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Vu1 to Sell Mercury-Free Light Bulbs in Lowe’s Stores, CEO Says

Vu1 Corp., a U.S. developer of mercury-free lights, will sell its energy-efficient bulbs at Lowe’s Cos. stores in its first deal with a major retailer, Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackstone said.

Lowe’s, with more than 1,700 stores across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, will initially sell the bulbs online and then in its shops next year, Blackstone said by phone from New York. While sales of the lights, which are about 70 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs, are currently limited to “sampling,” there’s potential to generate “serious volumes,” he said.

Vu1, based in New York, is seeking to win a share of the lighting market as the U.S. introduces new efficiency standards next year that will cut the use of most traditional incandescent bulbs. The new rules may add $4 billion to U.S. light bulb sales in the three years through 2014, according to estimates from London-based researcher Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The deal with Lowe’s, the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer after Home Depot Inc., is a “huge jump up,” Blackstone said. Vu1 is also in talks with electrical distributors to sell bulbs to businesses, and aims to announce more agreements by the end of the year, he said.

Vu1’s bulb, which can be dimmed, will sell at $14.98, according to a company statement. While that exceeds the $12-to- $13 cost of a comparable dimmable compact fluorescent bulb, it lasts longer, is mercury-free and produces every wavelength of light, the CEO said. Lowe’s will sell the bulb online from Dec. 1 and in its stores from February, according to the statement.

Efficiency Tradeoff

“Fluorescent technology is missing certain colors; that’s the tradeoff for efficiency,” Blackstone said. “The majority of people want to be environmental, just not in a way that makes their house look bad.”

While Vu1’s bulbs meet the new standards, they’re less efficient than compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, and light-emitting diodes, according to Tom Rowlands-Rees, an analyst at New Energy Finance. If they produce a similar quality of light to old incandescent bulbs, they may find a market, he said.

“Vu1’s bulb could be an option for those consumers that are not convinced by the light output of CFLs and LEDs but are no longer able to buy incandescent bulbs due to the standards,” Rowlands-Rees said in an e-mail.

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