LED lights 'the way to go'

2012-08-16 14:50
LED lights, combined with solar power solutions may provide the answer for people disconnected from the national electricity grid. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

LED lights, combined with solar power solutions may provide the answer for people disconnected from the national electricity grid. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - LED (light-emitting diode) lighting combined with solar power solutions may provide the answer for the lack of electrification of impoverished communities, a major supplier has said.

"It's now become very viable to do solar; by combining LED with the solar because it draws far less energy than conventional lighting, suddenly the lifetime of the product is enhanced," John Westermeyer, marketing manager for Philips Lighting Africa told News24.

The company that used to dominate the electronics industry has realigned its focus to energy solutions, particularly for developing markets.

"The main advantage of LED is number one: It's lifetime; it lasts for thousands of hours compared to conventional lighting and secondly, that you can achieve energy savings - anything from 50% to 90% depending on what you replace and its application, of course," said Westermeyer.

Phillips lost out to South Korean giants with the advent of new LED TV technology, but it sees Africa as a market with potential for LED lighting solutions.

Viability

LEDs typically consume 10% to 20% of the energy of conventional light bulbs and last for around 50 000 hours.

On Tuesday, the company launched an off grid electrification programme in Lomshiyo, Mpumalanga and on Thursday, the company will launch a project in Cape Town.

Westermeyer rejected suggestions that it the programme was a marketing ploy, and said that it demonstrated viability of small-scale electrification in communities that have not been serviced by the national grid.

"No, it's a huge area of focus for us; if you look at Africa as a whole - over 800 million people in Africa don't have access to electricity.

"If you look at a satellite image of the world and you look at Africa, it really stands out from the simple reason that it's so dark at night. For us it represents huge opportunity... the benefits of that are increased productivity, and also from an educational perspective - children being able to do homework at night," he said.

Many people in rural communities find themselves excluded from the electricity grid because of their isolation and there is no capacity to build infrastructure in these areas.

Cost

"This country is still faced with massive challenges: You look at Mpumalanga, Limpopo, parts of KZN [KwaZulu-Natal], Eastern Cape - you have large communities staying out in those areas; the cost to run cables there to electrify those areas - that's huge and Eskom can't really afford to do that," Westermeyer said.

The lighting projects also limit the ability of thieves to steal copper cable that would shut down electricity supply, though the upfront cost of installing renewable energy systems is expensive.

Westermeyer argued that a renewable energy system could return the investment cost within a short period.

"If you actually do a calculation based on our system versus going the conventional electrification route, I think it's one and a half to two years. If you look at it from that perspective, it makes absolute sense."


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