Green initiatives-In the battle against climate change, Philips calls for energy-efficient lighting solutions.

09/04/2010 16:29



AN inconvenient truth. That’s how environmental activist and former US vice-president Al Gore described climate change and its devastating effects on the global environment in his 2006 award-winning documentary film.

But exactly how serious is situation of climate change currently?

According to the Intergovern-mental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the warming of the climate system is clearly evident in the rise of global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising sea levels. Other effects can also be seen in the form of erratic rainfall pattern and more frequent and severe weather-related disasters.

But thankfully, these signs are not ignored. With the rising perception that climate change is happening at such an accelerated pace that it is posing an increasingly dangerous threat to the global ecological system, going green is in vogue all over the world.

The trend towards green initiatives is likely going to pick up further, especially with legendary and influential investor George Soros recently announcing his plan to invest US$1bil (RM3.35bil) in clean-energy technology.

Harry Verhaar ... ‘Energy efficiency is going to be a major requirement impacting global climate change in a positive way.’

Although Soros did not go into the specifics of his new “interest”, his plan would surely make an impact among global investors towards green technologies, says Harry Verhaar, senior director for energy and climate change for the Netherlands-based Philips Lighting BV.

“Sometimes people ask me whether ‘going green’ is a new form capitalism, socialism or communism ... I would say it is ‘sustainalism’, and perhaps this is the new economic model that the world needs today,” Verhaar explains.

As the architect of lighting strategy on energy and climate change for the Philips group, Verhaar has been campaigning for energy-efficient lighting solutions as an immediate and actionable win in the battle against climate change.

“Energy efficiency is going to be a major requirement impacting global climate change in a positive way,” he explains.

Mercury rising

Studies have shown that the main cause of climate change is the emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuel and rapid deforestation in the pursuit of economic development.

So, to arrest climate change, environmentalists argue that there must be a significant reduction in the global emission of greenhouse gases.

In its latest environmental assessment report, which was published two years ago, the IPCC projected that the global average surface temperature would rise between 1.8°C and 4.0°C in this century, and by up to 6.4°C in the worse-case scenario, if no further action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Between 1850 to 2005, the global average surface temperature had already risen by 0.76° C.)

With these worrying statistics glaring in the face of the world, Verhaar believes that “it is even more urgent now than ever to fight against climate change in the interests of promoting and maintaining a sustainable society”.

“All sectors, be it at the government, corporate or household level, should embrace the benefits of energy efficiency as a fundamental way to improve the global climate,” he adds, noting that lighting systems as the most common and basic point from which to begin.

Enlightening solutions

As it stands, lighting consumes a significant part, or 19%, of all electricity in the world, with public and commercial buildings representing 60% of global lighting electricity usage, according to the International Energy Agency.

Verhaar argues that by switching from conventional lighting systems to energy-efficient solutions, the environment can benefit from lower electricity usage and CO2 emissions; and hence, provide mankind a better quality of life.

At the household level, users can lower their utility bills and obtain better light quality, while businesses and the economy can benefit from lower operating costs, enhanced competitiveness and sustainable green jobs.

“This is a triple win as it would save money, reduce emissions and create new jobs for a green economy,” Verhaar explains.

“So, this could be the next competitive wave for the economy,” he adds, pointing out that Philips’ study has estimated an average savings of up to 40% with energy-efficient lighting solutions.

In absolute terms, it means a savings of up to 120 billion euros (RM601.3bil) in energy costs for the global economy, and a reduction of an estimated 630mil tonnes of CO2 emissions, as well as 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent and the output of 600 medium-sized power stations of a two-terawatt hour per year (TWh/yr) capacity. (One TWh/yr = 1,000 GWh per year)

For Asia-Pacific, it could potentially result in savings of up to 33 billion euros (RM165.4bil), reduce 216mil tons of CO2 emissions, lower consumption of 486 million barrels of oil equivalent, and reduce the need of 162 power stations of two terawatt-hour per year capacity.

To be more specific, Philips’ research shows that if every household in Malaysia were to replace three 60W incandescent lamps with three 11W compact flourescent light bulbs, this would lead to energy savings of close to 1.5 billion kWh. Given that Malaysia has 5.5 million households, this would mean savings of about RM400mil per year.

Green pastures

But while there are benefits of energy savings and reduction in carbon emissions by using energy-efficient products, the rate of change away from conventional lighting systems is too slow for these benefits to be evident immediately.

For instance, based on a Philips research in Europe – one of the most vocal regions in the world about climate change – the rate of change of street and office lighting systems to energy-efficient solutions ranged from only 3% to 7% per annum respectively.

The initial cost has often been the major barrier for switching to energy-efficient solutions.

“But the cost of doing nothing is the highest of all ... the more we delay action, the more costly it is going to be,” Verhaar says.

He argues that although energy-efficient lighting technologies are relatively more costly than conventional solutions, they often offer attractive paybacks – tangible and intangible. So, the right information has to be conveyed to all parties in order to create a larger momentum for involvement in the battle against climate change.

“The unique thing about this battle is that everyone has his or her own role,” Verhaar says.

“We have to move from mere talking to real action, and be more specific about the projects that we can do to support a greener world,” he adds.

Urging governments to act more determinedly to tackle the problems of climate change, Verhaar says governments has to design viable policy frameworks that are supportive of the green initiative.

At the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, the Philips group is expected to call upon governments worldwide to help ensure a green recovery by setting ambitious CO2 reduction targets and implement strong legislative standards to encourage compliance. The group is expected to draw attention specifically to energy-efficient lighting systems in this regard.

On Philips’ part, Verhaar says the group will continue to make substantial investments in research and development for green solutions. For the four years to 2008, Verhaar says the company had invested up to 500 million euros in green R&D. It would double that amount to one billion euros by 2012.

With green way as the new path to greener pastures for the world economy, Verhaar reasons that is it just wise to invest in something that makes sense.


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