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EU lighting proposals: Everything you need to know

showcase Lights out? Theatre professionals are alarmed at the potential impact of the EU's proposed lighting regulations. Photo: Shutterstock
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What is the issue?

  • The European Union is currently considering new regulations on the sale of lighting fixtures that would come into effect in 2020.
  • The Ecodesign regulations would ban the sale of lighting fixtures that do not meet a set standard of energy efficiency (85lm/W).
  • This is part of a drive to be more eco-friendly and reduce carbon emissions.
  • However, most of the theatre lighting that is currently in use does not meet the new regulations.

What does this mean for the industry?

  • The regulations were initially thought to affect only tungsten halogen lighting, which is commonly used in theatre. Designers like these lamps because of the natural and warm light they provide.
  • However, it later became clear that even potential LED replacements for tungsten fixtures do not meet the required energy efficiency.
  • The general opinion of manufacturers is that no lighting fixtures that are suitable for production lighting and able to meet the efficiency standard will be available by September 2020.
  • That would leave productions and venues in the position of being unable to replace equipment with more efficient fixtures, because no suitable replacements will be available.
  • Even with the UK leaving the European Union, the supply of lighting fixtures from manufacturers would still dry up, as the UK market alone is not big enough to sustain production.

What would happen as a result?

  • Theatres that can afford to do so would start stockpiling lighting equipment.
  • Theatres on lower budgets would be unable to afford to replace their lighting equipment.
  • Many theatres would literally go dark, and be forced to close.
  • The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre estimates it could cost an estimated £1 billion to replace all the lighting equipment in theatres across the UK. However, this is only if new technology that meets the regulations is even produced in time – which manufacturers do not believe will happen.

What do campaigners want?

  • Campaigners are asking for an exemption from the new regulations for theatres.
  • Industry leaders state that they support the overall objective of Ecodesign regulations but call on legislators to consider the specialist nature of stage lighting.

What can be done?

  • Anyone can write to their local MP and/or MEP to outline the effect the regulations would have on the industry.
  • There is also a Change.org petition, which can be signed here.


2009: Legislation was introduced banning retailers from selling tungsten lighting for domestic use. Retailers are still permitted to sell tungsten for use in theatres, which are exempted from the ban. The new legislation was phased in gradually over a number of years.

2013: Lighting designers lobbied manufacturers to continue producing tungsten lamps. Brands including Philips gave assurances that production would continue.

January 2018: The European Union is considering new legislation removing the exemption of entertainment lighting, which would mean that by 2020 theatres would no longer be able to buy new tungsten lamps.

May 2018: Industry leaders realised the new regulations would not only affect tungsten lighting, but in fact the vast majority of lighting used in theatre.

May 7, 2018: A public consultation on the EU regulations ends.

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