Saving electricity has multiple benefits – saving money, saving environment and better future

Abhishek Jain
Initiator of Bijli Bachao

In July this year, North India faced its worst blackout in a decade. Millions of people woke up with no electricity in their houses. There was a complete chaos with most people wondering how it happened. The reason told was that the states were drawing more power than they were allowed to.

This year we also saw that monsoon did not arrive at its regular time but came down heavily in month of September. The summers were hotter than usual and the climate was weird. Hurricane Sandy came and destroyed a lot of North Eastern part of United States of America with climate scientists claiming global warming as the reason for the same (source: treehugger).

Are the two topics mentioned above inter-related? Yes, very much, because both are related to human need of energy or electricity. To explain the same, lets first look at how is electricity generated: Most of the electricity generated in India is done through coal or gas fired plants. Coal/gas is burned to generate steam, which in turn runs a turbine to generate electricity. When coal or gas is burned it produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which is now being recognized as a pollutant. Excess of CO2 in atmosphere is one of the main reasons for global warming. 

Now as most electricity in India is generated through coal/gas, we have a high dependence on these fuels. In India there is an uncertainty associated with supply of coal/gas given the political mishandling and dependence on imports as a lot of coal that is produced in India is not clean coal. Also as per World Coal Association if human continue to use coal at the present rate, the coal reserves will be exhausted in next 118 years (source: World Coal Association). All this poses a great challenge for production of electricity, which can further cause challenges for an already existing demand supply gap in the country. There are several places in the country where there are long power cuts and power supply is unreliable. 

The problem looks big and difficult to solve, but certainly there are solutions for the same: 

1) Generating more electricity through cleaner sources: Solar, wind, biomass are some of the promising renewable energy technologies that are coming up which show us alternate ways of generating electricity and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Research is on to make these technologies scalable and economical.

But if we look at it currently, it is slightly expensive than the current rate of electricity. Till the technology develops to a scale, it will remain expensive. So what is it that we can do at most cost effective manner currently? Save Electricity.

2) Save Electricity: It is one of the most economical and cost effective ways to avoid burning excess coal as well as to bridge supply demand gap. It not only saves money by bringing down the electricity bills but also helps distribution companies to provide the saved electricity to the areas where it is needed. For every unit of electricity available at home coal equivalent of generating 1.5 units is burned to generate electricity and 0.5 units are lost in transmission and distribution. So every unit saved may either go to a place where it is needed or will save burning coal. This is equivalent to doing social service that also helps in saving own money. If everyone uses optimum electricity, the overall demand on the system is optimal and the size of renewable energy system required in the future will be optimized as well.

Because saving electricity provides such a solution that is beneficial for all, we decided to do something about it, and thus we started an initiative called Bijli Bachao. The intent of this initiative is to help people save electricity at their homes and office. The website provides information or simple tips using which, electricity can be saved at home without loosing much comfort. It also provides software tools and guides that can help provide information while buying any electrical appliance. Although there are lots of tips on the website, we would like to list down a few over here:

1) Switch to T5 tube lights (for larger rooms) and CFLs (for smaller areas). They are can save up to 50%-70% over regular tube lights and bulbs.

2) Old Air Conditioners (more than 5 years old) can consume a lot of electricity. One can spend almost up to Rs 10 for an hour of usage of old air conditioner. Upgrading to 4 or 5 star rated air conditioners can reduce the cost upto 30%.

3) Old Refrigerators (more than 5 years old) can consume a lot of electricity. One can end up spending around Rs 600-900 a month on electricity charges. Which can be reduced up to 50% by switching to 5 star rated refrigerators.

4) Appliances consume electricity until they are switched off from the main plug point. Just switching off TV, AC or any other appliance from remote does not ensure that it does not consume any more electricity.

5) Television set top boxes if not switched off from plug point consumes the same amount of electricity the whole day. If not switched off, one can end up spending Rs 3 a day or Rs 90 per month for a regular set top box to Rs 7 a day or Rs 210 per month for a HD DVR set top box just on electricity charges.

6) Keeping Air Conditioners at 24-25 degree centigrade and using energy saver mode in air conditioners can reduce electricity bills without compromise on comfort.

7) Maintaining right insulation of the room: closing doors, windows, using sun protection sheets, curtains, can increase air conditioner effectiveness and reduce electricity bills.

8) One can save up to Rs 60 per month by switching from a un-starred ceiling fan to a 5 star rated ceiling fan.

9) Switching from Desktops to Laptops and making sure that they are off when not in use can also save significant amount of electricity.

10) Make sure that regular maintenance happens for all your appliances so that they are in right working condition and consume less electricity.