In the U.S.’ biggest compact fluorescent light bulb giveaway, California utility PG&E began handing out 1 million energy-efficient CFLs today. The bulbs use 75 percent less electricity than conventional incandescent lighting and they’ve become something of an icon in the fight against global warming given that lighting accounts for a big chunk of greenhouse gas emissions. Wal-Mart (WMT) in particular has jumped on the CFL bandwagon, announcing Tuesday it had already exceeded its goal of selling 100 million bulbs by the end of 2007.
The PG&E (PCG) giveaway is part of its efforts to push 20 million CFLs into customers’ homes by the end of the year. PG&E spokesperson Keely Wachs told Green Wombat that the utility will spend $1.25 million on the freebies. Or more accurately, PG&E customers will spend that as the giveaway comes under the utility’s state-mandated energy efficiency efforts whose costs regulators permit to be recouped through electricity rates. "The benefits of handing these out and the energy efficiency that will be realized far outweigh our costs to customers," Wachs says.
PG&E estimates over the lifetime of the 1 million bulbs – if they’re installed in California homes – will save more 400,000 megawatts of electricity and eliminate 200,000 tons of greenhouse gases. Tomorrow PG&E will announce a deal with Safeway (SWY) grocery stores to sell CFLs at a discount.