CFLs to lose their green lustre

By Ifham Nizam

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) will soon lose its ‘Green’ rating, when the Treasury introduces the `Green Procurement System’. However, the country is not geared to go for Light-emitting diode (LED) soon due to the cost factor, says policy advocacy head Hemantha Withanage.

Executive Director of the Centre for Environment Justice Withanage told The Island that ‘LED’ is a semiconductor light source, which is expensive but if it could be provided at a cheaper rate, similar to that of CFL, it would certainly benefit the country as a whole.

LED lights contain absolutely no mercury or toxic chemicals and conventional LEDs are made from a variety of inorganic semi-conductor materials. They don’t generate RF wavelengths that cause radio interference, or emit ultraviolet (UV) light — so LEDs will not readily attract bugs and other insects.

An estimated 20,000 million CFL blubs were imported annually and about 80 per cent of them are just dumped, only between 15 and 20 per cent is taken by one manufacturer, he said

Despite the availability of five star grades, more than 50 per cent of the CFLs here were of low quality with most of them having a shorter life span and lesser brightness, he said.

"There are more than 25 varieties of CFLs, most of them refurbished bulbs from China. The worst part is that they contain higher Mercury levels. Needless to say two mg mercury could pollute a large lake," he said

Withanage said that CFLs sold in Sri Lanka have 0.5 to 5 mg mercury content whereas in US and Europe the amount is not more than 1 mg.

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority (SEASL), nearly 92 per cent of the urban area had now switched to the use of CFLs and the trend was increasing in the rural areas as well. Overall 76 per cent of the consumers were using CFLs.

During 2010, the imports of CFLs had surpassed that of incandescent bulbs.

In 2010, nearly 17.3 million CFL’s were imported in comparison to the import of 14.2 million incandescent bulbs. However, the CFLs had now taken over in larger proportion.

During 2005, the country had imported a massive 30.6 million Incandescent Light bulbs compared to just 10.4 million CFLs.

According to energy experts the use of CFL bulbs by both domestic and industrial users has helped the national grid to conserve nearly 574 GegaWatts of electricity during 2009 and 2010. However, the benefit would be much if switched to ‘LED’ a SEASL official said.

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