29 March 2017 10:07:50 IST

Don’t (bother to) switch off lights and fans

The more practical way of saving energy is to use such equipment that consume less

The headline must have shocked some of you. ‘Switch off energy consuming equipment when not in use’ has been a sage advice for decades. Those who give the advice (I wonder if they follow it themselves) have their heart in the right place, but what is sensible need not always be practical. As a result, the noble rule of energy conservation has mostly been followed in breach.

Blame it on the carefree human nature, if you will. So, don’t bother switching off fans and lights. Just replace them with new ones that consume less power. The more practical way of saving energy is to use such equipment that consume less.

Three years back, India took two significant steps and the results, thus far, are wow.

Grabbing attention

Regular readers of this column may remember an article under the title New lamps for old , where I spoke of a company called EESL or Energy Efficient Services Ltd., whose business is to throw out old, electricity-guzzling lights and fans, and replace them with smart ones.

Now, you can cry yourself hoarse, spouting speech after speech about the economic benefits of using energy efficient appliances both to the user and the country, but nobody will listen to you; except perhaps, they might ask you to not be a nuisance.

But if you tell them ‘Throw your old fan out the window and put this smarty in its place. You can pay me for the new one out of your savings in energy bills’, the proposition suddenly becomes attractive. Folks would jump at it.

Numbers don’t lie

And they did. That is why EESL’s turnover in 2014-15 — the year in which it rolled up its sleeves and got to work — achieved a turnover of ₹70 crore. In just two years, its turnover is going to be ₹1,500 crore, with net profit of ₹100 crore!

The firm, owned by four public sector power companies — NTPC, PGCIL, PFC and REC — is now an emerging blue-chip. It is very likely that in three years, it will be a ₹10,000-crore company, with a profit of at least ₹1,000 crore. If you are thinking how nice it would be to invest in the company, wait. You will soon have the opportunity, because EESL is going public.

Saving and freeing

But the point I wish to make to you is not the robust financials of this PSU; rather, it is about what it has done for the country. Till date, it has, by replacing 22 crore bulbs and 6 lakh fans, saved the country ₹12,000 crore worth electricity. In other words, if EESL had not got into the act, consumers would have consumed so much more.

More importantly, it has freed up close to 6,000 MW of generating capacity during peak hours. This 6,000 MW of power plants can cater to other demands. But for the use of more energy efficient lamps and fans, India would either have had to create additional 6,000 MW (which would cost about ₹30,000 crore), or suffer a shortage of power.

EESL is now going after other electrical equipment, such as municipal water pumps, agricultural water pumps, and more fans and lights, amongst others. It is also pitching constructing buildings that consume less energy, and its cost is to be paid for by the building-owners over a period of time, out of the savings in the bill.

Bee-ing smart

The second significant step India took, was to introduce a system called PAT, short for Perform, Achieve, Trade, which is run by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). It was aimed at (mainly) factories that produce metals and chemicals, and power plants.

Some 478 ‘designated entities’ were asked to strive towards consuming less energy relative to a fixed level of consumption. Do better than the baseline, and you receive ‘energy savings certificates’ or ESCerts, that you can sell in the market. These will be bought by those designated entities that drink more energy than the baseline.

The first three-year cycle just got over and again, the results are heartening. Last week, the government put out a press release, saying this exercise has saved so much energy as would require 5,000 MW of generating capacity during peak hours. In other words, the PAT system freed-up 5,000 MW of capacity. The press release calculated the value of savings at ₹37,000-odd crore.

Thus, between EESL and BEE, India has obviated the need for 11,000 MW generating capacity. So, if a clutch of new factories come up and they happen to need 11,000 MW , there will be no need to set up new plants.

A long way to go

And this is only for starters. Both EESL and the PAT system have a long way to go. For sure, they will save more on consumption.

And we are yet to enter the age of smart grids, smart meters, and software-enabled cutting down of transmission losses. ‘Energy efficiency’ is still a very under-appreciated area in India. It is today at the stage where solar was five years back.

Expect an explosive growth here. Students would be well advised to keep a sharp eye on developments in energy efficiency.