Although their low energy consumption made LEDs ideal for diesel and solar-powered lighting in Nepal, they were just too expensive.
Not any more. Prices of LEDs (light emitting diodes) have come down dramatically, and with Nepal's energy crisis here to stay, these high-tech fixtures have become affordable for home, office, and factory lighting.
Nepal made the switch from incandescent and fluorescent tubes to CFLs some five years ago, but LEDs save even more energy and money. In an LED bulb, electrons hit holes within the device to create electroluminescence, and depending on the quality of LED lights they last up to 40,000 hours - four times more than fluorescent tubes and 10 times longer than incandescent lights.LED bulbs were initially used in rural electrification but are now becoming popular in cities as well.
Illuminium in Kupondole which introduced customised LED lighting three years ago has seen a steady rise in customers with large corporate houses to restaurants and hotels (see box) eager to make the switch from CFL to LED.
"The leap from CFL to LED hasn't been as swift and massive as the switch from incandescent bulbs to CFL, but the demand for LED lights has definitely increased," says Anil Karki of Illuminium, who urges that LEDs be arranged sensibly around the home or office to take maximum advantage of the interior.
What has deterred many Nepalis to adopt LEDs so soon after switching to CFL, however, is the cost of the bulbs. Lighting companies believe it will still take some more years for individual households to join the LED revolution.
Many businesses now conduct energy audits to help them make the switch to more energy efficient products. And they have been replacing CFLs with LEDs, covering the initial installation cost through reduced electricity bills.
Raj Kumar Thapa of Solar Solutions says it is best for households with low electricity consumption to wait for a few years before making the jump to expensive LEDs.
"We have installed LED lights mostly for large organisations as it is easier for them to cover the initial cost than for smaller households," Thapa explains.
Given how the Nepali market is inundated with costly but low-grade LEDs, new companies are stepping in to make sure customers are provided with lights that are worth their price tag.
"People pay almost 10 times more for LEDs than CFLs so they need to get value for their money," says Shashank Thapa of Tuff Lite which imports LEDs from Malaysia.
Companies in Nepal are hopeful that the gradual phase-out of CFLs across the globe due the health risks will eventually lead to competitive pricing of LEDs.
Says Raj Kumar Thapa: "Once the lights become more affordable I am sure Nepalis here will come flocking for LEDs."
Taking the lead
As more and more concrete high-rises dominate Kathmandu's skyline, undermining the Valley's historic heart, one new tall hotel in Pulchok is trying to be different. The 11-storey Meconopsis Hotel is aiming to be the most energy-efficient high rise in the capital by being powered completely by LED lights: all 2,000 watts of it.
"LEDs are expensive, but they consume less power and are ideal during long hours of load shedding when we have to use diesel generators, they help keep our electricity and diesel bills down," explains says Bishan Shah (pictured) of Meconopsis. LED lights with their longer lifespans and low energy consumption pay for themselves within a year, making them ideal for an energy-starved country like Nepal.
LEDing light, GREEN SCENE