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Pakistan: Energy conservation: The lighter side.

Pakistan, June 27 -- Have you ever wondered why you have to spend so much on your utility bills to cover electricity expenses? Do you know that light consumes about 15 to 18 per cent of global electricity and represents one of the highest energy costs in commercial and residential segments? Imagine a scenario where you can reduce your annual lighting expenses by as much as 90 per cent. Well that is precisely how the lighting industry plans to innovate and change your lives in the next 10 years through solid state lighting.

The technology makes use of 'light emitting diodes' (commonly known as LEDs) to provide an energy-efficient lighting platform. For illumination products, it is the stage of infancy. However, if you Google the word 'LED light bulbs', it will return more than 9.1 million hits!! The buzz is on.

Solid state lighting will penetrate residential, commercial and industrial market segments through LED bulbs containing a light-emitting chip (also known as retrofit lamps - similar to traditional bulbs) and magnetic lighting strips with small LED chips attached that would light up when switched on. Both types would cater to multiple illumination needs such as ambience, decor, specialty and even general applications. These products have limited market presence currently, but a significant market share is projected for the next 5-10 years.

Many users consider compact fluorescent or energy saver lamps as ideal because of their longer life. But consider this value proposition in favour of LEDs - it takes 40 conventional incandescent bulbs or seven CFLs to equal the lifespan of one LED light bulb! LED bulbs emit 90 per cent less heat than conventional ones therefore producing more light and gaining maximum energy-efficiency. Also, LED lamps are lead-free and contain no mercury hence making them environmentally friendly.

According to the US Department of Energy, rapid adoption of solid state lighting in United States will provide multiple economic benefits during the next 20 years. These include a reduction in electricity demand from lighting appliances by 62 per cent and a net financial saving of 120 billion dollars to the economy.

From a macro-strategic perspective, governments worldwide will have to take the lead in being energy-efficient. The logical step would be to completely move away from incandescent to CFL bulbs during next two to four years and then transition to LED powered lighting in six to 10 years. Now arises the question of how to switch from traditional lighting sources to more effective ones. The answer lies in 'legislation' and 'affordability' initiatives.

Governments in USA, Japan and Canada have already banned certain incandescent light bulbs from 2012 onwards. In 2007, the Cuban government initiated a door-to-door campaign replacing incandescent lamps with CFL bulbs. As a result, peak electricity demand was reduced by more than 2,000 MW and carbon emissions significantly decreased.

India is another example of how a government can initiate action. The 'Bachat-Lamp-Yojana program' (energy savings through change-a-lamp program) will replace 400 million incandescent bulbs with CFLs in next three years; reducing carbon emissions by 55 million tons and easing electricity load for lighting purpose by one-third.

Solid state lighting holds a unique value proposition but has a high upfront cost. Compact fluorescent bulbs were perceived as highly energy-efficient but expensive 10 years ago. Again, governments will have to step up and 'subsidise' energy-efficient lighting.

Take the case of compact fluorescent bulbs - 40 per cent of households in United States are lower-income groups and unlikely to buy CFL lamps because of price concern. The United States Government encourages power distribution companies to work with lighting suppliers and provide rebates on these products. Hence, a three dollar CFL bulb maybe subsidised by 60 to 90 per cent, thereby making it affordable. This model has multiple benefits. Power companies gain through tax relief and lower distribution loads. Lighting companies gain through selling a value-added product. The government gets to follow popular agenda, but the biggest beneficiary is the consumer. This virtuous circle of passing along relief is certainly missing in Pakistan.

Recently, the Asian Development Bank signed an agreement with Pakistan to distribute CFLs free of cost to residential customers pledging $40M for this project. Through this plan, Pakistan can annually save Rs302 per light-point in utility costs and 1,100 megawatts through energy conservation. Feel free to do the math for total cost-savings. The plan holds promise but execution is critical.

The best of strategies fail without operational integrity and financial transparency. A good quality CFL can easily last for four to five years and this plan can certainly work. The major obstacles likely to be encountered during this undertaking are product quality standards, logistical constraints, warranty time-frame, procurement costs, conflict of interest amongst distribution companies and product-dumping. Pakistan should benchmark countries that have successfully followed this model in recent times.

Pakistan will face power-shortage of more than 8,000 megawatts by 2020. To overcome this deficit, new avenues for energy-creation and means to conserve existing resources are crucial. Embracing energy-efficient lighting seems to be the easiest option. Adoption of CFLs will make way towards Solid State Lighting after 2016

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Friday Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at

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Publication:The Friday Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Jun 27, 2010
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