New law moves Maine toward lower-cost energy efficient light bulbs

Media Contacts
Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America

AUGUSTA, ME – Yesterday, LD 1814, a bill to phase out the sale of mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs in favor of more affordable, energy-efficient, and mercury-free lighting options, became law. A study by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project shows that the bill could lead to $216 million in utility bill savings statewide by 2050. Maine joins Vermont, Rhode Island, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon as states whose governments have, or are poised to phase out the sale of common fluorescent lighting. District 103’s Representative Art Bell was the legislation’s chief sponsor. The bill became law ten days after it was enacted by both chambers of the legislature.

“This new law will give Mainers the chance to save money, prevent toxic mercury pollution from contaminating our air and water, and reduce climate pollution all at the same time,said Sarah Nichols, Sustainable Maine Director with Natural Resources Council of Maine. “It’s another great example of how what’s great for our environment is great for the health of Maine people and our economy.”

According to a 2021 report, fluorescent bulbs release mercury when broken. That means fluorescent bulb breakages in homes, schools and hospitals can cause a potential health risk, particularly for pregnant women, infants and others with chemical sensitivities.

Not only are LED replacement bulbs widely available but because they are designed to be easy, drop-in ready replacements for fluorescents, they will save Maine residents and businesses money year after year, since the LED bulb cuts electricity costs in half. 

“In Maine and across the country, state leaders recognize that we have lighting options that waste less energy,” said Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy at Environment America. “Advances in technology make it possible to put toxic inefficient lighting in the rear-view mirror.”

Analysis from the Appliance Standards Awareness Project found a typical school could see $24,000 in lifetime savings from transitioning to LEDs. Further, by 2050 Maine could see savings of $216 million in reduced utility bills, and avoid 150,000 metric tons in carbon-dioxide emissions thanks to reduced energy usage.

“Over the course of the last ten years, LEDs have become widely available and cost effective replacements for fluorescent bulbs,” said Josh McClenney, State Policy Associate at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “Maine joins a growing number of states that are saving families and small businesses millions on their utility bills by phasing out the sale of these energy wasting bulbs that contain mercury. It’s a common sense policy.”

LEDs have the lowest total cost of ownership in nearly all lighting applications today – that is why the market is already moving away from mercury lighting. It’s also why governments in the United States and abroad are phasing out the sale of fluorescent bulbs. The more states act and the more retailers move away from fluorescent lighting, the greater the chance that the Biden administration will support an international phase-out of all general-purpose fluorescent bulbs by 2025 at the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP5) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in October and November of this year in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The new law will begin the phase-out of mercury bulbs in 2026.