Phasing out an embedded technology: Insights from banning the incandescent light bulb in Europe

Z. Koretsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Web of Science)


Opening up the dynamics of phase-outs is important to advance the knowledge about how to navigate phaseouts, how to speed them up and how to ensure justice, all pressing topics in energy transitions. I revisit the case of the incandescent light bulb phase-out in Europe and investigate what processes were involved after the phase-out regulation entered into force (2000-2020). The present study deviates in approach and analytical focus from prior studies of the light bulb phase-out. I use 'technologies-in-practice' as heuristic to trace technology as a processual phenomenon, i.e. as an outcome of processes of co-evolving materiality, meanings, activities and skills integral to them.

I find that intentional push for a destabilising meaning (energy inefficiency) of the light bulb, resonant with powerful larger discourse (climate change), and imitation of existing technology by a group of stakeholders was key in the process of light bulb's downscaling. The attachment of new, reinforcing the stability of the configuration, meanings to the light bulb (nostalgic lamp, rough-service lamp) by another group of stakeholders prevented a complete phase-out. I contribute to the existing theoretical literature by offering to put more emphasis on studying the later stages of the technological trajectory, and discussing the winners and losers of the phasing out.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102310
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Phase-out
  • Unravelling
  • Light bulb
  • LED
  • Energy justice

Cite this