I spent a lot of my weekend doing research on energy, power generation, etc. (See my MyWeb links) I decided to run some rough numbers, and have come to the conclusion that the best use of government funds is to probably have a CFL handout/trade-in program.
There are an estimated 110M households in the US, so if you replaced one 60W incandescent with a similarly lumen-rated 13W CFL (I’d estimate a distribution cost of $100M-200M), you’d save just over $4.1B in electrical bills over the lifetime of the bulbs ($0.10/kWh over 8000 hours). At 5 hours/evening of usage (~4.4yr), we’re looking at almost a billion bucks a year. That’s not a bad ROI.
Another interesting figure that comes out of that is that we’re talking about a significantly large amount of power saved. Over the bulb lifetime, the number comes out to over 41M MWh, or based on the 4.4y estimated lifetime, about 9.4M MWh/yr. That’s more than your average 1000MW nuclear power plant will be able to generate (about 7.8M MWh at 90% efficiency), and a significantly lower cost ($10-20/MWh for handing out light bulbs versus $50-80/MWh).
So, for every incandescent light-bulb replaced in every household in the US, you’re replacing the need for a nuclear power plant (or better yet, a bunch of fossil fuel ones ones, which function at a much lower efficiency (around 60%) and are usually lower capacity).