A European Union ban on the manufacture and import of 100-watt and frosted incandescent light bulbs begins Tuesday in a bid to help lower greenhouse gases and reduce energy bills.

The new rules follow an agreement reached by the 27 EU governments last year to phase out the traditional incandescent lightbulb over three years starting this year.

Clear bulbs will be banned progressively, until all traditional bulbs disappear from stores across Europe in 2012.

The traditional incandescent bulbs are being replaced by long-life fluorescent or halogen lamps.

In Canada, a plan to phase out incandescent bulbs by 2012 has already begun. The ban is expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than six million tonnes a year and save homeowners about $60 annually in electricity costs.

Several other nations including Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines have also announced they will phase out or restrict sales of traditional bulbs as well. In 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a bill that calls for the bulb to be phased out in that country beginning in 2012.

European consumers will still be able to buy the older bulbs until supplies run out. The EU says the switch from incandescent bulbs to more efficient ones will bring energy savings of 25 per cent to 75 per cent compared to the traditional bulbs.

The EU's executive has said the measure will save each households the equivalent of up to $78 Cdn, and pump up to $16 billion Cdn annually into the economy.

With files from The Associated Press