07 May 2010

BEE's masterstroke: Bachat Lamp Yojana

By: Kaavya Nag

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency has pitched for and bagged the world's largest carbon credit project - the Bachat Lamp Yojana . The BLY aims to prevent 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, and make CFL bulbs cheap enough for 400 million energy inefficient incandescent bulbs to be replaced.

Thomas Edison's first full-scale test of the incandescent bulb in 1879 lasted 13.5 hours. It was one of the first successful experiments to commercialise the light bulb. Over a hundred and thirty years down the road, the modern version, with a tungsten filament in place of the carbon filament that Edison and others first experimented with, is just as inefficient as its ancestral prototypes. Poultry farms across India use it to heat their coops -  not surprisingly - because roughly 90 percent of the power it consumes is emitted as heat.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency estimates that there are over 400 million light points in India using incandescent lights (ICLs). Replacing these ICLs can potentially reduce over 6000 MW in electricity demand. 

That metric is just what the Bureau of Energy Efficiency's aims to get at. But it aims to overcome the cost barriers to CFLs - currently priced between Rs. 80 and 130, by subsidising it through a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project, and making CFLs available at Rs 15 per bulb. The subsidy to consumers will be met through financial investors lending the upfront finance to electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs), who can then sell CFL bulbs at the decided rate. Investors will make back their investment when they sell carbon credits in international carbon markets, either to countries who have to meet their UN targets, or to interested companies in Europe.

The BEE masterstroke is that individual state governments or power companies will not have to register each of their projects under the UN's CDM system (a long-drawn out process). Unfortunately, there is no law in India that is phasing out ICLs, unlike some other countries, and this is a barrier to implementation. The BLY scheme will mostly amount to a 'demonstration', although it will definitely amount to a lot of energy and emissions saving. But the BEE hopes that by 2012 (by which time the project comes to a close), there will be more willing domestic consumers, increased scale of operation, and lowered retail costs to CFLs.

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