Of Power Cuts, the criticism, and an alternative response of positive action

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By Philip Mudartha
Bellevision Media Network

08 Feb 2016:

Karnataka Energy Minister Trips on Promise, Power Cuts Are Back

The promise was that the state will get uninterrupted power from 1 January 2016. But, households in the coastal districts, especially in villages the power situation is grim, despite mild weather during this winter. It would get only worse during the summer as refrigerators and air-conditioners kick in.


The reported power shortage in Karnataka is 1,000MW, with demand at 8,500MW outstripping supply at 7,500MW. The stability of the grid is managed by load-shedding. The estimated summer demand is 10,000MW which means load-shedding for longer intervals.


Karnataka Industry Association slams proposal to increase power tariff in Karnataka

Even as the projected power deficit is 25% of the peak demand, the state government controlled electricity distribution companies proposed an increase of R 1.02 per Kwh. According to the industry body, manufacturing units in the state are facing severe hardships due to unscheduled power cuts and poor frequency. The proposed hike will aggravate the situation and further erode margins of the industry.


The associations of commercial establishments will lobby against the power tariff hike. However, with no significant elections around the corner, the state electricity board is unlikely to concede the demands of businesses, industry and residential consumers.


The manufacturing and commercial units will recover the additional costs from consumers. The burden eventually falls on the shoulders of the common man. He cannot pass on his increased costs of living except possibly by a demand for higher wages. A wage hike will spike the inflation rate higher, catching him in the web of higher prices for everything he consumes.


The Common man has to adapt through innovative means and actions

Any amount of blaming the government and businesses will only vent his anger for the moment but will not alleviate his situation. Only positive thinking and innovative actions can. Improving the energy efficiency is one of those innovative means at his disposal.


Energy efficiency is an unsexy subject. Unlike reports of picnics and feasts, this article does not carry images of photogenic people eating and making merry. Its objective is to create awareness that each of us have the power to help ourselves, the community and the nation in solving the electric power shortage. The reader will get immediate cash savings, if he takes the recommended actions. Besides, he will contribute to the noble goals of conservation of environment and reduction in air pollution.


A case study of savings through energy efficiency

Where I live, the electricity tariffs are among the highest in the country. The state electricity board has various slabs of power tariff. The lower the monthly consumption, lesser is the tariff rate per Kwh. For example, if I use 180 units in a month (average 6 Kwh/ day), the aggregate cost (inclusive of fixed fees, variable surcharges and taxes) is Rs 7.53 per Kwh. The tariff jumps to Rs 8.53 per Kwh for monthly consumption of 450 units. Affluent households consume thousands of units in a month, and cough up a few lakhs of rupees because they fall in the highest tariff slab.


As common people and not affluent, cost reduction is a personal need for us. The electricity bill takes away a big share of our monthly household expenditure budget. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party won two consecutive elections by promising to reduce the household expenditure on power and water. Not only in Delhi but all over the country, households want to reduce expenditure without decreasing standards of living. Energy efficiency is one among various initiatives we can take.


Recently, I changed my residential lighting to LED light bulbs to improve the energy efficiency. I was using a variety of lights: incandescent light bulbs (ILB), fluorescent tube lights (FTL) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). With the LED replacements, I did not reduce the illumination in the house.


The reason I had not installed LED bulbs earlier, because we had gotten used to the FTLs, which we used since decades. When a replacement became necessary due to fused FTL or a choke failure, the high price of LED bulb deterred me from making the switch. The absolute prices are very high compared to the inexpensive ILBs, and even the not-so-cheap CFLs. Later, I made a comparative long-term cost-benefit study based on which I made my decision in favor of LED bulbs.










Light bulb projected lifespan (hrs.)

50, 000

10, 000

1, 500

Watts per bulb (equiv. 60 watts)




Cost per bulb (Rs)




Electricity Consumption Kwh@50K hrs.




Cost of electricity (@ Rs 8/ Kwh)




Bulbs needed for 50k hours




Equivalent 50k hours bulb expenditure




Total Expenditure over 50k hrs.





The LEDs come with a 3 year warranty and are projected to last 50K hours, which is at least 10 years of use. The CFLs come with 1 year warranty and are projected to 10K hours, which is at least 2 years of use. The ILBs have no without but usually last 1,500 hours of use (about 4 months).


The chart above explains itself. The savings are long term and therefore not understood initially. The cost savings of Rs 21,130 over a 10-year period is only Rs 176 in the monthly bill, which is significant return of 45% per month for the Rs 390 extra sum invested in a LED bulb. (The bank FD will give a return of Rs 2.68 per month!)


What is in it for India?

• The annual demand for incandescent lights (ILBs, FTLs and CFLs) is 1.1 billion units.

• When replaced with LED bulbs of equivalent illumination, the power saved will be 58.3 million Kwh every hour. Over a ten year period (50,000 hours of use), the power saved is 2915 GW. The annual saving is Rs 2, 33,200 crore. 

• The reduced power demand is equivalent to 30 numbers of coal-fired power plants such as Udupi Power Corporation Limited (UPCL) with each having of generation capacity of 1,200 MW. The reduced forex outgo for imported high grade low-ash low sulfur coal is a bonus.  The decrease in emissions of particulate matter and gas pollutants will impact positively on health, especially in decreased costs of treatment of pulmonary diseases.

• The national mission of 24/7 uninterrupted power supply to all households will be achieved earlier than 2019, which is the current target schedule.

• Clusters of gram panchayat can join hands and invest to provide solar power to domestic users because the LEDs will cause 1/10th of conventional power load on a stand-alone grid and so, would not require bulky and expensive solar installations.


LED technology has improved since 1G both in design and manufacturing

LED light bulbs will be what people the world over will use to replace ILBs, FTLs, and even the CFLs. The CFLs arrived in Indian market only a few years ago and replaced ILBs but the FTLs survived due to the widely held belief that tubes are kinder on eyes. CFLs are a partial but temporary solution. The reason LEDs have not yet displaced CFLs from the market are twofold: a) the first generation (1G) LED bulbs had a narrow and focused light beam, and b) the cost of the LED bulbs was too high.


Today, we have ’Clustered’ LED bulbs which a) provide more light, and b) are mounted within diffuser lenses in order to spread the light across a wider area. Manufacturing technology improvements have driven production costs down so that LED bulbs are more cost-effective than even CFLs. With volumes rise with penetration into country-wide markets, the prices will go down further.


That the Nobel Academy awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics to the inventors of Blue LED technology foretells that LED bulbs have arrived. Greater innovation and investment in technology, manufacturing and marketing is expected with governments supporting the initiative.


Save Energy Mission of Government of India and the state governments

It is normal for people to be put off by the high price and choose not to spend Rs 400 for a LED bulb. Behavior experts term this a sticker shock: to go for cheap goods available in the market and not look for quality, durability and long-term benefits.


In order to overcome the resistance to the energy efficient LEDs due to sticker shock, the government’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) jointly joined hands with power distribution companies (DISCOMS) to institute an innovative scheme of paying through actual energy savings earned by a domestic user.


Governments of Pondicherry UT and Andhra Pradesh State were proactive in promoting use of LEDs. State government of Delhi-NCT followed and introduced a scheme to subsidize a maximum of 4 LEDs to households at Rs 100 per bulb. Those who can’t afford Rs 400 at once can pay Rs 17 per bulb as down payment and agree for recovery of the balance Rs 83 in installments through the monthly electricity bill. This has enabled Delhi consumers to pay for the LED bulbs from their actual savings.


The Maharashtra state government implemented the scheme beginning January 2016. Further, its DISCOMS issued a maximum of 10 LED bulbs of 7W rating for Rs 100 each against outright payment. For those who can’t afford, the Delhi scheme of recovery through the monthly consumption bill for a maximum of 4 bulbs was offered.


Blaming the government for breaking the promise of uninterrupted power supply is good but making a positive contribution to alleviate the power shortage crisis is better. Through this article, I want to urge our science students in high school to illustrate the technology comparisons for all types of light bulbs and the technological advantages of LEDs over others. I call upon the commerce students to illustrate the financial and publicity aspects of LED manufacture and marketing. The students of Humanities (Arts) stream can research the trend of government ban in some advanced countries and the social activism of NGOs for promoting green earth initiatives such as standardization of LED lighting systems in all public facilities.



Comments on this Article
Philip Mudartha, Navi Mumbai Thu, March-3-2016, 9:37
In Mumbai, Crompton make 7W LED bulbs are retailed at Rs 97 as special offer, at 3% discount to EESL s subsidized price. There is a unverified news that the actual cost of EESL procured bulb is Rs 10, and a LED scam is rumored. Corrupt practices cannot be ruled out, but good news is people need not Q up for subsidized ones in the near future
Sadananda, Katapady Fri, February-19-2016, 11:40
Dear Sir, I like your reports. Can you please write an article on usage of solar energy? I heard solar power can not be used for air conditioning easily, for lights and water heating only,,,true?
Rajashekar S, Bangalore Thu, February-11-2016, 10:34
Thanks for the information on LED bulbs. This is useful information. I will also start using LED now
William Barboza, Bangalore Wed, February-10-2016, 11:50
Very interesting details. All should go for LED and government is also supporting it nicely
Pradeep Suvarna, Udupi Wed, February-10-2016, 3:09
Using LED is good for the environment. Thanks for the practical and detailed information. I am sure many people will opt for it as cost is coming down. Dear Philip sir, what about the Solar Energy. This is gaining a lot of importance and in Karnataka we have abundant sunshine, can it be used for small households and commercial purposes. Please make a write up on solar energy as it is emerging technology and it is good for the environment
Lucy Rodrigues, Moodubelle/Mumbai Wed, February-10-2016, 12:43
Thank you for the nice article. Happy to read about the benefits of LED lights.
Valerian Alva, Kattingeri Wed, February-10-2016, 11:04
Thanks Philip for the detailed explanation and showcasing advantages of using LED bulbs. Yes eventhough initially the cost looks higher but it will yield greater savings in the long run. Central governments scheme of replacing older bulbs with LED bulbs is novel idea of saving power. Somehow Karnataka is lagging behind in this initiative just because center is ruled by opposite party. Instead of looking at the political victories, can our politicians work for the benefit of common people and save mother earth from global warming and associated disasters.
Philip Mudartha, Navi Mumbai Wed, February-10-2016, 10:35
News Update: Bangalore Mirror in its Jan 22 edition updated the progress of the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme(DELP) of GoI in Karnataka, where ESL through various ESCOMS aim to distribute 9W rated LED bulbs at subsidized price of Rs 100 each up to a maximum of 10 to a household, targeting 6 crore units till end of April 2016. Readers from Belle may update local development. Secondly, web admin: pl correct the posting error of the type pictures in the table.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Tue, February-9-2016, 4:01
Hi Philip, Happy to read your article and facts based report. Interesting to learn benefits of LED lights. I appreciate your meaningful call for-" making a positive contribution to alleviate the power shortage crisis"
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