, incandescent lamps accounted for as much as 78 per cent of the UAE’s lighting consumption in 2012. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) accounted for eight per cent, linear fluorescent lighting and halogens seven per cent each, and the LED consumption was minimal.

Although the lighting mix has significantly evolved since then, with many offices, hotels and government buildings installing energy efficient lights, consumers did not immediately embrace the changes.

People in the UAE are becoming aware of the benefits of energy-efficient LED products – such as this one from GE – and cost isn’t holding them back

‘Initially, customers were not too happy. They grew up using these lamps and were now being forced to switch to another type,’ says Darwish. ‘We launched sessions across hypermarkets to educate them about the alternative solutions, such as halogen, CFLs and LEDs.’

Meanwhile, the transition also represented an opportunity for companies to bring forward their latest innovations. Philips Lighting, for example, extended its global ‘Make the Switch’ campaign to the UAE and has been marketing a clear 40W LED lamp which has the same shape and warm light as a traditional incandescent lamp.

Similarly, GE Lighting showcased a linear, suspended LED luminaire at Abu Dhabi’s World Future Energy Summit earlier this year, promising that retail stores upgrading their fluorescent-based luminaires to installations with this fitting would need 33 per cent fewer luminaires to achieve the same light level.

‘There is a growing, conscious behaviour of turning to energy-efficient products. Financial affordability is not generally an issue, and LED has developed so much in the UAE that consumers no longer see a disadvantage when comparing it with halogen,’ explains Kinga Kalocsai, GE Lighting’s communications director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

‘It’s about lifestyle,’ adds Darwish. ‘If you want dimmable light in your home, you can control that with LED. If you need vision in the office, again, you can play with the software. You can even dim the lights from your smartphone while you are out. Only LED can do that – not incandescent or halogen lamps. So LED is the solution for the future.’