#SaveStageLighting Update Summer 2020

Remember when protecting the light bulbs we love from the EU regulators felt like the most pressing thing in the world....?

How times change!

However, even as Coronavirus has taken over everyone’s attention, work has been continuing behind the scenes on the EU’s new Ecodesign regulation to ensure that it does not impact stage lighting, so that we’re free to continue to use the lighting tools we love whenever we get to do lighting again!

The final text of the new regulation was published in December 2018. The entertainment community quickly identified that while it largely resolved all of the issues surrounding entertainment lighting a subtle change in wording of one section meant that an exemption would not be available for some special-case light sources, including high CRI LED sources, high light output LED sources (as you might use in a long-throw moving light or followspot), and the fluorescent sources still used in the film world. 

This issue was raised with the EU in early 2019. In a direct phone call between the ALD and the EU official in charge of this regulation, the EU agreed that this change did go against the goals of Ecodesign (since it would allow arc sources to continue to be used but would in some cases prevent them from being replaced by more efficient LED sources), and would potentially present a conflict with the goals of the ROHS regulations then being reviewed (since if LED replacements for arc lamps were not allowed, there would be a need to provide an exemption for arc lamps from the ROHS regulations, despite an ambition to stop their use because they contain mercury), and so should be addressed.

Work has continued on this since. Entertainment lighting was part of a Zoom meeting with the EU in July 2020 during which this was discussed and entertainment lighting proposed a number of possible solutions. Entertainment lighting has since been given indications that the EU will amend this section in a way that will likely allow the sale of high-powered white LEDs and fluorescent sources.

In other words, by identifying the issue, drawing attention to the issue, engaging with the political process about the issue, providing solutions to the issue and continuing to be involved with ongoing discussions about the issue (and related issues - the ALD is also keeping an eye on the EU’s review of its ROHS regulations), the issue was resolved to the general satisfaction of all who are involved in entertainment lighting.

  • The result is that the tools we need and use and love can generally continue to be supplied - though of course in many cases the issue is becoming that though they can legally be supplied, manufacturers might not continue making then, as is already the case with any number of specialist tungsten bulbs and with M16 style tungsten sources.

That’s what presents the biggest issue now, particularly to smaller venues who may not be able to afford to upgrade to newer equipment (or larger venues who may also not be able to afford such upgrades in a financially difficult post-coronavirus world). Though there is perhaps some hope in the money the government is announcing to support green measures - argue that a new LED lighting system is more efficient than an existing tungsten lighting system, and perhaps some of that money could be channelled that way?

Plus of course there’s the slight lack of clarity about what happens as the UK leaves the EU, though its likely the UK will follow this regulation at least to start with, and that manufacturers will follow the EU regulations even for products sold in the UK rather than creating ‘special’ UK versions of products. We certainly don’t expect the UK to produce stricter regulations than the EU, at least in the near-term.

The ALD continues to be here to offer support and advice to any organisation faced with these issues and trying to find the most efficient, cost effective solutions without sacrificing the quality of light which should be at the heart of everything members of the ALD do.

We have undertaken some archiving of this issue on the website, and previous updates are now available as a timeline document along with links to all the various documents referred to and produced in the process.  You can find it here: www.ald.org.uk/savestagelighting