Energy-saving light bulbs promoted in Vietnam

by Tetsuji Ida

Kyodo News

Vietnam’s economy has been growing at such a fast pace over the past five years that there are concerns the nation is using too much energy.

One Japanese group has jumped in to help with energy-saving light bulbs.

In mid-October, Jyukankyo Research Institute Inc., a Tokyo-based private think tank, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnamese Institute of Energy and a local electrical utility, Power Co. No. 1, to distribute fluorescent light bulbs in the province of Bac Ninh, north of Hanoi.

The fluorescent lights, already widely available in Japan, are in regular light bulbs so they fit into conventional light sockets. They give off as much light as incandescent bulbs but consume less power and last six times longer — nearly three years.

The light bulbs are receiving a lot of attention worldwide due to the spike in oil prices and the need to conserve energy to help fight global warming.

The major drawback of the fluorescent bulbs is the price. They can cost 10 to 20 times more than incandescent lights. However, Jyukankyo Research and METI say the savings in energy costs over the long term more than make up for the initial cost of the bulbs.

Preliminary results in Bac Ninh show that a fluorescent bulb becomes more cost-efficient than an incandescent one after 230 days of use and reduces a consumer’s expenses by 66 percent over three years. That compares with 150 days in Japan.

However, consumers in poor nations want to buy the lowest-priced bulb, making it difficult for the new fluorescent bulbs to catch on.

To counter this problem, the Jyukankyo Research-METI project has arranged for Power Co. No. 1 to give their customers the fluorescent bulbs and charge them in installments as part of the monthly utility fees.

About 1,500 fluorescent bulbs have been distributed to some 500 families in Bac Ninh Province. The project team will study the use of the bulbs and power consumption until March to work out the best monthly pricing system.

The entire project will cost about 20 million yen, and it will be expanded if the results are good, METI said.

Electricity demand in Vietnam is outstripping supply because there are not enough power plants, according to industry observers. Jyukankyo Research President Nakagami believes the solution is to switch to fluorescent lights.

“But if more Vietnamese people begin to use fluorescent bulbs, there should be no need for costly investment in new power plants,” said Jyukankyo Research President Hidetoshi Nakagami, adding that another benefit would be less air pollution.

Nakagami is also optimistic that there can be beneficial spinoffs from the energy-saving lights.

“If our business model proves effective, it can be introduced in other developing countries and applied to the development of new energy-saving equipment,” he said.