The festival of lights shone, as always, with oodles of sparkle. But this Diwali, even as a few splurged on firecrackers, others chose to light up their homes frugally, and yet stylishly. While diyas made a quiet comeback, new lighting technologies were ruling the roost. They are closely competing to make India more energy efficient. But are they really? GT decided to delve a little deeper into the facts behind the glitter.
A Beaming Market
The lighting industry in India is in its seventh decade of growth and is booming with a current annual turnover of Rs 11,500 crore, slated to reach Rs 19,700 crore by 2015! Here is how Indian consumers are choosing to light up their lives, electrically:
They have been with us for over a century now, but with only 5 per cent of electricity being converted to light and the rest lost as heat, incandescents have already lost the vote of several countries around the globe, which have banned them entirely.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
“The domestic CFLs market has been growing very fast and has reached a stage where you can see only CFLs used in metros and Tier I cities.”
– Krishan Mehta, Energetic Lighting India
So, what are CFLs? Well, basically a miniature version of the common fluorescent light, they generate 45 to 60 lumens (or illumination) per watt, as opposed to 14-16 lumens per watt produced by incandescent bulbs. So they use only one-fifth as much electricity as an incandescent lamp to provide the same brightness, lasting up to six times longer. Charged up with these facts, the official ‘Bachat Lamp Yojana’, initiated by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), set out to provide high quality CFLs to domestic consumers for about Rs. 15 per lamp, instead of the market price which is close to Rs 100. In case you are wondering about the scope of such a scheme, the potential market in India is a whopping Rs 2000 crore (Indian Association of Electrical Lighting Manufacturers, ELCOMA).
But hold on. There is still a major lacklustre component at play: CFLS CONTAIN MERCURY, AND THEIR DISPOSAL CAN BE HIGHLY HAZARDOUS TO THE ENVIRONMENT.
Enter Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
“In the world of technology, every time there is something new coming in…it changes the world for good or for worse. Apply this to the LED technology, and you'll know it has brought in a change only for the better.”
– Livinder Singh, Decon Lighting Pvt Ltd
OK, time to sieve the facts again.
Often manufactured in clusters, LEDs are small bulbs illuminated by the movement of electrons in a diode or semi conductor material. They do not contain mercury, or emit ultraviolet or infrared radiation. And the fact that they directly convert electricity into light adds up to huge energy savings… a 5 watt LED bulb can provide the same luminosity as a 40 watt incandescent bulb! Besides preventing heat build-up that would otherwise require air-conditioning.
It does not stop there. They can direct their light in a range of designs – diffused, dimmable, and downright innovative. And an even wider range of colours (in temperatures from 2700K – 6500K). But while LEDs last up to one lakh burning hours, well beyond incandescent and fluorescent counterparts, they can also be prohibitively expensive. Also, with efficiency varying for unstandardised models, and competition from Chinese and Taiwanese imports, LEDs are looking to government schemes to reach their projected 2021 potential of capturing 57 per cent of the lighting market. Incidentally, BEE has already initiated 34 LED based streetlight projects in 23 states of the country.
According to an ASSOCHAM study titled ' Encashing Lighting Energy Efficiencies', the light emitting diode (LED) lighting market in India is likely to reach nearly Rs 2,570 crore by 2015 from the current level of about Rs 600 crore. The study noted that if each person in India (about 100 crore) uses a single LED bulb capable of saving an average of about 50 watts of power in each household, it could save nearly 35,000 mega watts (MW) of new capacity or about Rs 3.47 lakh crore. Says Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM, feels "LEDs have a huge potential for growth in India due to rising power outages and sky-rocketing energy bills, but its relatively high costs might prove to be a deterrent."
You may have heard of photovoltaic modules that convert sunlight directly into electricity. While powering solar lights is cost-free to the environment, the individual lighting units, though subsidised, are largely based on CFLs. However, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is supportive of LED-based modules, also expected to reduce costs of energy-saving devices. SPV modules, typically used to power indoor lighting in houses, are increasingly seen as a commercial alternative to fossil fuel-based energy. India receives nearly 3000 hours of sunshine every year, which is equivalent to 5000 trillion kWh of energy, with which, it is estimated, we can generate over 1,900 billion units of solar power annually! But is it commercially viable? Well, both consumers and the MNRE are at work to achieve 100 per cent agreement on that one!
But GT sees a new light on the horizon: in plastic bottles!
Here is a shining example of generating light – from renewable AND recycled sources. In Phillipines, where many are unable to afford the rising cost of electricity, 25,000 low-income homes have been lit up by sunlight-powered bulbs, made from old plastic bottles! The My Shelter Foundation’s LITRE OF LIGHT PROJECT took up the idea originally proposed by Alfredo Moser from Brasil: plastic bottles are filled with a solution of bleached water, then inserted into the roofs of houses, which then refract the equivalent of 55W of solar power indoors – at least at daytime. While carbon emissions started plummeting, jobs created by the project soared up. What say India? For a brighter day!