The European Commission formally adopted new regulations on Wednesday that will effectively phase out incandescent light bulbs in Europe by 2012.
The switch to energy-efficient lamps for homes, offices, streets and factories, officials said, would generate energy savings equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of Belgium – or the yearly output of 20 power stations of 500 megawatts.
For their part, consumers would save 11 billion euros — or $14 billion — each year that they otherwise would have spent on energy bills.
The European energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the goal was “replacing last century lighting products” with technologies that “will keep the same quality of lighting, while saving energy, CO2 and money.”
After 2012, consumers in Europe will have two choices: high-efficiency halogen lamps, which can yield energy savings of up to 50 percent compared to conventional incandescents; or compact fluorescent lamps, or C.F.L.s, which can provide up to 75 percent savings over conventional light bulbs.
In promulgating the regulations, Commission officials stressed that consumers would not see a degradation in their aesthetic experiences of lamplight, and that the new bulbs were safe — assertions that many homeowners have been vigorously debating here at Green Inc., with similar regulations looming in the United States.
European Commission officials acknowledged that C.F.L. bulbs contain mercury, but noted that typical coal-fired power plants release mercury into the environment too. They said the mercury introduced by a switch to efficient bulbs would be canceled out by the decrease in mercury released by coal-fired power stations.
They also acknowledged that some studies have shown that a very small segment of the European population with diseases linked to light sensitivity could be affected by C.F.L. bulbs, because of the presence of ultraviolet and blue light emissions. But officials said the issue could be easily solved with a so-called “lamp envelope” — or even a simple lamp shade.
The commission said it had found no evidence that C.F.L.s could trigger attacks of epilepsy in people already suffering from the condition.