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Friday, August 28, 2015

Lighting-up the Parliament with incandescent bulbs

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On the occasion of 69th Independence Day too, as has been the norm over the last few decades, the government lit-up the Parliament House and all Government Buildings in and around the Rajpath and Central Delhi. These buildings looked beautiful and this was a fitting symbolic tribute to our independence.

But what was amazing was that the Government which is leading one of the biggest campaigns for energy efficient lighting, actually used the most inefficient way of lighting up the buildings – they used incandescent bulbs – each around 10 times more inefficient than the LEDs that the Government has been promoting. To give you an idea – and this is strictly from the newspaper reports that I had read - About 40 incandescent bulbs were installed on one pillar and there are around 144 pillars on each floor which comes to around 6000 bulbs on one floor. The bulbs were also being installed in the library and corridors of the Parliament house. Around 62,000 bulbs were installed in the south block and north block also. At 60 W each, the sheer energy numbers are staggering.

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This created a big Question in my mind: On the one hand, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wooing the masses with offering subsidies for conversion to LEDs and talking about Energy efficiency at all forums, and on the other his government is using incandescent bulbs to light up their own offices during festivities. Should the Government not follow the clause of Preacher – Follow Thyself? If the Government is indeed serious about the mass adoption of this amazing technology, then it should lead by example, which unfortunately is not happening.

Being a PR professional and handling a client who is the leader of this industry, I am worried on this situation and the impact that it can have on the industry per se.

The industry as a whole has been very happy with the public support of the PM on Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme and the efforts of EESL in furthering the cause of efficient lighting. Yet, this focus on incandescent bulbs will send mixed signals to the consumers at large.  

Talking about the mindset of the Indian consumers at large, it will be a difficult job trying to explain why the consumer should use this relatively “new” technology, paying upwards of Rs. 200/- for each light bulb that they replace with LEDs. The sheer economics of the situation is also an issue - A 60 W bulb costs around Rs. 10/- while a 15 W CFL costs around Rs. 100-120/- A 5W LED will cost the consumer, anything around Rs. 200/- with Government schemes and much more in the open market. Why should the end consumer pay more for the replacement here? Return on Investment(ROI) as a concept can not be explained to the ordinary consumer, as the cost differential is still huge for them. I mean, why should a consumer, who is still somewhere confused about buying this new technology and its “real” benefits, pay through his nose, when he sees that the Government is not really making this change themselves??? If bulbs are good enough for the Government to buy and showcase, why should it not be good enough for me, would be the rhetoric?

So far as the industry is concerned, if the Government is really wanting to be the “guardian angel” of energy efficiency, then it needs to ensure that all communication that flows from the top – not only talk, but also “action”, speaks the same language.  The 4,500 Cr LED industry which is aiming to be around Rs. 21,000 Cr in the next five years will benefit immensely if in the next major festivities, it changes all incandescent bulbs with LEDs. This will send the right signal to the people at large – We walk the talk!!!
There is no denying that LEDs are not just the technological answer for tomorrow, but also a real boon for Energy Deficient country like India, where outages are huge. Today LEDs are the most energy efficient light source, where the energy savings can go up to 90% as compared with some other conventional light sources. The LEDs have a life span of 50,000 to 60,000 hours reducing the need for replacement and maintenance. Adoption of LED Lighting solutions has other inherent advantages like lesser heat emission as compared to traditional lighting sources like CFL and incandescent lamp. This results in lesser energy consumption while cooling the surrounding area, thus resulting in further energy savings. The flexibility in application afforded by LED’s is another factor which makes the use of LED’s highly desirable.

And therefore when Mr. Modi and the Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who are promoting LEDs from all available avenues, there should not be seemingly a difference between “Kathani” and “Karni”!!!

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