The demand for energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs has grown 40-50% over the past three years, according to companies in the business, while demand for regular (or incandescent) bulbs has stagnated. Because bulbs are the second-largest consumer of power after air conditioners in most households and offices, power utilities, electrical goods makers and environmental organizations such as Greenpeace (through a recent high-decibel campaign) have sought to promote the use of CFLs.
The Indian CFL industry was worth Rs700 crore in 2006, according to the Electric Lamp Component Manufacturers’ Association of India (Elcoma), an industry body. Last year, companies such as Philips Electronics India Ltd, Havells Ltd, Bajaj Electicals Ltd and Orpat Electronics sold 80 million CFLs, with other firms in the unorganized sector selling an equal number. Some 90-95 crore incandescent bulbs were sold in India last year.
CFLs are roughly the same size as incandescent lamps and can fit most bulb holders. They live longer than incandescent bulbs, consume less energy and account for less global warming, according to Greenpeace.
CFL manufacturers, some of who continue to make incandescent bulbs, claim that CFLs last up to 10 times as long and cost the consumer a third the power the latter do. However, they still cost Rs110-115, compared with Rs9-15 for incandescent bulbs. Manufacturers expect CFL prices to fall further to Rs80-85 and some state governments have done their bit by removing local duties on the sales of CFLs.
The lighting division of Philips expects to sell more than 20 million CFLs this year, seven million more than it did in 2006. “We are going to schools and talking to children about the energy-saving methods that can be adopted to conserve energy,” said S. Venkataramani, executive director and senior vice-president, Philips Electronics India. The company plans to spend Rs20 crore on advertising its CFLs this year.
“Prices have been lowered substantially by taking advantage of high volume sales. This was possible as the electrical firms worked together with utilities that offered consumers various schemes for buying such bulbs on instalments.
Schemes are being worked out to gain international carbon points and incentives which will help in subsidizing prices,” said H.S. Mamak, an adviser to Elcoma.
Because they replace incandescent bulbs that contribute to global warming, CFLs earn good-energy points or carbon credits which can be traded on international carbon exchanges.
Last year, Bajaj Lighting distributed one lakh CFLs through an alliance with Reliance Energy Ltd. And in a six-month-long promotion, Philips sold two lakh CFLs to customers of the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd. In a bid to replicate that model, all CFL makers are talking to electricity boards in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.