India has a bright idea at climate talks

April 7th, 2009 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
Bonn, April 7 (IANS) A member of the Indian delegation to the UN climate change talks here has been brandishing a light bulb in order to make a political point.

“This is an electronic, energy-saving LED bulb that is being developed in India,” Ajay Mathur, Director General of the government’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency told a surprised plenary session Monday, holding up the bulb for the hundreds of delegates gathered in the large hall.

The light bulb, which has been made by the Indian company Crompton Greaves by developing an original Dutch design, looks like an ordinary bulb, but has an electronic LED chip inside it that makes it greener than anything else on offer.

Its five watt-power is equivalent of a 40-watt normal bulb and it has lifespan of 50,000 hours - that’s more than 11 years of lighting if you keep the bulb on for 12 hours a day.

“This is our song-and-dance story,” Mathur told IANS later.

The hitch is that because the scale of production is still small and because the Dutch company Lemnis partly holds the patent, it is being marketed at around Rs.1,200 per bulb - putting it well beyond the reach of most poor Indians.

If everybody in India changed to LED light bulbs, Crompton Greaves estimates, the country would save 56 billion hours of electricity and 44 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - one of the main contributors to climate change.

“This can be a cheap alternative, for India certainly, but also for other countries. The problem is that we have to import the LED chip from a Japanese company, which takes the cost up,” Mathur said.

Mathur said that developing such technological solutions to the problem of climate change needed countries to work together and share technologies and patents.

“Technology is the only way. It’s not as if we cannot do it without international support, but international support is needed to scale up production,” he said.

“You need a global regime that supports the dissemination of such technologies.”

Indian companies, according to him, are doing their bit: Crompton Greaves helped to modify the original Dutch design and bring down the cost of the bulb from 60 to 70 dollars to 12 dollars.

The glass cover of the light bulb is produced in Firozabad, the ‘heat sink’ made in a factory in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi and the entire bulb assembled at Crompton Greaves’s Pune factory.

Mathur says the cost of the light bulb could be lowered much more through the system of carbon trading, so companies from industrialized countries, who have a cap on how much carbon they can emit, are drawn into supporting this project.

Under the system, companies that want to emit more Carbon dioxide can do so by buying credits from those that pollute less.

“The purchase of emission reductions would provide the additional costs to scale up,” Mathur said.

More than 2,000 negotiators and environmental activists have gathered in Bonn for the March 29-April 8 meeting — the first of three conferences being organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before a final, year-end meeting in Copenhagen.

Delegates are trying to agree the future direction of climate change and the emission of harmful greenhouse gases.

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