In the context the step taken by the Tamil Nadu government is an extremely strong and timely signal to push the agenda of conservation. Governments of the day have always provided leadership in scaling up work in any area, though, the inertia in the system has caused delayed responses in spite of signals from scientific world and evidence. To be fair to governments they need to bring a degree of acceptability in the public before any serious change is attempted. The current ban is a strong statement by the government about its belief and has been attempted in the controlled sphere of its offices. This would certainly work on the entire system and, even without coercive steps, is likely to result in people taking to the concept. This is certainly a major step in the right direction.
That said, it would be interesting to look at the options available to the utilities to promote energy saving lighting devices. The CFLs have already found wide acceptance in the country, especially in the urban areas where the tariffs reflect the cost of supply of power. The spread in rural areas is not as much, probably due to lack of awareness as well as lack of incentives to adopt them. However, there have been some concerns raised about CFLs, primarily on the aspect of disposal of used CFLs and the Mercury pollution that the haphazard disposal is likely to cause. Secondly, the low power factor that some of the non standard products are likely to cause, would result in reactive losses in the system while bringing reduction in the power bills of individual consumers.
LEDs are the other technology available to promote energy conservation in lighting. It is only their high price that is preventing further spread in the use of LEDs. LEDs do not suffer from the two difficulties that are likely to be faced by the increasing use of the CFLs. Further research and mass production is likely to bring down the costs further.
The reluctance of many western nations to use CFLs stems from the objections mentioned above. Large scale promotion of the same is not seen in many of the environmentally conscious nations. In this context, it is felt that we need to carefully evaluate options before taking the big plunge. It is hoped that the limited step of the Government of Tamil Nadu would engender such a debate and result in optimal public welfare.
Tamil Nadu bans incandescent lamps in govt offices (KSEB Officers' association Website)
Tamil Nadu Friday banned use of old-style, energy intensive incandescent bulbs in offices across the state and ordered the use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to save power. According to the order, the ban was applicable to state government undertakings, government boards, cooperative societies, local bodies and organisations getting governmental assistance.
Comparing the energy consumption of four crore 60 watts incandescent bulbs and 14 watts CFL for an hour, the government said the use of CFL results in a whopping saving of 1,840 MW.
While the four crore 60W incandescent bulbs burning for an hour would consume 2,400 MW, a similar number of 14W CFLs would consume only 560 MW, it said.