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Indian LED risk-sharing street light project hits snag

What's next? Thiruvananthapuram's Napier Museum is a splendid homage to the past. The city's planned steps into the future include a progressive LED street lighting scheme.

No one said that this sort of thing would be easy.

As we’ve written here at Lux, more cities could afford energy efficient LED streetlights if suppliers would stop charging upfront for equipment costs and instead allow the user to pay over time from the tremendous savings in electricity bills.

It’s a risk-sharing, ‘money-where-your-mouth’ is business model. If LEDs really do slash streetlighting bills by 30-to-70 percent, then why not cut the municipality some slack – especially if it means the difference between a deal or no deal.

That’s what they’re trying to do in Thiruvananthapuram (also known as Trivandrum), the capital city of Kerala on India’s southwest coast.

As The Hindu reports :

‘[Thiruvananthapuram] is looking for a “zero investment model” for the LED project, which aims to replace all the 84,000 streetlights across the city in a phased manner. As per this model, the civic body will not be spending any money on this. The money saved in the electricity bill will be paid to the company. The company will have the responsibility of maintaining the lights for the entire lifetime of 8-9 years and then will have to buy it back. The existing tube lights will also be taken by the company.’

The city has received eleven ‘expressions of interest’ from suppliers, the story states.

But politics seems to be bogging down the process, as the city has yet to form a technical committee that will review the proposals. The committee was supposed to include personnel from the Agency for Non-Conventional Energy and Rural Technology, the Kerala State Electricity Board, the College of Engineering Thiruvananthapuram and the Energy Management Centre. It seemed nearly ready to go in August, but it has not yet received final approval.

Perhaps the many-handed approach is proving untenable.

Meanwhile, Thiruvananthapuram officials are studying modern street lighting implementations in other cities like Chennai, which has installed LEDs but with a more conventional business model.

India is a boom market for LED lighting. It could also serve as fertile ground for progressive business plans. The city of Agartala is attempting  it. Thiruvananthapuram stands of chance of being next.

Photo is from Mohan K via Wikimedia