What if we could save enough energy to effectively close 250 large coal-fired power plants and save the need for $210 billion in investment?
What if we could bring about a reduction in CO2 emissions each year equivalent to the emissions of 122 million mid-sized cars?
These seemingly unattainable goals could actually be achievable through the use of more efficient lighting according to a report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility, in conjunction with the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Overall, the report, which was based on 150 national assessments and a new global policy map on efficient lighting, found that a transition to efficient lighting would reduce global electricity consumption by five per cent, resulting in worldwide savings of over $US110 billion.
Significantly, the report’s authors claim that in some cases, the assessments show that the financial savings and climate change mitigation benefits achieved by phasing out incandescent lighting in developing and middle-income countries are much more significant than previous studies suggested.
It says the yearly electricity savings brought about by the phasing out of incandescent lighting would be equivalent to closing over 250 large coal-fired power plants, resulting in avoided investment costs of approximately US$ 210 billion. Additionally, the 490 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 savings per year the report’s authors say could be achieved is equivalent to the emissions of more than 122 million mid-sized cars.
India alone, the report says, could cut lighting electricity consumption by over 35 per cent – the equivalent of reducing the need for 11 large coal-fired power plants and taking over 10 million cars off the road.
“One of the most cost-effective ways to contribute to the reduction of global carbon emissions is the phase-out of inefficient lighting technologies,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner. “Increasing numbers of countries are now achieving major financial savings, generating green jobs, and seeing reductions in mercury, sulphur dioxide, and other pollutants from power stations, through a switch to efficient lighting.”
The report says LED technology, which does not contain any mercury and lasts up to 10 times longer than their CFL counterparts, represent an enormous area of opportunity.
It says that although LED lamps are currently expensive for consumers, bulk procurement by governments, tax incentives and subsidies are making them a viable alternative.
The report’s key findings are as follows:
- Electricity for lighting accounts for almost 20 per cent of electricity consumption and six per cent of CO2 emissions worldwide.
- According to the IEA, approximately three per cent of global oil demand can be attributed to lighting.
- The global demand for artificial light will be 60 per cent higher by 2030 if no switch to efficient lighting occurs.
- Incandescent lamps have already been phased-out, or are scheduled to be phased-out in most OECD countries, Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Mexico, Vietnam and other developing countries.
- If Brazil extends current legislation to include commercial, industrial and street lighting applications, the country could save close to US $ 4 billion and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to 400,000 cars being removed from the road.
- The complete transition to efficient lighting in all sectors throughout Africa could reduce electrical demand enough to electrify over 14 million currently un-serviced households.
- Up to 95 per cent of the energy emitted by incandescent lamps is heat, and their efficiency is low. In comparison, incandescent bulbs last around 1,000 hours which is significantly shorter than compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) which can last up to 12,000 hours.
- Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, which complicates their disposal.
- Some countries, such as Nigeria and China, are leapfrogging directly to light emitting diodes (LEDs) from incandescent lamps. LEDs do not contain mercury and have other advantages such as long life and low heat generation.