How lighting technologies are developing and where the world is going

The Phoebus cartel was established in 1924 and included major companies such as General Electric (GE), Osram, Philips, and Compagnie des Lampes (a French company). The primary objective of the cartel was to control and regulate the production and sale of incandescent light bulbs.

One of the key aspects of the cartel's activities was to standardize the lifespan of incandescent bulbs. They agreed to limit the average life expectancy of light bulbs to 1,000 hours, even though technology at the time allowed for longer-lasting bulbs. This artificially imposed limitation was intended to ensure a more frequent turnover in sales as consumers would need to replace bulbs more frequently.

The motivations behind the cartel's actions were primarily economic. By shortening the lifespan of light bulbs, manufacturers could increase sales and maintain higher prices for their products. This strategy was aimed at maximizing profits by creating a market in which consumers had to replace bulbs more often.

The Phoebus cartel was secretive in its operations, and its activities were exposed in the late 1920s. The cartel faced criticism for its anti-competitive practices, and its influence declined over time. By the late 1930s, the cartel had effectively dissolved, and World War II further disrupted its activities.

After the war, there was a shift in the lighting industry, with the development and adoption of new technologies such as fluorescent lighting. The Phoebus cartel remains a notable historical example of collusion among major companies with the goal of manipulating product lifespans for economic gain. However, it is important to note that such practices are generally considered unethical and are prohibited under modern antitrust and competition laws.

Despite this, the world came to eliminate the incandescent light bulb.

European Union: The EU phased out traditional incandescent bulbs, starting with the ban on 100-watt bulbs in 2009. The ban progressed with the prohibition of 75-watt bulbs in 2010, 60-watt bulbs in 2011, and 40-watt bulbs in 2012.

Based on the EU Commission’s Ecodesign Regulation 2019/2020 (Single Lighting Regulation SLR) and the revised EU ROHS DIRECTIVE 2011/65/EU with restrictions of exceptions for the use of mercury in light sources, several lighting products may no longer be placed on the market in the EU this year. Starting February 25, 2023, this applies to circular T5 fluorescent lamps and compact flurescent lamps with plug-in bases (CFLni). Linear T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps will follow from August 25, and Halogen pins (G4, GY6.35, G9) on September 1.

Whether this will also stop the destruction of polar bears and penguins, delegates from nearly 200 countries will discuss this from November 30 to December 12 in one of the capital of the oil country, Dubai, at the COP28 climate conference, which aims to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.