By Abhishek Jha:
Before the climate talks in Paris last year, Oxfam published a report that argued that termed climate a crises “that is driven by the greenhouse gas emissions of the ‘haves’ that hits the ‘have-nots’ the hardest”. The report, which used a model that represented emissions from consumption rather than production, shows that globally as well as within a country it is the rich who contribute most and much more than the poor to carbon emissions. This is not surprising, as most consumption that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions- of electricity, fuel, food, etc- is concentrated within the rich. It is interesting then that there are villages in our country that are moving completely to energy-efficient lights.
This January three villages of the Bahour commune in Tamil Nadu went the LED way. They replaced 1,850 incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs and 166 sodium vapour lamps (SVL) and fluorescent lamps (FTL) with energy efficient LED street lights. Irulanchandai, Kuruvintham Pet, and Bahour Pet were made energy efficient under the LED Village Campaign Programme, a scheme run by the BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency). This project has meant that these villages might end up saving 85% of power from what the consumption would be if they were to continue using conventional lamps.
Similarly, Amrapura became the first LED village in Gujarat earlier this year. The village, which installed 1000 LED bulbs, 350 LED tubelights and 55 LED street lights reportedly, is set to save INR 8 lakhs annually in power consumption, as they are about 10 times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and also have a much longer lifespan. The INR 25 lakh investment made in procuring the LED lights is thus likely to be recovered soon.
In Dolsi in Tehri district of Uttarakhand, this turnaround was brought about by the Divine Light Trust, a non-profit, which adopted the village in 2013. The Tribune reported that the villagers were happy to receive the LED bulbs as it would help students study and women work, after dark, an issue that is also being addressed through the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojna (DDUGJY), the central government’s rural electrification scheme.
Set up in 2002, under the provisions of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 (which aims to provide for efficient use of energy and its conservation), the BEE has the power to promote “energy efficient processes, equipment, devices and systems”, with the help of the Central and State governments.
Since then successive governments have run various programmes. For instance, the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP) being run by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) – a joint venture company by four PSUs – provides energy efficient LED bulbs to households.
Announced in January 2015, the DELP started from March 2015 and aims to replace 77 crore incandescent bulbs in the residential sector with LED bulbs by March 2019 across 100 cities. Yet, after a year the EESL has distributed only about 7 crore LED bulbs in the states that have joined the national programme, although the pace seems to have picked up with the approach of the budget day. A press release by the Ministry of Power released after the 7 crore milestone was achieved states that the EESL distributed the last crore of bulbs in just 19 days.
These villages should serve as a model for what the future of the country should look like if we are to reduce our carbon footprint while providing electricity to all. The BEE itself recognises that LED lights are beneficial to not only the end user but also the state, the DISCOMs, and the investor. In fact, various states have now started participating in programmes that aim at providing energy efficient devices to the people.
There are nonetheless roadblocks ahead. Earlier in February, there was a standoff between the Shiv Sena and the BJP in Maharashtra due to a dispute over the quality of LED bulbs being supplied by EESL in Jalgaon and the offering of sub-contracts to private companies charging the corporations at high interest rates. With the positive path that these villages have shown in conserving energy, it should go without saying that the government should see that the road to an energy-efficient India does not include the people who need lights in their homes the most.