Efficient lights for Indian homes

Saurabh Kumar | Updated on October 06, 2011 Published on September 29, 2011

Compact fluorescent lamps provide an energy-efficient alternative to the incandescent lamp by using one-fifth as much electricity as an incandescent lamp - Photo: K. K.Mustafah.   -  BUSINESS LINE

A shift to CFL bulbs can bring down peak power consumption by 8-10 per cent and save on investments in power generation.

Lighting accounts for almost 20 per cent of the total electricity consumption in the country, and is a major contributor of peak load. India faces peak power shortage of more than 12 per cent as a result of the gap between demand and supply, leading to supply disruptions and power failures. Enhancing capacity of generation, as well as reducing demand, is necessary to narrow the gap.

While the Government has taken necessary steps to augment the generating capacity, targeted sectoral interventions to enhance efficiency of consumption would help limit the divergence. National-level intervention to enhance the efficiency of the lighting sector has the potential to reduce the demand for electricity significantly.


As per the statistics of the lighting manufacturers association (ELCOMA), in 2010, almost 80 crore incandescent bulbs were produced in the country, as compared to 30 million Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). CFLs provide an energy-efficient alternative to the incandescent lamp, by using one-fifth as much electricity as an incandescent lamp, to provide the same level of illumination.

CFLs have almost completely invaded the commercial market, and the sale of CFLs in India has grown from approximately 20 million in 2003 to around 300 million in 2010.

Statistics by the lighting association indicates that the penetration of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) in the household sector is only approximately 15-20 per cent. The two main reasons for low penetration are the high cost of CFL (10-15 times more than the cost of a bulb) and less information regarding its efficiency.

These 80 crore bulbs serve the lighting needs of almost 10 crore households, given the fact that the average life of a bulb is 6 months, and that an average household would use 4 bulbs.

Several studies have revealed that the most popular bulb used in household has a rating of 60 watts; a 12-watt CFL could provide the same lighting level, thereby savings 48 watts of power load. Averaging this with the bulbs of various ratings used in India, it could be safely presumed that savings of 30-40 watts of power load is possible on each replacement of a bulb with CFL.

At the country level, it translates into a potential reduction of demand of approximately 12000 MW to 16000 MW, which is approximately 8-10 per cent of peak power.

Therefore, investment of around Rs 8000 crore in 80 crore replacements of bulbs by CFLs (taking the average cost of CFL to be Rs 100 per piece), could not only narrow the gap between demand and supply of power at peak periods, but could also lead to avoiding investments in generation capacity to the tune of Rs 48,000 crore - Rs 64,000 crore, given the fact that a MW of new coal-based capacity costs around Rs 4 crore.

Needless to add, this would also avoid approximately 20 million tonnes of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions every year.


In order to harness this enormous potential in the most cost-effective and economic manner, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has initiated an innovative scheme to enable large-scale replacement of incandescent bulbs in households by CFLs.

The scheme, known as the Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY), encourages private investment in efficient lighting, by leveraging carbon finance under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

The savings in energy, as a result of replacement of bulb by CFLs and the resultant reduction in emissions, are assimilated in the CDM mechanism at the national level. BEE has developed a Programme of Activities (PoA), which, perhaps, is the largest such initiative in the lighting sector on earth, and was approved by the CDM Executive Board in 2010.

The PoA allows aggregation of small projects covering a district or town to be included, and provides access to carbon revenues, thereby reducing transaction costs that would otherwise make small projects unviable.

The validity of the PoA is 7 years, enabling the investors to avail of the carbon finance for the same period. At the current level of carbon prices (of around US$ 8-10 per tonne of CO2), each replacement would earn Rs 20-25 per year, as carbon revenues.

The investors are therefore required, under the scheme, to sell CFLs at Rs 15 to households, to make the scheme attractive. The investor will not only recover the cost of selling CFL at Rs 15, but will earn attractive returns during the life of the project.

The project also provides for financial incentives for safe disposal of mercury from fused CFLs, which all investors have agreed to partake.


The project has commenced implementation, and approximately 40-50 small projects are at various stages. Kerala has been the first state to recognise the potential in reducing peak demand and has used BLY to replace 1.27 crore CFLs in the household sector in 2010. The Energy Management Centre (EMC), Kerala, along with Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), distributed CFLs to all the households as replacement to incandescent bulbs.

The entire investment was done by EMC, by taking a loan from the state government. It prepared the necessary CDM documentation with the guidance provided in the PoA and support from BEE, and has been successful in getting all of them included in the PoA.

The ensuing carbon finance to the Energy Management System (EMS) will be sufficient to pay off the government debt and also generate a surplus, which would help in promoting energy efficiency in other sectors.

The scheme has benefited the consumers by reducing their electricity bills, and has had a moderating effect on the demand-supply situation in Kerala.

As per the statistics released by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the gap between demand and supply for Kerala has reduced from 2.4 per cent in 2009-10 to 1.4 per cent in 2010-11, as compared to a stagnant gap of 12 per cent at the national level.

Himachal Pradesh is another state that implemented a similar project in 2009, although not under BLY. The Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board (HSEB), armed with a loan from the state government, replaced 65 lakh incandescent bulbs in households with CFLs, and generated revenue that has been used for debt servicing and repayment.

BEE has prepared an innovative approach to lighting energy efficiency on market-based principles. Large-scale adoption by a couple of states has proved its efficacy — it is now time for others to emulate.

(The author is Programme Officer, OzoneAction Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, Bangkok. The views expressed are personal.)

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Published on September 29, 2011
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