Wednesday, July 8, 2009 India's CFL programme: A logistics challenge for lighting

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India's CFL programme: A logistics challenge for lighting

6 Apr 2009 | Author: Preeti Malhotra, Climate Group

CFLs are spreading in India courtesy of a government programme financed by the carbon markets - but technical problems threaten to hinder the scheme

India's Prime Minister announced the Bachat Lamp Yojana - the scheme to phase out incandescent bulbs from homes across India and replace them with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) - in July 2007 at the first meeting of his Council on Climate Change.

The scheme was to be launched in August of the same year, coinciding with the celebrations of India's independence. However, it took the government more than a year to formally launch the scheme. It finally did, in February 2009. The programme envisages providing CFL lamps at a discount of over 70%, Rs 15 as opposed to a market price of anywhere between Rs 80 to 100, to nearly 10 million people.

Prior to the formal launch, two pilot implementation projects were run in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Yamunanagar (Haryana) to assess the potential uptake of CFLs by consumers.

The Indian government sought to sell UN certified emissions reductions on the carbon markets to fund the CFL discounts. For every 100,000 20 W CFLs distributed there is an estimated carbon saving of 10000 tCO2e. Registering was a complex process as a 'Programme of Activities-PoA' needed to be submitted as an umbrella project. The pilot project in Visakhapatnam is now a registered UN Clean Development Mechanism project. The PoA is still entering validation.

The scheme represents a successful public-private partnership model between the government, private sector CFL suppliers and state-level electricity distribution companies, although there are process-related issues that still need to be assessed.

For instance, most energy distribution companies do not have effective Management Information Systems to help to understand product costing or capacities to do load research.

An independent case study has also shown that CFLs have a high failure rate in India due to lack of adherence to product specifications, especially in the rural areas. Replacement of the bulbs is particularly difficult due to long distances and high transport expenses. Some of these issues are not new to rural energy programmes in India and are being addressed as the scheme rolls out.

Quality control is a major concern, however. The import-based, unorganised nature of the CFL industry in India makes quality control and regulation difficult. There are plans to implement a standard (IS 15111) by the end of 2009 regulating product quality. This has been in the offing for a while, with some manufacturers resisting due to the associated costs.

What's more, India has no standards for regulating mercury in CFLs or a system for proper disposal of mercury. The government is planning to introduce an incentive to encourage households to hand over their unused/defunct lamps as well as develop guidelines on safe management of mercury in CFLs. However, these have been in process for some time and do not completely address problems related to levels of mercury in the lamps and its final disposal.

India's CFL market is catching up fast with the rest of the world. Bachat Lamp Yojana is a uniquely designed scheme and perhaps first of its kind to ensure nationwide access to efficient lighting to all at an affordable price.

To ensure that the distribution companies are able to recover costs through the sale of carbon credits, Bachat Lamp Yojana relies on a reliable market for certified carbon credits in a post 2012 climate deal. Assuming the carbon credit funding continues, this programme is bound to give a boost to the CFL market in the country. However, weak regulatory controls will not be beneficial for the CFL industry in the long run. The government must ensure that the required regulation is promptly introduced to sustain this growing market.

Preeti Malhotra is India director at the Climate Group. Email

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