"Led technology has immense scope for improvement": Lalit Puri

Reading time: 6 minutes
28 April 2015

The Climate Group interviews Lalit Puri, BG-Head – Professional Lighting Solutions Lighting India, Philips India Limited, to talk about the future of LED lights in driving India’s low carbon economy.

  • Over the last six years, The Climate Group has successfully facilitated many urban local bodies (ULBs) in the installation of LED street lights in India, by bringing together different LED professionals including manufacturers, energy companies, planning authorities and government groups. In your opinion, how does this initiative pave the way for upscaling the technology throughout the country?

To begin with, The Climate Group LED street lighting pilot project in 2009 was a great initiative. The Climate group rolled out the first LED conversion at a time when the pay back periods were very long and the awareness about LED was very low. 

Confidence on the LED technology was also very low. At a time like this, The Climate Group went ahead to produce assertive proof, with commitment. It was an excellent job done.

  • Do you foresee a significant expansion in the LED street lighting business and services in India in the coming years? How do we accelerate the current rate of penetration of LED lighting technology in the country?

If we look at what’s happening presently today, most of the municipal corporations do not have financial capacity to invest in CAPEX (the expenditures associated with the altering of a company’s future), although there was a letter issued in 2013 from the Ministry for Urban Development – which was a kind of a guideline or directive that stated that all the Municipal Corporations henceforth should move over to LED lighting. However, it has not been followed.

Two years ago, the Government of India with four power supply unit’s such as NTPC, NHPC, Power Grid Corporation and Power Finance Corporation together formed Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL – a joint venture to create and sustain markets for energy efficiency in India) reached out to the state governments seeking contracts and aiming to get proposals for energy efficiency related initiatives, in the public domain.

The EESL joint venture started approaching state governments seeking contracts on OPEX or ESCO models. The work has already started in Vizag, Tripura and Rajasthan, and it may formulize in some parts of Delhi in the future.

The overall endeavor is to grow more and more, however the question arises whether the ULBs want to be a part of it or choose otherwise.

The other important factor is the way PSU/EESL is working by understanding that the current standards for lighting are not adequate enough to cater to the overall outdoor LED requirements and hence there is a lack of quality checks. In this scenario, it is an open market for expansion; anybody can apply for the tenders and pick up the orders.

It boils down to the fact that, to make a reliable product which can last longer is not that easy, there have to be cautious efforts taken to achieve the optimum desired quality.

  • In your opinion, what are the perceived barriers for ULBs to undertake large-scale LED street lighting projects – and how can they overcome them?

In terms of finance, it’s not such a great issue as the EESL has a lot of support in terms of finance from their promoters. Further, there are private players, companies and financial institutions who are willing to invest. When we talk about scaling up LEDs, there are two major hurdles: the value proposition and secondly the technology.

If these two factors meet investors’ requirements, then I think there are hardly any barriers. Today, as I perceive the market, is that the private sector is moving faster compared to the government.

  • To envision and promote low carbon growth in the urban space, what has been your journey with regard to the improvement of product efficiency and performance of LEDs?

When we did the first project of LEDs with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, West Bengal, India, the efficacy of the lights at that time was 70-80 lumen per watt. Today, we have products, which offer lumen output up to 110 lumen per watt. This itself shows a 50% increase in a matter of 4-5 years. The technology is still under exploration and not saturated as yet, as we do expect and foresee an increase of up to 130-140 lumen per watt in efficacy in the next few years.

The other side to this is the technology overview. We have already achieved from 70-110 lumen in four years. As we grow further, certainly the LED quality will only improve, as it has not yet reached a saturation point and has immense scope for improvement, which all the manufacturers are working on right now.

When we talk about the future of the LED, we are going through a transitional stage. It started from down/road lighting and office lighting, and now it has proceeded to industrial lighting. With this transition, as we reach the right inception point where the value proposition is so attractive that people would invariably choose LED over conventional lighting, that will be the real change.


Editor's note

As you may already be aware, alongside our extensive LED work in India we decided in 2014/15 to extend our LED consultations with cities around the globe supported by Philips and The Prince Albert of Monaco Foundation. We will be publishing our findings in the coming months, and we believe this activity will help provide a great opportunity for cities to share their experiences with LEDs and routes to accelerate the adoption process.

Our in depth interview with Lalit Puri from Philips Lighting, served to highlight a number of issues around LEDs that we have seen repeated in our international LED workshops; the need for setting luminaire quality thresholds, the need for a robust LED adoption business case, the challenge of securing appropriate funding, and the general caution needed when comparing performance LED performance and payback figures between cities – to make sure the operating conditions and technology are the same.  

We have seen the excellent example of Los Angeles reporting 63% energy savings from a simple LED upgrade, and they are now installing a wireless control system upgrade to add greater flexibility and adaptive lighting. This is an excellent example of how cities can elect to phase the adoption of LED technologies. Many cities in our global consultation are also exploring options for dimming controls for the future, which could offer the prospect of savings of up to 85%. We have also seen cities select LED solutions that include additional fittings and lens controls, which can reduce the overall lumen/Watt performance figures, but provide the city with the high quality and flexibility of lighting that they need. 

In parallel we are also working with the World Bank to help identify cities that may be candidates for their new financial instrument (the International Lighting Efficiency Facility - ILEF) designed to support cities in the implementation of energy efficiency upgrades with a particular focus on LED street lighting.

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