Let there be CFL

See the light CFL is becoming popular in India with a little help from government schemes. But its wide-scale use requires regulation

Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015 | 21:11:47 PM

Let there be CFL

Arnab Pratim Dutta

When the kerosene supply went down sharply in Nagpur four years ago, Bharat Parihar's business of renting out Petromax lamps to vegetable vendors began to look fragile. But then he hit upon a solution that not only saved his business but also pleased his customers. He began to rent out portable compact fluorescent lamps known as cfls. "Earlier, we paid Rs 20 for hiring a Petromax lamp. Now the cost has come down to Rs 15," said Deepak Chacherkar, one of Parihar's clients.

In Bengalooru, the lamps with thin white tubes have turned business brisk for about 60 vendors at the semi-urban Nagnathpura market who had switched over to energy-efficient cfls from kerosene lamps. "It is easier for my customers to choose vegetables in cfl light," said Gangadhar G K, sitting on the pavement with the white lamp beside him.With the number of customers increasing, he now does business till late in the evening. Two years ago, an entrepreneur rented Gangadhar a battery-operated cfl, for which he pays Rs 20 a day, almost as much as he was spending on kerosene in the black.

Move to the Northeast. Uday Kumar Das, a shopkeeper of an electrical goods store at Dispur in Guwahati, said his customers prefer cfls for their efficiency even if they have to pay more. "I have been selling cfls since 2003. Then, only a few bulbs would leave the shelf, but for a year now I have been selling about 300 bulbs a month," he said.

Surender Sharaf, who owns a petrol pump at Sirsa in Haryana, knows what difference cfl's energy efficiency can make. "I had four 200-watt and 70-odd 60-watt incandescent bulbs (the common round ones) at my petrol-filling station. In 2006, I replaced them with cfls. The change in my electricity bill was amazing. From about Rs 15,000 a month it came down to Rs 10,000," he said.

The most advanced lighting device, cfl has become an alternative to incandescent bulbs, also known as general lighting system or gls. Estimates by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, a statutory body under the power ministry, show that 600-800 million cfls have entered homes, business establishments and government offices in India. Government schemes plan to populate another 400 million light points in houses with cfls.

There is very little data on the number of cfls used in the world. The Washington-based independent research institution Worldwatch Institute estimates that 3.5 billion cfls were used globally in 2003. It notes that reliable data on use of cfls since 2003 does not exist but sales trends indicate the lamp's growing popularity. It says that in the US between 2000 and 2004 cfl sales went up from 21 million to 93 million pieces and in 2007 sales reached 343 million. In Western and Eastern Europe the number of cfls sold in 2004 was close to 232 million units and 56 million units respectively. China, produces about 85 per cent of all cfls worldwide. In 2006, it produced about 2.4 billion pieces, the institute said.

In comparison, India, with a much smaller market for electrical appliances, consumed about 165 million cfls in 2007. The poor in the world are leapfrogging from kerosene or inefficient lighting to the most advanced.

What propelled the growth of cfl is its energy-saving quality. A 15-watt cfl produces as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, and a 20-watt cfl can replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb. Lighting efficiency of a bulb is measured in lumen per watt. In case of a cfl it ranges from 45 lumen per watt to 60 lumen per watt. An incandescent bulb converts about 95 per cent of electricity into heat and only five per cent is converted into light, therefore, it generates only 14 to 16 lumen per watt.

Take the example of Delhi where the domestic consumer pays Rs 4.5 per unit of electricity (kilo watt hour). A 60-watt incandescent bulb burning for 4 hours a day will consume 87.6 kwh in a year, whereas a 15-watt cfl in a similar condition will use 21.9 kwh, saving the consumer Rs 296. A comparison between a 20-watt cfl and a 100-watt incandescent bulb shows that the cfl will consume 116.8 kwh less, saving Rs 526.

Now suppose the government added 300 million cfls of 15 watt and 200 million cfls of 20 watt, the energy saved would be 31.4 billion kwh a year, nearly half the power deficit India faced in 2007-2008. How much money will that save? Rs 14,125 crore, enough to build a 3,139-mw power plant.

How consumers were won

Sirsa became the first distric Government schemes induced growth

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency, state electricity boards and electricity supply companies are responsible for popularizing cfls in India. "Government-sponsored, energy-saving schemes have increased awareness to a level that every electricity consumer in the country knows that cfls can drastically reduce his or her electricity bills," said Bibison Baby, project manager with Market Pulse, a market research and monitoring consultancy.

Price remains the biggest constraint for the cfl industry. Although the prices of cfls are down by over 50 per cent since 2001, they cannot compete with cheap incandescent bulbs. At Rs 15, a 60-watt incandescent bulb is five to 10 times cheaper than an equivalent good quality cfl costing Rs 75 to Rs 150.

For commercial establishments and urban consumers who consume more than 100 units of electricity per month, it makes sense to switch over to cfls. For such customers the reduced electricity bills will make up for the cost of cfls. But there is a sizeable population of consumers who consume less than 50 units per month and do not pay more than Rs 100 per month as power tariff. Prayas Energy Group, a Pune-based advocacy trust, estimates that 25 to 30 per cent of the 200-million-plus households in the country use less than 50 units per month. For such consumers, cfls either have to be provided free of cost or at the cost of incandescent bulbs. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency's Bachat Lamp Yojana may take care of this problem to an extent.

The Bachat Lamp Yojana launched nationwide on May 28, 2007, envisages distribution of cfls costing about Rs 100 per piece to a target population at the price of an incandescent bulb, Rs 10-15. The deficit will be recovered through certified emission reduction under the clean development mechanism (cdm) of the Kyoto Protocol. cdm allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn carbon credits.

The bureau hopes to populate 400 million house connections in the country with cfls. The scheme will be first launched in Yamunanagar in Haryana and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in early 2009. Under it about 650,000 bulbs in each city will be given at the reduced price. The Visakhapatnam project aims to reduce power consumption by 60,000 mwh in a year, and eliminate 383,342 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The participating vendor in both the cities, Osram will spend 20.64 million (Rs 135 crore) on distributing cfls, while hoping to get back 38.33 million (Rs 253.3 crore) as carbon credits.

The Himalayan state has the country's most ambitious cfl programme the government buys massive quantities of these efficient bulbs and distributes them free to each household in the state. It hopes to recover investment through carbon credits and the sale of saved power outside the state. In November 23, 2008, the state introduced the Atal Bijli Bachat Yojana to give each household in the state four cfls--it involved a total of 1.6 million households and an order of 6.4 million bulbs at a cost of Rs 65 crore. Under the scheme, domestic consumers who do not have arrears with the electricity department can go to the local sub-station and get a packet of four cfls, containing two 15-watt and two 20-watt bulbs.To get the new bulbs they have to bring an equal number of 60-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, and their last electricity bill.

The scheme was delayed for some months because the four big bulb companies, which passed the technical evaluation process, formed a cartel and quoted similar prices in their tenders over Rs 400 for each packet, explained an official of the state electricity board. Another problem the state faced was to decide on the specifications of the bulbs. The state wanted to specify that it wanted cfls with a power factor of 0.85, so that it could get the most efficient option. Power factor is measured on a scale of 0 to 1. Bulbs of low power factor increase transmission and distribution loss (see power factor). "None of the major brands could comply with this specification because they only produced cfls with a power factor of 0.5," added the official. The problem was compounded because the efficiency specifications being framed by the Bureau of Indian Standards, which asked for 0.85 power factor, were to come into force by January 2009. The companies cried foul, arguing that the state was asking for higher than required standards. But the state stuck to its guns.

In September 17, 2008, the first tender for the bulbs were cancelled because of the high price. When the new tender was floated, HP Socomec, a Delhi-based electrical equipment manufacturing company, was found to be the lowest bidder. After negotiations, the price was agreed at Rs 387 per packet. As Phoenix Lamps agreed to match this price, the order was split between the lowest and the second lowest bidder, with Socomac getting an order of 4 million and Phoenix 2.4 million cfls. The tender also asked companies to provide a minimum warranty of 18 months on the cfls and made it mandatory for suppliers to have adequate disposal and recycling facilities to treat defective, damaged and expired cfls.

The scheme is now being implemented in different parts of the state. The government's calculations are based on the savings it will make through the use of these efficient appliances; it estimates a reduction of 270 million units of power in the domestic sector, which it can sell to industries currently barred from operating during peak hours because of power shortage. It says in terms of energy savings, household consumers can expect a reduction of 15-20 per cent in their electricity bills, saving 150 mw during peak hours. The government expects to earn about Rs 90--100 crore a year by selling the saved electricity.

The Himachal Pradesh government has also applied for carbon credits under cdm. The state electricity board in its background document estimates that the cfl scheme would be entitled 188,496 certified emission reductions, which can generate Rs 20 crore annually. It now hopes to light up the state and make it green as well.

Sirsa in Haryana is the first district in the country to switch over to the cfl -based lighting system. Apart from a few establishments that require incandescent bulbs, like welding shops, Sirsa completely switched over to cfl on August 15, 2007. Six months ago, electricity provider Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam introduced a scheme based on selling cfls at half the price printed on the packaging. cfls of capacity 11 watt, 15 watt and 20 watt were sold at Rs 67.50, Rs 75 and Rs 100 respectively. The Nigam set up 100 teams and launched a door-to-door campaign to persuade people. Nigam officials were accompanied by sales representatives of the vendor companies who sold cfls on the spot.

The Nigam used the wide dealer margins to reduce the cost of cfls. A ready-to-use cfl of 15-watt capacity costs Rs 55-60 after excise and freight duties are paid. Before it reaches the customer, cfl travels through the super-stockist, stockist and the retailer. At every level the price increases by 10-15 per cent. "When it reaches the end user, cfl's cost is 50-60 per cent higher than the factory price," said Nitin Sharma, the sales manager of Finolex that offered a similar discount in Delhi between June and December 2008. "The cost of a cfl with the printed price of Rs 100 can easily be brought down to Rs 65 if it can be sold directly to the consumer."

It was one of the first states in India to start cfl schemes to reduce domestic power consumption. It faces a load shedding of 4,500-5,000 mw. Under pressure from the Maharashtra Energy Regulatory Commission (merc) and some non-profit groups, power utilities, including the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (msedcl) and Reliance Energy, were a year ago forced to introduce measures to cut down power consumption.

A few cfl -based pilot projects have been undertaken in some cities, but these are yet to be launched at the state level. One big reason behind the delay is the proposed Bachat Lamp Yojana, under which cfls will be sold at a subsidized price. "Subsidy or no subsidy, cfl distribution projects must carry on because the cost of inaction is high. cfls have the potential to save 10,000 mw in India if all the existing and to-be-connected residential consumers replace one 60-watt bulb with 15-watt cfl," said Girish Sant, a member of Prayas.

msedcl, India's largest distribution utility, undertook a cfl distribution project in Nashik between November 2005 and June 2006. The aim was to save 10 mw by installing 0.3 million cfls. Asian Electronics, Osram and Hollonics won the contract to supply cfls at Rs 100-110 per piece. msedcl only acted as a facilitator and recovered the cost of cfls from consumers. On merc's directions, Prayas evaluated the project and found that against the target of selling 300,000 cfls, the project led to the sale of 379,872 cfls. Prayas estimates that it led to an annual saving of 12-16 million units. The pilot project, however, failed from the perspective of cfl quality.

Reliance Energy also launched a pilot study on cfl distribution in Mumbai in December 2005 and then a scheme, under which 415,929 cfls were sold. Reliance's calculations indicate the resultant load relief could be 2.2 million units per month. msedcl and Reliance schemes have been discontinued in anticipation of the central scheme.

Piecing it together

A 10-year-old assembles CFLs a The CFL market in India

The CFL market in India is complex. It comprises at least 12 big brands and perhaps hundreds of small players, whose contribution is not measured. elcoma, the primary association of lamp and components manufacturers, estimates the cfl market size in the country is between 150 million and 200 million pieces. Of this 40 to 50 per cent is dominated by the unorganized market, it estimates. "The organized sector provides us production and sales data periodically, but as far as the unorganized market is concerned we can only guess," said Sunil Sikka, vice-president of elcoma and president of Havells India, a major cfl producer.

In terms of quality, the market can be divided into four groups. The best quality cfls, with over 8,000 hours of life and a power factor of 0.8 or more, have a market share of 20 per cent. The second group, comprising 40 per cent of the market, has a lamp life of 6,000 to 8,000 hours and a power factor of 0.5 or more. The third are low quality cfls that run for 3,000 to 6,000 hours and have a market share of 10 per cent. Then there are cfls with no guaranteed life.

The Bureau of Indian Standards prepared standards for cfls in 2002. In November 2008, it increased the power factor of cfl from 0.5 to 0.85 and fixed 6,000 hours as the minimum life for all cfls. The standards have come into effect from January 1, 2009. But in a meeting of the bureau's technical evaluation committee on January 9, elcoma insisted that the industry was not prepared for the change. The bureau gave the industry time till June 2009 to increase power factor. Fourteen manufacturers have acquired licences to make cfls with 0.85 power factor. The bureau has also decided to examine whether high power factor will affect the performance of these 14 brands' products.

Three types of players exist in Indian market manufacturer-cum-importers, importer-cum-assemblers and importer-cum-traders. The first category comprises big brands that belong to well-known manufacturers of lighting products. This group imports both the ready-to-use cfls and raw material such as cut glass tubes and triband phosphor and electrical components such as the ballast (see Deconstructing lamp). Most of these companies have their own production chains where about 90 per cent of the manufacturing process is carried out. The second category is a mix of well-known names and small-scale operators who import parts of cfl, but have facilities to assemble them. Both the first and the second category are isi marked. The third category is fly-by-night operators who import parts as well as the finished product, but of the poorest quality. cfls produced by this group have no isi mark and are sold without any warranty.

According to Bibison Baby of Market Pulse, the cfl market in India is very difficult to track. Philips, with the biggest, 25 per cent, share in the cfl market, is not the biggest producer of cfl in India. It is Phoenix Lamps, with a market share of about three per cent, he said. "Phoenix has the capacity to manufacture 65 million cfls a year, which is less than Crompton and Greaves's over 100 million.

Down to Earth  
CFL production at Havells' factory in Faridabad, Haryana
But in terms of market share, Crompton and Greaves has captured only about five per cent," he added.

Baby said there is so much contract manufacturing happening in the industry that it is difficult to track which company is procuring from whom. For example, only 20-25 per cent of lamps made by Phoenix are sold under its brand name Halonix; the rest are supplied to both big and small manufacturers in the country, said another market source. India is a net importer of cfls. In 2007, close to 65 million cfls were imported, apart from burners. Of this close to 75 per cent were imported by Osram and Philips. India exported about 20 million cfls that year.

cfls have been in India for a little less than a decade. Earlier, they were imported in India by multinational companies, including Philips and Osram, from factories in Europe and the US. The price was prohibitively high at Rs 250 to Rs 350 per bulb. About eight years ago, companies started importing cfls from China that cost about one-fifth the European or American cfl. "The Chinese brought down the market price to Rs 40-50 per piece. This was the first time people started replacing incandescent bulbs with cfls," said Sikka.

The Chinese cfls were average in terms of power consumption and luminescence but failed to deliver on lamp life. In 2001, India's consumption was 27 million pieces, almost 90 per cent of which were imported from China. Even bigger companies like Philips and Osram shifted their production bases from Europe to China, and were importing these products in India. Between 2001 and 2002 cfl consumption in India went up by almost 26 per cent to 34 million pieces.

The production of cfls in India also started around that time. On complaints by some Indian manufacturers against cheap Chinese imports, India imposed anti-dumping measures on cfls imported from China and Hong Kong in December 2002. Anybody supplying cfls at a price below the fixed minimum rate--US $1.845 for lamps that work on a gls connection without modifications--had to pay the deficit.

This slowed down the market growth. Registering a growth of just six per cent over the previous year, 2003 ended with an approximate sale of 36 million cfls. "Anti-dumping restrictions did temporarily slow down the cfl sale, but vendors found ways of circumventing these measures," said D C Agrawal, the general secretary of the Federation of All India Small Scale Lamps and Components Manufacturers Association (faislcoma).

CFL Deconstructed

Produced, imported, assembled

BURNER is the white fluorescent tube that is connected to the plastic base. It consists of a phosphor coating, argon gas, a small quantity of mercury and two metal conductors. The superior quality burner contains triband-phosphor which provides better illumination. Inferior ones use halo-phosphor.

Down to Earth Trade Well known brands import as well as manufacture burners of only the superior quality in India. The unorganized sector imports these burners through dealers who sell it to local assemblers. A small-scale industry source said about 50,000 CFL assemblers are present in India. These units operate from homes where a spare room is allocated for the assembly line. A locally assembled 15-watt halo-phosphor-based CFL can be procured for Rs 20, the illumination would be similar to a 7-watt CFL with a triband phosphor coating.

ELECTRONIC BALLAST is inside a plastic base with a bayonet fitting or an Edison screw. It limits the amount of current in an electric circuit. It comprises a circuit board with rectifiers, filter capacitor and two switching transistors, which convert AC into DC.

Down to Earth Trade Manufactured in India. The dealer who sells burners also sells ballasts to the assembler. In most cases of CFL failure, it is the ballast that malfunctions. The unorganized CFL sector uses poor quality ballasts which last only a few months. It accounts for 40 per cent of the CFL.

Down to Earth PLASTIC BASE This holds the ballast and the electronic circuitry of the CFL. It is produced locally and also imported from China.

BAYONET FITTING This is what goes into the lamp holder. Most are made in India.
The vendors, according to both Sikka and Agrawal, began importing sealed glass tubes--the white part of cfl known as the burner--and began assembling the lamps in India. "This defeated the purpose of stopping cheap, inferior cfls," said Sikka.

Since 2005, the growth of the cfl market has accelerated. While the lighting industry has cantered at 12 per cent growth per year, cfl sales have risen at an average of 50 per cent a year. Indian market consumed about 67 million pieces of cfl in 2005, about 97 million pieces in 2006 and over 165 million pieces in 2007. The anti-dumping notification ended in 2007. In 2008, the market size is estimated to have crossed 200 million pieces.

The price of cfls may go up. On November 21, 2008, the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping notified the new anti-dumping duty for cfl and its parts imported from China, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The burner, which was not part of the 2002 notification, will now invite duty. At present, a 15-watt locally assembled cfl can be procured for Rs 20. With the new duty structure, an importer will have to spend at least Rs 17.83 on importing a burner with a wattage of 10 or below, while for burners of 11 to 20 wattage the minimum price has been fixed at Rs 19.56. Minimum prices for cfls with and without ballasts range from Rs 21.86 to Rs 88.52. Anti-dumping duties have also been notified for Philips and Osram.

The new duty will affect the unorganized sector, but dealers say apart from a small increase in price, the notification will be ineffective. "Malaysia exports a small number of cfls to India. We will import most of the burners and ready-to-use cfls from there," said an importer. Chinese burners cost Rs 4-5 per piece, while a Malaysian burner costs Rs 8. "The new duty may raise the price of locally assembled cfls by Rs 5," he said, adding that Chinese cfls and burners can be imported from other countries where anti-dumping rules do not apply.

The preliminary findings of the anti-dumping investigations by the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping that came out on March 12, 2008, also mention Malaysia as one of the countries from where importers were bringing cfls. The findings noted that less than 3 per cent of the volume of the imported cfls was from Malaysia. "As imports from Malaysia were negligible by the reason of volume, the Authority did not consider it appropriate to initiate investigations against imports from Malaysia," the document noted.

No one's controlling mercury

A CFL bulb undergoes quality t Industry reluctant, regulators lax

The only hiccup in implementing a wide scale, cfl -based energy-saving programme in India is mercury, a small but essential component of the lamp. Mercury is a proven neurotoxin. Inhaling mercury vapours can severely damage the respiratory tract. Sore throat, coughing, pain or tightness in the chest, headache, muscle weakness, anorexia, gastrointestinal disturbance, fever, bronchitis and pneumonitis are symptoms of mercury toxicity.

Mercury in a cfl has no substitute but its quantity can be reduced. In developed countries, like the US and Europe, cfls with 1 mg of mercury are available. The cfls sold in India, however, have 3 mg to 13 mg mercury, according to the task force set up by the environment and forests ministry under its additional secretary A K Khwaja in August 2007.The mandate of the task force was to evolve a policy on safe use and disposal of mercury in the cfl sector, including in manufacturing. Its members included representatives of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Central Pollution Control Board, National Institute of Occupational Health, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the health ministry. Representatives of light manufacturing associations were also invited for discussions. In its report, released in May 2008, the task force recommended that the Bureau of Indian Standards should draw up standards for regulating the quantity of mercury in cfls.

The best way to dose a cfl with mercury is using pellets or mercury amalgams. Mercury is mixed with other metals such as tin to form small pellets, roughly the size of the tip of a ball point pen. The other way is to use liquid mercury. "The problem with liquid is that it is very hard to keep track of the amount of mercury going in," said Sunil Sikka, the president of Havells, a company that claims it restricts the use of mercury to 4 mg in its cfls. "With pellets, one can easily maintain a standard on the amount of mercury going in."

Under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive of the EU, cfls produced in or imported to its member states must not contain more than 5 mg of mercury. In the US, mercury content in a bulb is regulated under the voluntary Energystar rating programme. cfls that carry Energystar logo on their packaging do not contain more than 5 mg of mercury. Besides, the manufacturer has to specify the amount of mercury and lead on the packaging. It also has to specify that mercury and lead are toxins, and print information on local recycling and safe disposal.

Down to Earth  
Mercury pellets are a better option
In India, no mandatory or voluntary standards exist for regulating mercury in cfls. According to a member of the Bureau of Indian Standards, the issues of mercury dosing of cfl and mandatory labelling with a warning that the lamp contains mercury have not gone down well with the industry. "These issues are being discussed by the technical evaluation committee (of the bureau, on electric lamps and their auxiliaries) since November 2007, but the industry wants more time to comply," the member said.

On November 11, 2007, the committee called for carrying a warning on cfl packaging "This lamp contains mercury and it is hazardous. Proper care should be taken for its safe disposal." More than a year later the warning has not appeared on the packaging. "The word 'hazardous' in it has been replaced with 'harmful' on the insistence of elcoma," he said.

Down to Earth According to Prakash Bachani, the director of the bureau and member secretary of the committee, the technical committee has not reached a consensus on mercury standards. "The members feel that mercury should be regulated in a phased manner," he said. Bachani could not give a deadline when these regulations would be finalized.

Director general of elcoma Shyam Sujjan said the industry needed two years to bring down mercury levels in cfls. "We are not opposed to reducing mercury, but the industry needs more time to bring in efficient pill-dosing technologies," he said.

The lobby that has been asking for mercury regulations is the small-scale sector. According to Agrawal of the small-scale lamp manufacturers' association faislcoma, "cfl production in the small-scale sector has become a cottage industry, with over 50,000 assemblers across the country. The only way to regulate cheap imports is having stricter norms on mercury." Agrawal said not all small-scale sector vendors assemble cheap cfls and many of them are registered with the Bureau of Indian Standards. "I import cfl components from the Osram plant in China, so its quality is the same as that of any other branded vendor," he said. faislcoma is the only manufacturers' body that has submitted proposals to the Khwaja task force and the Bureau of Indian Standards for management of mercury in cfls.

Navneet Sharma, the deputy general manager (sales) of Surya Roshni, said almost all major brands, including his, are using mercury pellets in cfls. "We also export cfls. There is no question of double standards," Sharma added.

There is, however, still no system of collection and proper disposal of cfls. The Khwaja task force noted "As per the observations of the team which had visited some manufacturing units of cfls, the methodology and technology being adopted by them was far from satisfactory and they were required to take adequate care for mercury management." A member of the task force, who did not wish to be identified, said during their factory visits they found many manufacturers were not extending their cfl disposal facilities to the public. "There is about two per cent wastage during manufacturing. The wasted bulbs are disposed of at the factory itself. This facility can also be extended to spent bulbs returned by customers," he said. The wasted bulbs are crunched in an hour or two, so the facilities remain unused for most of the time.

An official of the Central Pollution Control Board confirmed that no cfl manufacturer has registered with it for disposal and recycling of the cfl waste. "cfls come under section 4 of the hazardous substance management rule that deals with electrical and electronic waste. Under it disposal and recycling facilities have to register with the board, but none has done that," he said.

The Khwaja task force recommended a tax on manufacturers and importers as a cover charge for disposal unless they built a disposal or recycling unit. According to Ajay Mathur of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, who was part of the Khwaja task force, the government will soon announce a policy on disposal and recycling of used cfls. "The government is planning to keep aside Rs 5 per cfl for its disposal. Rs 2 will be given to the person who brings a spent cfl, while Rs 3 will be spent on its recycling and disposal," he said, adding that it would also give a monetary incentive to junk-sellers to bring spent cfls to an authorized collection centre.

In the past five years India has registered a healthy growth in the sales of cfl. Government agencies, along with private power utilities, have pushed up sales by promoting it as a part of their demand side management strategy to save power. Indian cfl market is catching up with bigger countries like the US, though electrification and per capita power consumption in the country are a fraction of North American countries.

But niggling issues stop the cfl industry from achieving its potential. The price of a cfl is still many time that of an incandescent bulb it wants to replace. Schemes for distributing free cfls, like the one started by Himachal Pradesh or of selling them under cdm projects, are rare. The rural consumer as well as families below the poverty line are yet to get a proper sniff of cfl.

While it is imperative that cfls must be encouraged, it has to be done prudently. Standards must be put in place to ensure that only the minimum required amount of mercury is used in cfls. Disposal of cfls is another issue the government must address urgently.

Though India has standards on cfl quality since 2002, they have remained ineffective in regulating poor quality cfls assembled by the unorganized sector. The Bureau of Indian Standards must ensure that its regulations are followed. Quality standards and mercury regulations are the key to take the energy efficiency drive to the next level.

Inputs by Amarjyoti Borah,
Nidhi Jamwal, Deepa Kozhisseri and Aparna Pallavi

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