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

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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Written By

is a Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi). He tweets at @indiasolarpost. Views and opinion if any, are his own.

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