In India, public street lighting accounts for up to 40 percent of electricity consumed by municipalities, and lighting overall is estimated to represent 1.5 percent of the country’s electricity consumption. As one of the world’s largest energy consumers, the potential for energy savings from lighting improvements in India is clearly significant. Improvements in the energy efficiency of street lighting would also support other important priorities, including improved safety and security for pedestrians and vehicles; contribute to energy security, and ease pressures on local governments’ finances. For now, though, these savings remain untapped.
That was the key message of a conference on public lighting held in New Delhi on March 19-20, 2014. The conference, sponsored in part by ESMAP, brought together representatives from over 20 countries to explore how India could best tap into this enormous opportunity – and the potential lessons for other countries.
The conference focused on the key barriers to the development of energy efficient street lighting in developing countries. Participants looked at lessons from institutional and regulatory frameworks in developed markets; the role of energy services companies (ESCOs), and policy incentives to promote the development of energy efficiency projects.
Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General of India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency, talked about his vision to switch all 33 million street lights in India to energy-efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) which he considers a street lighting technology that is now mature enough to offer a superior option. He said that while there were various technical and financial risks associated with this switch, BEE and associated organizations are looking at particular solutions, such as performance contracting, and models to make this sector sustainable.
Many participants agreed that if India made the switch to LED street lighting, the benefits would outweigh the risks. Given their longer utility life, moving to LEDs could translate into a reduction in maintenance costs for municipalities of 20-25 percent.
However, it was also made clear that designing, planning, financing and executing on energy efficient street lighting programs is not straightforward, especially for cash-strapped municipalities with many competing priorities. Among the challenges cited were limited awareness of the opportunities among government agencies, complex coordination among agencies, a lack of successful precedents, and technical challenges such as the lack of baseline data and effective monitoring and verification systems.
Others noted that with the introduction of new control technologies and centralized energy management systems associated with technologies like LED street lighting there are immense opportunities to reduce operation and maintenance costs.
All agreed, however on the need for increased capacity development at the subnational level. As Ashok Sakar, Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank’s South Asia Region, noted, government support is critical to creating the policy and market environment needed for the successful implementation of energy efficiency programs. For lighting, this can include making approval procedures more transparent and setting out simplified Standard Offer Programs.
The conference was co-organized by the World Bank Group, the Indian Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Energy Efficiency Services Limited. ESMAP, in partnership with the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), and the European Commission, sponsored the event. More than 150 participants, including representatives from Brazil, India, Germany, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mexico, Thailand, and the US attended this South-South-North knowledge exchange event.