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Less is More: Individual and Community Gains from Saving Energy
Consumers can save on electricity bills significantly by using energy-efficient appliances

Dhruvak Aggarwal
18 December 2020

If you own a two-wheeler or a car, you are often concerned about how many kilometres it travels per litre of fuel, especially now, with fuel prices touching a two-year high. In other words, you are concerned about your vehicle’s energy efficiency, i.e. the amount of useful service provided per unit of energy consumed and costs thereof. 

Now recall the last electricity bill you paid. Was there a potential for savings there? 

How much airflow/lighting/cooling do our appliances provide per unit of electrical energy (kWh)? The star labels on appliances, that derive from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)’s standards tell us this. Most of the appliances in our homes have star labels: air conditioners (ACs), washing machines, televisions (TVs), even fans and light emitting diode (LED) lamps. A 1-star appliance consumes the most electricity compared to other models of similar specifications, and a 5-star appliance consumes the least.
Energy saved is money earned

Households can reduce their appliance-specific electricity use by 30-85 per cent by shifting to energy-efficient appliances (Table 1). Though these appliances are costlier, they help save money over their operational lives. For example, a brushless DC (BLDC) motor fan can cost up to ₹1,700 more than a conventional fan. However, if one is paying ₹6/unit of electricity, then the cost can be recovered in two to four years through electricity saved, beyond which the appliance continues to provide savings on operating costs. For consumers paying a higher energy charge, the payback can be even faster. 


Table 1: Energy-efficient appliances can be up to 85 per cent more efficient than conventional ones for a similar level and duration of use


Conventional appliance and its energy consumption

Efficient appliance and its energy consumption

Energy savings 



Light bulb

60W incandescent bulb 

- 108 kWh/year


15W Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) - 27 kWh/year


9W Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulb - 16 kWh/year





Ceiling fan

Induction motor fan (75W) 

- 144 kWh/year

BLDC motor fan (35W) 

- 67 kWh/year


1.5 ton split AC

Non-inverter AC (usually 3-star)

- 1103 kWh/year

Inverter AC (usually 5-star) 

- 767 kWh/year


24-inch TV

Cathode ray tube (CRT) TV 

- 94 kWh/year


- 17 kWh/year


Source: CEEW analysis based on India Residential Energy Survey, BEE notifications and other sources
Note: Assuming an average appliance use of 5, 8, 5.5 and 4 hours per day for lights, fans (8 months), ACs (6 months) and TVs, respectively.


Energy efficiency benefits the larger community

Energy efficiency helps improve the quality of power supply. In the financial year 2019 (FY19), the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C)1 losses of power distribution companies (discoms) were 22 per cent.  This means that almost a quarter of the electricity bought for us is lost before it even reaches us! Cumulative financial losses of discoms were INR 49,623 crore (USD 6.7 billion) in FY19. Reducing the amount of energy consumed though energy-efficient appliances reduce losses, allowing longer hours of power supply to be met using the existing power plants.

Energy efficiency helps mitigate air pollution and global warming. This year saw the hottest summer on record for the northern hemisphere. Delhi breathed more polluted air this year than last year. Warming oceans have strengthened the cyclones hitting India’s coasts. A study commissioned by BEE estimated that energy efficiency saved 151.74 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in FY19, resulting in a 15 per cent drop in overall emissions from the power sector. Energy efficiency reduces the need to build new power plants that pollute the local air and contribute to global warming.

So how many people are using efficient appliances?

Given the multiple benefits of energy efficiency for consumers, the public purse and the planet, one would expect it to be widely practised. To find out if this were so, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) recently conducted the India Residential Energy Survey (IRES), in association with the Initiative on Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP), covering nearly 15,000 urban and rural households across 21 states. We found, nearly nine out of ten households used at least one LED lamp, but the uptake of other high-efficiency appliances remained low (Figure 1). For widely used appliances, such as fans, televisions and coolers, the uptake of energy efficiency was even lower. 


Figure 1: Uptake of high-efficiency appliances remains low

Uptake of high-efficiency appliances remains low

Source: CEEW illustration based on IRES
Note: 1) Each house represents one-tenth of the appliance-using households. 2) For ACs, refrigerators and washing machines ‘high efficiency’ implies 4- or 5-star rated models.


The buck does not stop with buying a 4/5-star appliance

Having a high star rated electrical appliance is just the first step to energy efficiency. How one uses an energy-intensive appliance, like an AC, also affects the energy consumption (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Operating ACs efficiently is as important as buying an energy-efficient appliance

Uptake of high-efficiency appliances remains low

Source: CEEW illustration based on IRES

Beyond just purchasing and using efficient appliances, we can do more to ensure and multiply savings (Figure 3). Many discoms run energy efficiency programmes for consumers, for example, discoms in Delhi are currently conducting ceiling fan and AC replacement schemes, where old appliances can be replaced with more efficient ones at a discounted price.  It can be useful to ask the discom about how it is helping consumers to reduce energy consumption.


Figure 3: There is more we can do to save energy

Uptake of high-efficiency appliances remains low

Source: CEEW illustration 

Energy efficiency benefits everyone, and it is one of the big ways in which we can help tackle the risks of a changing climate at an individual level. In Part 2 of this blog series, we will talk about the challenges consumers face in adopting efficient appliances and how these can be overcome.

Dhruvak Aggarwal is a Research Analyst at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). Send your comments to [email protected]

1AT&C losses include technical losses in the network, and losses incurred due to theft, inefficiencies in billing and collection, and consumer payment defaults.

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