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LED lamps' prospects brighten

The government is planning to push LED lamps they way it popularised CFLs. K.A. MARTIN gets to know some trail-blazing recommendations.



In a new light: LED lamps at an exhibition organised by the Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology in Thiruvananthapuram.

Light-emitting diode (LED) lamps are slowly stealing the spotlight from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which have gained popularity for energy-efficiency and longevity. On both counts, the former better their well-entrenched competitor. But price remains a barrier.

A core committee on rapid and massive adoption of LED lighting in India, constituted by the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, has recommended replication of the huge success in the adoption of CFLs throughout the country in the case of LED lamps.

A report by the Union Power Ministry, titled “The Economic case to stimulate LED lighting in India,” based on the recommendations of the core committee, says that an appropriate policy intervention has resulted in the massive success in popularising the CFLs.

Sales of these lamps rose from 20 million during 2003-04 to 250 million during 2009-10, the report says. The high volumes resulted in prices coming down by over 50 per cent over the period.

Another recommendation of the core committee is the integration of LED lighting into the second phase of the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyuikaran Yojana for households coming under the below the poverty line (BPL) category. The outlay for providing one LED lamp to each household is Rs.300 crore more than the estimate for the provision of free CFLs to 50 lakh BPL households in rural areas.

Hurdles

The core committee has identified hurdles to the accelerated adoption of LED lighting in India: limited availability of technology; high initial cost of these lamps; absence of a national technical standard for them; and lack of an established testing protocol and incentives for manufacturers to set up facilities.

The committee comprised senior officials from the Union Ministries of Power, Renewable Energy and Information Technology and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Issues related to the economics of manufacturing, testing and specifications of LED lamps came under its ambit.

A central institutional mechanism to “oversee the design, development and implementation of the programme” and a robust process to monitor and evaluate the programme by an independent agency are among the top suggestions from the core committee.

Another is “aggregation of future LED demand under regulatory oversight” to augment volumes and draw manufacturers to India and thereby reduce the cost. Giving fiscal incentives, including to manufacturers, is another recommendation.

The problem of a lack of a system for standard monitoring and verification can be overcome through an initial focus on high-use commercial applications.

The Central and the State public works departments can be motivated to combine their demands for lamps, which can become probably “one of the biggest global tenders.” This, in turn, can raise the interest of the world's best players in the field.

Setting up a neutral and reliable testing facility by the government in the current financial year is another suggestion. The committee has set a 2010-11 timeframe for inviting global bids for aggregated LED procurement and issue of instructions to the Central and the State public works departments on aggregating their demand.

The committee has suggested that fiscal incentives for LED lamps be included in the Union Budget for 2011-12.

As a background, the report points out that India needs to raise its primary energy supply at least three or four times and electricity generation capacity approximately six times to achieve a sustained economic growth of 8-9 per cent through 2031-32.

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