What is in common between the municipal corporations of Vadodara, Thane, Chennai, Coimbatore and Rajkot? They have all understood the importance of Light-Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights and have sensed the need to replace conventional streetlights with LED ones in their regions.
As LEDs are 60 per cent more efficient than conventional lighting sources, they are fast emerging as the lighting source of the future in India. Much less power consumption, faster cooling because of less heat emission and eco-friendliness also have made them popular for outdoor and indoor lighting applications. To top it all, the electronic controls of LED lights provide a ready-made and convenient mechanism for further reduction in power consumption through need-based dimming as per requirement.
Lighting accounts for 20 per cent of the power consumption across the country. New homes and offices, construction projects, automobile and technology sector are extensively exploring the viability of LED lights due to their lower running costs and convenience. Though LEDs cost more than its predecessors, experts believe their prices will be halved by 2018 as demand picks up.
A remarkable example of the success of the 100 per cent LED-illuminated BBTC factory and office in Dunsandle Estate, Ooty, proved how electricity bills could be brought down by an average of 75 per cent. Among the many measures undertaken by the management, one was replacing the conventional sodium vapour yard lights and plant lights with LED lamps to achieve this unprecedented accomplishment in reducing the electricity bill.
While the initial capital cost of installing LED lamps can be high, the total collective cost of electrical equipment including heavy wiring, switchgear, transformers etc. is much lower in case of LED lights. Above all, the electricity consumption bill for LED lights is much less. To substantiate it, let us understand a simple arithmetic behind it.
Thus, for a period of three years of installation and use, a 40 watt fluorescent tube light will cost Rs 4,425 which includes the cost of installation and total yearly power expenses. Similarly, a 20 watt CFL will cost Rs 2,271 whereas LED lights will cost Rs 796. The table demonstrates a clear comparison of conventional lights over LEDs. So, we can see clearly that the replacement of one tube light can save Rs 3,629 in three years. How much energy and revenue can be saved if we replace conventional streetlights with LEDs?
LED lights also help cut down the maintenance cost because they are more durable and run for up to 75,000 hours, compared with 17,000 hours for sodium vapour lamps. Moreover, sodium vapour lamps have hazardous metals like mercury which harm the environment while LED lights are safe and non-hazardous.
Let's consider Delhi, for instance. Presently, there are more than six lakh streetlights with an annual power consumption of crores of rupees. These are mostly sodium vapour lamps. Streetlights are kept on for almost 12 hours a day, and LED lights have substantially higher lumens of light than conventional. But what if these very lights are replaced with LED lights? What will be the beneficial impact apart from lower power consumption? The luminosity and brightness of LEDs will ensure that light is amply provided to critical sections of the road without wasting it. The cost of electricity bill will be at least 60 per cent less.
LED lights have sound electronic base. These lights can be controlled through sensors at convenience which helps save power. For example, traffic density on the road is generally low between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. At this time LED streetlights can be automatically dimmed to lower intensity through a central remote control via a computer without any human intervention. This will reduce power consumption.
Also, LEDs use direct current power supply, which eliminates high frequency flickering emitted by incandescent lighting as it uses alternating current.
Switching to LED streetlights not only offers 60 per cent power savings compared to sodium vapour or mercury vapour lights but also ensure savings on account of automation of switching on and off streetlights synchronized with the sunset and sunrise. It also ensures complete return on investment in less than 17 months with additional savings of power over the average 10-year life of the product. This, in turn, also results in reduction in harmful carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions that are harming the environment.
So if the government looks at replacing conventional streetlights with LED lights, there could well be savings of crores of rupees every year. Currently, the country's power sector is facing flack for running out of control with its expenses. Distribution companies and state electricity distribution units are neck-deep in losses and are unable to purchase power - a consternation that can spell monumental catastrophe for a country that takes pride in its potential to match the prospects of economic growth of nations like the US, UK and China. This can be one of many ingenious ways in which the government can substantially bring down the cost of light and the burden of the power sector. It just needs a different frame of mind and a slightly different outlook to take full benefit of the revenue saving opportunities now available through use of LED streetlights.
(Mahendru is Chairman and Managing Director of electrical-equipment maker Eon Electric Ltd, formerly known as Indo Asian Fusegear Ltd.)
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