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Published on September 8th, 2015 | by Anand Upadhyay


India To Switch All Its Street Lights To LED In 2 Years

September 8th, 2015 by  

There are several reasons why I like the LED technology, not least of which is that it is easier to spell than both incandescent and fluorescent.

Did you take a note that the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2014 went to the inventors of  the (blue) LED?

Recently India’s energy minister, Piyush Goyal, announced the country’s intention to replace all its conventional streetlights with LED ones, with the underlying logic being that conserving power is more economical than producing more.

Reportedly, India has 35 million street lights which generate a total demand of 3,400 MW. With LED, this West_Richland_LEDscan be brought down to 1,400 MW, saving 9000 million kWh of electricity annually, worth over $850 million in the process. To put this into perspective, the electricity deficit in India during 2014-15 was 38,138 million kWh and 7,006 MW.

The National Programme for LED-based Home and Street Lighting was launched by Prime Minister Modi in January this year. At its inception, the plan was to cover 100 cities by March next year, and the remaining ones by March 2019, targeting 770 million bulbs and 35 million street lights. However, it seems street lights will be upgraded to LED ahead of schedule.

The task of operating and maintaining the street lights falls under the jurisdiction of Urban Local Bodies (ULB), or municipalities. As most of the ULBs were not in a position to bear the high initial capital cost by themselves, four central government power utilities joined hands to set up a company Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL).

On a side note, apart from efficient lighting, EESL will also operate as a full-fledged Energy Service Company (ESCO). The company has been making profits consistently since its formation, without any aid from the government.

Under the service model chosen, the ULBs do not have to make any upfront investments for installing the LED street lights, as EESL does it for them. The investment is also recovered from a portion of the savings accrued by the ULBs (on account of lower electricity bills) over a period of seven years, which means the ULBs start saving money right from the get-go.

Lighting demands 18% of the electricity consumed in India. This is against a global average of just 13%. A large-scale LED adoption will bring the figure for India down to the global average, significantly cutting down the need to build more energy plants. If one also accounts for installing LED bulbs in domestic and commercial sectors, the opportunity at hand is to save a mammoth 100 billion kWh per annum ($7 billion a year).

Lower demand also means lower transmission and distribution losses. The power saved can therefore be sold to commercial and industrial establishments, who normally pay a higher tariff.

The companies involved in the lighting business have been responding well to the government’s targets.

With a generous help due to fall in the price of imported LED chips, the lowest quoted price for bulk supply of a seven-watt LED bulb has come down from ₹310 (~$5) to ₹73 (~$1.18) in a short period of 12 months. For street lights, prices have come down from ₹137/W (~2.21$/W) to ₹85/W (~1.37$/W).

The Indian market is now one of Philips Lighting’s top five global markets. The company has secured a contract of 15 million lamps under the domestic efficient lighting programme. Others in the LED race include Eveready, Osram, Havells, Bajaj Electricals, and Crompton Greaves.

As per official estimates, domestic manufacturing capacity for LED bulbs stands at 320 million per month. The same for street lights is 0.2 million a month.

Government estimates say by 2020 the LED market will be $3.2 billion. However, the Electric Lamp and Component Manufacturers Association of India (ELCOMA) — the lighting industry body — is far more ambitious in its forecast. It expects LED bulbs to grow up to $6.1 billion a year and constitute 60% of the lighting industry’s turnover by 2020.

Along with LED comes the potential for additional energy savings by using intelligent control systems which enhance the service using features like occupancy sensing, dimming, and constant monitoring of each bulb. Thiruvananthapuram, in the southern state of Kerala (which also has world’s first solar powered airport), has opted for a city-wide LED street lights control system to monitor faults and need-based illumination. Such systems, though they will come at an additional cost, could help optimize the schedule and brightness of the streetlights to correspond with the times that the area that they cover is occupied or not.

Other data could theoretically be gleaned from the system about occupancy patterns, traffic flow, etc. and could provide critical information for city planners.

However, as per a guide for municipalities to switch over to LED street lighting released by Leotek Electronics based out of California, there is currently no industry standard communication protocol for these systems. Consequently, the street lighting control systems on the market today are proprietary and most municipalities (in the USA) have been reluctant to risk standardizing on any of these systems.

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About the Author

is an Associate Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi) - an independent, not-for-profit research institute focused on energy, environment, and sustainable development. Anand follows the Indian solar market at @indiasolarpost. He also writes at SolarMarket.IN. Views and opinion if any, are his own.

  • Gourav Talgotra

    Its already started North Indian state Himachal Pradesh launched Scheme RISHTA- Smart LED Street Lighting Project and also the state will launch a “LED Promotion Programme” for saving energy. Under this scheme the government will provide three LED bulbs for domestic use to the consumers at 50 percent of market price. Therefore taking into consideration the population of India and government initiatives the LED market is exhibit to register highest growth in India in coming years.

  • India: have a competition for the best street lamp design as New York city did.
    A tall light fixture that will look modern for the next 50 years and be able to hold future LED array design possibilities.
    A local Councillor suggested once to turn off all the street lights at 10 pm everynight as few people are outside on the streets using them.
    Ludicrous at the time but now with cheap motion sensors and instant on LEDs vs sodium or metal halides with 10 minute startups, what savings would there be with “no lights”?

  • sjc_1

    LED home and street lighting can save enough energy to charge lots of EVs at night.

  • Pawan Sharma

    I think this news has already been covered, nevertheless, in haridwar, where my parents live, they have already started replacing the streetlights with LED lamps.
    So this is something that i can already see on ground.

    • Hi Pawan,

      Yes. You are right. Many states have their own programmes. However, the one from centre was initiated in January 2015. A number of cities have in fact completed the exercise. The Vizag Municipal Corporation, for example, is said to be saving 50% on its electricity bills. Hopefully the pan-India roll out will be completed on time.

      • Pawan Sharma

        I hope so too. Switch to LED will cut the power deficit in the country by about a fourth. One thing i am curious about though.
        How much is power deficit in the night? If we are self sufficient in the night then we can plug the hole during day almost entirely with solar energy.

  • wildisreal

    When is the last time the USA did something truly great? Something really inspirational?

    Every engaged and honest citizen of this fine country despises their government for good reason. There is no passion, no uplifting, only carefully crafted BS and selling out to status-quo money. I think people of all political stripes can agree on this point and I submit Trump and Sanders as proof.

    Get with the program Mr. Establishment (both of you), can’t you see we all hate you? First one to get it wins tens of millions of hearts and minds.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Off topic.

      • wildisreal

        No it wasn’t. This is an article about India instituting very impressive national policy, and I was musing about America’s inability to do the same thing. It was tangental, sure, but not off-topic.

      • wildisreal

        But, whatever. No problem.

  • Dag Johansen

    All countries should do this ASAP. LEDs are so great for the application . . . low power and almost never need to be replaced since they are so robust and last so long. There is a lot of savings in reduced energy consumption AND a lot of savings in maintenance since you rarely need to send out a truck to replace a burned out light.

  • BlackTalon53 .

    Good on paper … most countries have an excess of electricity generation at night, from hydro, nuclear and windpower, and I don’t think you can really shut down a coal plant for just a few hours either, just reduce output a bit. Maybe it’s different for India, but for a lot of other countries it makes no sense.

    • Dag Johansen

      Well coal is going away and largely being replaced by natural gas which is more dispatchable. Hydro is generally dispatchable too. And as for excess power from wind & nuclear at night, what we should be doing is further incentivizing the purchase of electric vehicles. They charge up overnight and can be driven emissions free during the day.

      • JamesWimberley

        Another factor is the “duck curve”: when there is a lot of distributed solar – and there will be very soon in India – the peak demand on the grid shifts to the evening, when workers are back home and run their appliances. Street lights come on in the same period, varying with the season. So efficient street lighting cuts peak as well as trough load. At 3 a.m, the street lights could be off, or switched to response mode if there is anybody around.

    • Larmion

      Coal plants can ramp up and down quite easily They do so much more slowly than gas or hydro plants (several hours rather minutes), but that is fast enough if the fall in demand is predictable – and that demand drops at night is obviously predictable.

      German coal plants often start reducing output late in the evening and increase it again in the morning. They can’t shut down fully, but reducing output by half is possible even for old, primitive plants.

      Look at this graph from last week for example (dark brown is hard coal, light brown is brown coal).

    • revoltman

      I didnt understand you. Why doesnt it make sense in EU/US ?
      If you consume less, you can switch of some coal power plants isnt it. Or addition of new plants is needed less. Or divert the power to industries and charge them lower prices.

  • JamesWimberley

    Good report. LED street lighting is the lowest-hanging of all fruit. India’s innovation here is an effective financing model created at federal level.

    Incompatible proprietary lighting control protocols: Moniz, EU Commission, are you listening? One of the functions of government today is to secure end-users of technology the benefits of standardization, which companies resist unless they own the standard. Government purchases can be used as a lever.


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