By S.P. Garnaik, Executive Director (Lighting), EESL
Light is essential for sustaining human life and enabling productive human activity. Most of the man-made, artificial sources of light use either electricity or fossil fuels and must, therefore, be used judiciously to minimise their impact on natural resources and the environment. One of the simplest ways of minimising the consumption of energy is to use energy efficient appliances for lighting, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) or solar LED tube lights, bulbs and lamps. Lighting can account for 10-20 per cent of the total energy bills in cities. In a developing country such as India, street lighting assumes strategic importance for its ability to create economic and social stability. Inefficient lighting can lead to a significant waste of financial resources, while poor lighting can create unsafe conditions. Energy efficient technologies and designs can reduce street lighting costs to the extent of 25-60 per cent.
The Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) was launched by India’s Honourable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on January 5, 2015, as “Prakash Path – National Programme for LED-based Home and Street Lighting”. Subsequently, the SLNP was primarily rolled out in municipalities, urban local bodies (ULBs) and gram panchayats across the country and has been at the heart of the transformation of India’s public lighting system in recent years. It has greatly improved the quality of life and brought prosperity to local communities by creating employment opportunities and giving a boost to mobility, safety and trade.
Achievements and impact
Till date, the SLNP has enabled the retrofitting of over 12 million street lights in over 1,600 ULBs in 20 states, and 13,000 gram panchayats in three states; yielded energy savings to the tune of 8.22 billion kWh per year; avoided peak demand of 1,370.48 MW; achieved a reduction of 5.66 million tCO2 per year in greenhouse gas emissions; increased the uptime of street lights to more than 95 per cent; and yielded estimated annual monetary savings of Rs 56.36 billion in the electricity bills of municipalities.
The bulk procurement of LED lights has led to a reduction in price from Rs 180 per watt to Rs 40 per watt in six years. In those six years since the inception of the SLNP, there has been an eightfold increase in the production of industrial LED lights, from around 5,000 per day to 40,000 per day. The programme has also contributed to an increase in the sales of street lights, from less than 100,000 lights per month to more than 1 million lights per month.
From a social standpoint, the programme has enhanced safety on roads due to better illumination, and has generated significant employment opportunities across the supply chain of the SLNP ecosystem.
How the SLNP works
So far, under the SLNP, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has partnered with state governments, municipal bodies and ULBs to replace traditional street lights with energy efficient LED lights, with no upfront investment on their part. This has made LED adoption a very attractive proposition and encouraged greater participation in the programme. EESL has employed a unique business model through which it recovers its capital investment over time by monetising the savings that result from the reduction in energy and maintenance costs.
The SLNP has emerged as a shining example of a self-sustaining government initiative. It has not only surpassed traditional benefits such as energy savings and emission reduction, but has also triggered large-scale investments in the manufacture of LED bulbs and delivered tangible benefits to the country.
EESL has a seven-year contract with local bodies that guarantees a minimum energy saving of 45-50 per cent, and provides free replacements and maintenance of lights. Furthermore, its state-of-the-art centralised control and monitoring system for remote operation and supervising addresses the lack of two important things – monitoring mechanisms, and warranties against technical defects. EESL’s revolutionary model has made the SLNP attractive and scalable, and helped it overcome the barriers that had traditionally impeded the large-scale replacement of street lights in the country.
Challenges in implementation
The implementation of the SLNP, however, has not been without its share of challenges, the biggest of which was getting repayments from ULBs and municipalities. Although the agreement contains a standard payment security mechanism in the form of escrow, there is a general resistance, which leads to a delay in the opening of escrow accounts by ULBs and funding of the same due to uneven cash flows. The cash inflows of ULBs are largely dependent upon state/central allocations/ grants, which are inconsistent and often result in delayed payments to EESL. In some states, there is no dedicated mechanism or budget head at the state level to make payments to EESL. We have also witnessed reluctance on the part of ULBs to make payments to EESL. A robust and smooth payment security mechanism is necessary to make investments sustainable in a programme such as the SLNP, which has huge national importance.
EESL continues to illuminate the way ahead for making energy efficiency an integral part of the nation’s sustainability discourse, and the ongoing energy efficiency revolution.
The way ahead, as envisioned for the SLNP
EESL has ambitious plans for the SLNP over the next four to five years, involving investments to the tune of Rs 50 billion to install around 16 million LED lights in municipalities and in rural India. The vision for 2024-25 includes expanding the programme across India by increasing penetration in new and existing ULBs and gram panchayats, and among institutional users such as the NHAI, Indian ports, railway yards, industries and townships. It is estimated that there is a gross potential of installing around 70 million LED street lights, including those already installed, across the country.
The SLNP is strongly backed by government policies and has emerged as a shining example of a self-sustaining government initiative. It has not only surpassed traditional benefits such as energy savings and emission reduction, but has also triggered large-scale investments in the manufacturing of LED bulbs and delivered tangible benefits to state governments and, indeed, the country. Now, more than a decade after its inception in 2009, EESL continues to illuminate the way ahead for making energy efficiency an integral part of the nation’s sustainability discourse, and the ongoing energy efficiency revolution.