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SOLAR LED BRINGS ‘LEAPFROG’ LIGHTING TO OFF-GRID INDIA AND THAILAND

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By Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting

As governments across the world look for ways to curb carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency is an urgent priority. For industrialised nations, renovation of existing infrastructure is crucial to save both energy and the environment. In developing regions, solar lighting has given us huge opportunities to ‘leapfrog’ outdated technology.

New projects in India and Thailand vividly demonstrate this potential. The Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Manipur, for example, have begun installation of more than 76,000 solar LED street lamps in rural communities. Solar LED is less expensive, more environmentally friendly, and eliminates the noxious fumes from alternatives such as kerosene.

Today, almost 300 million Indians depend on wood fires or kerosene for their lighting. Worldwide, about 1.1 billion people–or one in seven–are trapped in light poverty, denied access to reliable electricity. Clean solar light is a simple, fast solution to this injustice.

Ending light poverty is part-and parcel of the global drive to improve energy efficiency. A doubling in the rate of energy efficiency improvement worldwide to 3 percent per year–from the current annual rate of around 1.5 percent–would reduce the global bill for fossil fuels by more than US$2 trillion by 2030.

Such dramatic improvements can be achieved simply by making better use of technology that is already available. The new installations in Uttar Pradesh will light more than 800 villages and small towns, following a tender process focused on new and renewable energy sources.

Philips, the global leader in lighting, won separate LED solar street lighting contracts with UPNEDA (Uttar Pradesh New and Renewable Energy Development Agency) and MANIREDA (Manipur Renewable Energy Development Agency) to supply 12W, 1,200 lumen LED luminaires powered by IP66, high efficiency PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) chargers.

The street lamps built with integrated LED drivers and backed with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty, will deliver energy efficiency of more than 96 percent. The housings are designed for harsh conditions, notably extreme temperatures and exposure to water and dust.

The solar mission is a government funded scheme, monitored by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Under the Prakash Path initiative, the government aims to unlock huge savings from the clean energy potential of LED lighting technology in areas where electricity is unavailable or erratic.

“Such model projects go a long way in raising awareness of the power of lighting technologies,” said Harsh Chitale, CEO of Philips Lighting, South Asia.

In Manipur, MANIREDA required installation of 1,400 f 43W solar street lighting systems spanning a variety of terrain, from main areas of the state capital to small towns and villages. Exposed conditions posed a logistical challenge for Philips.

The customised 43W, 3,500 lumen Solar LED Street Lighting System includes battery mountings on poles capable of withstanding strong winds on exposed hillsides, plus a state-of-the-art MPPT (Maximum Power Point Charging) controller for high-efficiency battery charging in variable weather.

For local planners, ease and speed of installation are often decisive factors in the choice of solar lamps. In southern Thailand, for example, Philips will complete installation of more than

17,000 advanced LED street lamps to light a graveyard and surrounding paths. Last year, 13,000 units were installed with the balance for delivery in 2016. The installation combines standard and customised BRP330 and BRP210 solar luminaires with an efficacy of 115lm/W.

For policy-makers, grasping the opportunities of energy-efficient lighting will often entail a simpler decision-making process in developing countries. Low maintenance requirements for solar LED are often complimented by the simplified administrative and political processes for stand-alone solutions. Where planners are creating infrastructure from scratch, solar LED is a zero-energy solution.

Such advantages make the prospect of an end to light poverty attainable, and demonstrate the policy choices that can drive a global shift to more energy efficient lighting. In India alone, the government has calculated that converting to 100 percent LED lighting would reduce total power consumption by 20,000 MW–a saving that unlocks new resources needed to deliver on the promise of reliable power for every citizen.

The decision process behind these innovative lighting choices has highlighted the potential for solar installations to tackle global challenges in agriculture, education, health and public infrastructure. Adopting the best and cleanest technologies can create six million new jobs within five years and slash the average household energy bill by a third.

Lighting accounts for 19 percent of global electricity consumption, yet even the simplest of changes–a universal switch to LED lighting–would reduce this proportion to about 7 percent, curbing global CO2 emissions by about 1,400 megatons by 2030.

A switch to LED lighting is a necessary first step in the sequence of energy-efficient innovation. LED consumes at least 40 percent less energy than conventional lighting. The potential savings from connected lighting–where intelligent LEDs, embedded with sensors and connected wirelessly, can be managed remotely via the Internet–can reach 80 percent.

Two years ago, Los Angeles began installing 140,000 LED street lights. In 2015, the city reported an energy saving of 63 percent and a cost reduction of almost US$9 million. The city offers a compelling model for other urban conurbations. Of approximately 300 million streetlights worldwide, only about 10 percent are LEDs. And just 1 percent is connected.

We are living at a critical juncture for the future of our planet. Last December’s global agreement at the COP21 climate summit in Paris is an unprecedented commitment to pre-empt a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. We know that unless we can change fundamentally the way we use the world’s resources, the consequences of business as usual will be catastrophic.

Failing to take advantage of this technology would be a missed opportunity. The collective pledges by 185 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions mark an historic breakthrough. For the first time there is a shared commitment to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celcius, with a stated target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is a pivotal moment, an opportunity to do business differently.

By setting emissions targets, country by country, COP21 achieved more than previous attempts to negotiate a framework for cooperation from the top-down. Even so, the sum of these individual national pledges is not yet sufficient to achieve our shared goal. The crucial next step is to implement an effective review mechanism, also agreed in Paris, to revise national targets over time.

Energy efficiency gives us the power to make good that deficit. If we can double the annual rate of improvement in energy efficiency, to 3 percent per year, the more ambitious goal to which our governments have committed can be achieved. Next to the urgent environmental need, we know that clever use of energy will unlock a host of economic and social benefits. Best of all, solutions to this great energy challenge already exist.

Off-grid solar lighting is an important element of the policy mix that will drive down carbon emissions and accelerate global development. We don’t have to wait for answers or new inventions. The technology we need is already transforming the lives of off-grid and urban communities in India and Thailand.

 

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