Search This Blog

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The art of war : Strategies on energy conservation

Sun Tzu who wrote the "The art of war" starts off by saying that the best general is one who can avoid the war in the first place. Hardly surprising that he was from China. Looks like the Chinese are still blessed with thinkers of the same mould, when you look at the energy conservation stratergies they have adopted. While they are investing heavily in power generation, they are following it up with increasing efficiency in consumption, starting with Lighting.

Silicon Valley's Robert C. Walker observes :

"China will be the first country to adopt the solid-state lighting revolution," Walker says. "You're going to see China first, the rest of Asia second, Europe third and the U.S. last in adopting that technology."

China's government has pressing reasons for embracing solid-state lighting, which in the West is still a fringe technology. Prime among them is the fact that LEDs will consume roughly 50% to 80% less energy than conventional (incandescent and fluorescent) lights. Rapid economic growth is already outstripping China's ability to supply energy. According to Wu Ling, the dynamic former medical doctor who directs the China Solid-State Lighting Alliance, a Beijing nonprofit organization that develops strategy for the government, 12% of electricity currently goes to lighting. Wu estimates that if over the next ten years LEDs were to take 30% of China's lighting market, then the saving would be 58 billion kilowatt-hours per year. She points out that that is almost as much as the yearly output of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest power plant, under construction at a cost of $24 billion.

"Faced with a great shortage of energy, the government will push solid-state lighting," Wu says. And in China when the mandarins want something to happen, they have all sorts of ways of making sure that it does. Top-down strategies include financing, both direct and indirect. Wu expects Beijing's next five-year plan, to be announced at the end of October, to contain a major increase in spending on solid-state lighting R&D at Chinese universities and national institutes (up from the $17 million spent since the project began in January 2003). Wu estimates that $725 million has thus far been invested in China's domestic solid-state lighting industry. Some of this is private investment, but industry insiders believe much of the money has come from government banks in the form of soft loans to LED startups. Regulations--in both positive and negative forms--are another powerful lever. For example, officials can mandate that LEDs be used for certain applications, such as the illumination of tourist landmarks like Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Or, where the codes haven't caught up with technology, authorities can turn a blind eye to early adoption. Our conversations with the renewable energy bodies in India are encouraging but fall short of any real help :)

The Chinese government has also outlawed all non-LED based portable lighting in the mining industry as LED's can save lives dues to reliability.
All this makes one wonder why other developing countries haven't thought this through. Billions of dollars are borrowed and earmarked for power generation. Entire riparian ecosystems and cultures are destroyed to make way for these projects only to waste the power due to lack of vision. Sometimes i wonder if working toward a macro strategy is only possible in enlightened authoritarian setups. The yin yang juxtaposition is most clearly visible between the Asian giants India and china in such matters. Some sort of "Zen and the art of electric lighting". Way to go China!

No comments:

Post a Comment