CFL’s could save New Brunswick millions

How many politicians does it take to change an incandescent to a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)? Two, one to change it and one to change it back.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (the other CFL) are in the minds of Saint John residents these days but they should be important for the whole province. The fluorescent tube was brought into production in the late 1930’s and the compact florescent is just a twisted version to imitate the physical size of an incandescent. The CFL started growing in popularity after its introduction in 1995.

The efficiency of the incandescent bulb developed by Thomas Edison is roughly 17 lumens per watt of power. The CFL can produce as much as 60 lumens per watt. This makes the CFL four times more efficient.

NewsFlash! Average person saves $60 per year in energy! A lot of people have some CFL bulbs in their house, but very few have converted completely either due to the higher initial cost or because their fixtures don’t permit the use of CFL’s. Let’s make a few assumptions about what exists today: There are 250,000 households in New Brunswick and each of them has an average of 25 bulbs of which 5 are compact fluorescent. Perhaps 40% are lit at any given time in the evening. If the average switched on time is 5 hours per day, this would make 8 incandescent 60-watt bulbs and 2 CFL with a rating of 15 watts turned on. The power usage would be 2.55 kWh/day or 76 kWh/month, which is roughly $7. If the house was converted to complete CFL’s, then the power usage is .75 kWh /day or 22.5/month, which is roughly $2 month. The person heating with wood, oil or natural gas would save $5 / month or $60 year on their electric bill.A very smart friend of mine suggested that the effects of this reduction would be less during the winter months for electrically heated homes. This is true for annual usage but with 360 watts subtracted from the total load means that baseboard heaters would run slightly longer. Homes with electric heat would see savings of $30 per year.

News Flash! Utility could save hundreds of million dollars! What is the overall effect on the requirement for power plants here in New Brunswick? If the average household lighting wattage drops from 510 watts to 150 watts at any given time, then the provincial reduction is 90 MW. This reduction is 22% of the capacity of the Belledune coal plant, which cost $1 Billion dollars to build. Put another way, with annual load growth of NB Power at 1% or 32 MW’s, the deferral of a power plant construction would be 3 years, which has a value of several hundred million dollars if required today.

News Flash! Using CFL’s is one small step towards achieving Kyoto targets! 

Many people are concerned about global warming and wonder what difference using CFL’s only would make. If the difference in consumption (167 Million kWh’s) is reduced by 30%, (60% of homes use electric heat x 50% of the year), then the net savings is 117 million kWh’s. Although roughly 60% of NB Power generation creates greenhouse gases (GHG), a reduction of load will most likely touch units that are creators of GHG. Therefore, 117 million kWh’s times a conversion factor of 1.9 pound CO2/ kWh would give a 101,045 Metric tons reduction. To put this into perspective, New Brunswick creates 20 million Metric tons of CO2 emissions each year and this reduction would be ½ of one percent. If I have been too conservative in my estimates and if we include commercial use of CFL’s, then we might hit 1% of our goal quite simply. To meet the New Brunswick targets of Kyoto requires a 25% reduction from today’s levels.

Logic would suggest that people would use compact fluorescent everywhere because it is cheaper in the long run. However, more education is required, habits die hard, higher first costs and the continued sale of fixtures that do not allow the installation of CFL’s are the reasons we don’t have a higher percentage.

Year 2020 – News Flash! “Canada’s environment minister announces a program for the conversion of incandescent bulbs to CFL’s. Speaking from the Alberta desert, the minister indicated that “global warming is on my list of priorities for the next ten years”.

A recent cabinet shuffle indicates that Steven Harper has come to his political senses and may allow the next environment minister some latitude to act on what the people of Canada want to see.  Luckily, here in New Brunswick we do have the ability to act and reduce – the risk of global warming, air pollution and the use of oil and other non-renewables. The potential benefit to us all is so great that leadership on this issue from Efficiency NB and the Energy Department would be the best Christmas gift that Elizabeth and Jack could give us for 2007.

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