CHENNAI: M’Nallamaruthamuthu wasn’t looking for chic handicrafts at the Poompuhar showroom on a recent Saturday. A former superintending engineer at the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB), he had a nerdier mission than shopping to find ways to cut the showroom’s power bill.
Energy auditors, such as Nallamaruthamuthu, often crib about energy being wasted in apartments, commercial complexes and factories. They say a relatively small investment and a more thoughtful placing of electric equipment can lighten the monthly electricity bill.
An energy audit a procedure that recommends energy-efficient alternatives to cut power wastage is a no-brainer for them.’Improving energy efficiency through audits, however, is not a priority for consumers. Often, the higher upfront costs of energy-efficient products drive them away.
But experts say that with increasing awareness, potential for quick payback and significant future savings, the trend could be reversed. They add that higher volumes of sale of energy-efficient equipment could help to reduce their prices, too.’
With capacity additions coming at a premium 1 MW of new power generation capacity requires an investment of nearly Rs 9 crores including transmission and distribution energy efficiency is a surer way of ensuring that enough power is available, says S Ramalingam, the former chairman of Chennai Petroleum and current national president of Energy and Fuel Users Association of India. Energy-efficient measures could cut consumption by up to 30%, he says.
At the Poompuhar corporate office off Anna Salai, Nallamaruthamuthu implemented a slew of changes: Changed the mechanical chokes of tubelights to electronic and cut power consumed by air conditioners. Chokes, which spark the lights, are silent killers, gobbling up one-fourth of the total power consumed by the fluorescent lamps. And Poompuhar’s electricity bill came down to Rs 35,000 from a projected Rs 55,000 per month a savings of nearly 40%.’The investment for the changes paid back in less than five months.
For energy auditors, the “green” light of today is the LED. A 4W LED light can replace a 100 W incandescent lamp consuming only 4% of the power needed for the lamp and providing the same amount of light, says N Chockalingam, a colleague of Nallamaruthamuthu at Ulaginoli, a green energy consultancy. Sure, the LED costs more. At around Rs 2,800, an 18 W LED tubelight is at least five times more expensive than the regular tubelight that costs from Rs 300 to Rs 600. But the LED lasts five times longer and the investment pays itself back in three to four years. “It’s all savings for the user for the next five – six years,” says Chockalingam, a former chief engineer at TNEB.’
Air conditioner is another power guzzler, followed by geyser, refrigerator, fan and television. While buying these, consumers may want to look up their “star ratings,” which are provided by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, a central standards agency. A five-star rated fan may cost more than a no-star but is much more efficient.’
Builders of apartments and commercial complexes have been slow in recognizing the benefits of energy audits. Mu Moahan, chairman of the Builder Association of India’s (BAI), southern Indian chapter, agrees there is not much awareness but felt it would be good to do energy audits. “The cost of energy-efficient products should come down,” says N Raghunathan, secretary of BAI, which is conducting a seminar on the topic to create more awareness among its members.’
“It is our responsibility to do energy audits and deliver the benefits of energy conservation to customers,” says T Chitty Babu, chairman of Akshaya Homes.
Ramalingam of Energy and Fuel Users Association says the knowledge base is there to improve energy efficiency. He cites the 2002 Energy Conservation Act, the establishment of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, and the National Conservation Building Code. “It’s now up to the state government to implement these measures.”