Even as the State is faced with an acute power shortage, electricity continues to be utilised for non-essential purposes on a large scale. Glow signboards and illuminated hoardings are consuming precious energy which could be diverted to domestic or other essential sectors.
A majority of the glow signboards use neon lights which require high voltage. Official restriction on such signboards pertains to their installation whereas there is no categorisation of the power consumed by them.
The installation has to be done by contractors who are certified to do such special works, a restriction intended to ensure safety of the structure.
There are hundreds of glow signs in each street, consuming thousands of units of power. The total consumption of the signboards across the State would be enough to supply additional power to the network which could potentially reduce loadshedding.
Neon signs are high voltage systems that consume more power, says C. Jayaraman, general secretary of the Society of Energy Engineers and Managers. Though LED systems which consume low power could be used in glow sign installations, they are few and far between, he observes. Again, automatic controllers that switch off power at a stipulated time are available, but few care to install such devices.
While most companies which install power guzzling glow signs are not worried about the cost or the tariff, the government has failed to make a segregation.
There is no separate tariff for the power consumed by the high voltage signboard systems.
A separate metering system and tariff for such installations could be the answer to the careless spending of power, according to Mr. Jayaraman. “There is a need to differentiate between necessity and luxury in power consumption,” he says.
About 20-25 per cent of available power is wasted on advertisement signboards, illuminations at places of worship and shopping malls, says K.C.R. Nair, president of Kerala State Small Industries Association (KSSIA). “The government is keen on development; production is the essence of development, but industrial production is not getting priority. Energy should be used creatively. The government should formulate a long-term plan for it,” he says.
Significantly, energy saving is being planned by the government at the domestic level through schemes such as Labhaprabha, while conveniently ignoring the huge consumption by glow signs.