With LED, a self-reliant India can show a light to the world
What comes after Atmanirbhar Bharat, or self-reliant India? A Bharat that can utilise its self-reliance to help others around the world become self-sufficient. With light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, India can lead the global transition to energy-efficient lighting.
LED lighting can also help rid the world of a large source of mercury pollution — a toxic pollutant that can lead to long-term neurological deficiencies and other health hazards.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty, aims to eliminate the use of mercury in products and processes worldwide. It came into force in 2017. So far, 132 countries have ratified the treaty. India did so in 2018. In its original form, the convention sought to phase out the manufacture, import or export of mercury-based fluorescent lighting products by 2020.
In 2018, India exercised a provision in the Convention and extended the phase-out date for several mercury-based fluorescent lighting products through 2025. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and Fluorescent Tube Lights (FTLs) accounted for 2% and 9% respectively of the 1.4 billion lamps produced in 2018-2019. However, India itself has achieved far more since then, revolutionising the promotion and adoption of LED and emerging as the second largest producer of LED in the world.
In 2015, India launched its domestic efficient lighting programme, the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA), the world’s largest zero-subsidy LED bulb programme with a target of replacing 770 million incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. That same year, the Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP), which aims to replace conventional streetlights with smart and energy-efficient LED streetlights, was launched. SNLP is the largest LED street-lighting programme in the world: 12 million have been installed so far with a target for another 30 million by 2024.
In January this year, power minister RK Singh described these programmes as driving “large-scale socio-economic transformation”.
Indeed, the domestic LED market has exploded since the start of the programmes. Over 1.15 billion LEDs, far more than UJALA’s target of 700 million, have been sold. The share of LED in the lighting market registered a 135% increase, and by 2018-2019, accounted for approximately 80% of the total value. Domestic production increased exponentially from 4.8 million in 2014-2015 to 661 million in 2018-19.
India’s transformative growth on LED has demonstrated a cleaner, efficient future pathway. The UJALA and SLNP programmes, for example, have helped avoid 44 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, reduced 10,911 MW of peak demand, and saved consumers approximately ₹19,000 crore annually.
Today, LED is more than just a cost-efficient, energy-efficient and cleaner lighting option for India. It is also the driver of exports, employment, and economic growth, an illustration of what India could do with its focus on self-reliance. It is increasingly a global hub for LED with exports in 2018-19 growing 86% over the previous year to touch five million units.
In May 2021, parties from the Africa region proposed an amendment to withdraw exemptions for fluorescent lighting under the Minamata Convention. If adopted, the global phase-out of inefficient and toxic fluorescent lighting could reduce 232 metric tonnes of mercury pollution and avoid 3.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions cumulatively by 2050, while simultaneously enabling consumers to achieve significant financial savings. This would further stimulate the demand for LED lighting.
As the world prepares to convene in November to discuss the Minamata Convention, a self-reliant India has the opportunity to rally global stakeholders and lead in the endeavour to phase out mercury in lighting.
Mukund G Rajan is chair, FICCI Environment Committee and chairman, ECube Investment Advisors
Bishal Thapa is CLASP, India director
The views expressed are personal