Bangladesh sets a world record – 5 million CFLs in a day, one bulb at a time!


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CFL bulbIf you were in Bangladesh in June, you would have found teachers in schools, preachers in mosques, and ads in newspapers, television, loudspeakers and pamphlets, encouraging people to bring in their incandescent bulbs to exchange with new Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) – and encouraged they were! On Saturday, June 19th 2010, at over 1,400 rural and urban distribution centers spread across 27 districts, manned by teachers, utility workers and other volunteers, Bangladeshis collectively took home about five million high quality CFL bulbs, in the first round of distribution.


They broke a record set by the British in January of 2008, for the most number of CFL bulbs distributed in a single day―some 4.5 million. In June, the Government and people of Bangladesh were inspired to do even better … and they did!


I was there to witness and watch this remarkable moment. What struck me as most impressive was that the entire process had the air of a popular election campaign. The mood throughout the country was festive, and people were happy to switch to CFLs and to help do what they could to improve the delicate electric power situation in Bangladesh.


The story begins in early 2009 when the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, and the Rural Electrification Board (REB) with the World Bank came up with the “Efficient Lighting Initiatives of Bangladesh (ELIB)” program to help bridge the supply-demand imbalance in the Bangladesh’s power sector. The key to the program was the high quality CFLs that are 4-5 times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and last much longer, and as demonstrated in many countries by the World Bank, large-scale deployment of CFLs can help reduce peak electricity needs. In the first phase of ELIB, 10.5 million CFLs were to be distributed by REB and four other participating utilities to their residential consumers free of cost which, according to conservative estimates, would reduce electricity demand by 300MW.  


But the CFLs have another benefit: ELIB earns carbon revenues. So the challenge was not just in distributing the energy saving light bulbs, but also doing so in a well-documented manner to fulfill the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) methodology requirements. Through an agreement with the Infrastructure Development Company Limited, a government-owned financial institution which is working as a coordinating entity under a programmatic CDM approach, the World Bank is helping register the emission reduction rights, and has recently signed an Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement for over €6.5 million of carbon credits for a period of three years.   


With a high annual growth rate of 9 % in electricity demand, Bangladesh is currently facing an energy crisis. Against a daily peak demand of 6,000 MW  during the summer Boro (irrigation) season, the power system can generate only 4,000 MW. The country faces crippling power outages, which brings life to a halt, and economic development to a crawl, and “load-shedding” has become a routine phenomenon. Bangladesh is expanding its grid, and building new powerplants, but also investing in off-grid electrification through solar home systems in remote, rural areas. In the short term, however, Bangladesh is pushing the boundaries to also make energy “use” more efficient, and that is where ELIB fits in, with support from World Bank-financed Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development project.  


More is yet to be done in Bangladesh. There are five million more CFLs to distribute in September, under the first phase of ELIB.  An additional 17.5 million CFLs are expected to be deployed in the next phase.  Collectively, ELIB could nearly halve the current supply-demand gap in Bangladesh’s power sector. It is doing this quickly and inexpensively – at $1 for the CFL and about $0.35 per bulb for other costs like distribution, awareness building and administration in the first phase, it would cost the Government well under $50,000 per “Negawatt” (saved MW), even without factoring in the potential carbon finance revenues. Considering that adding new power generation capacities could be 20 times more expensive and could take 5 times longer to implement, the savings are not a trivial matter.


For more information, including pictures and videos from the project, please visit


Originally featured on the Development in a Changing Climate Blog. A big thanks!



Ashok Sarkar

Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank

Join the Conversation

Ashok Sarkar
August 25, 2010

I agree that mercury content and performance of CFLs (vis-à-vis poor power quality of some developing country electricity grids) are important factors for consideration in large-scale deployment of CFLs. These are addressed within both the programmatic approaches, such as the one implemented in Bangladesh, and through policy-based interventions, wherein the highest level technical specifications and threshold benchmarks for CFLs such as ELI (, IEC, EST, etc are generally adopted.

Please see the “CFL Toolkit”… prepared by our team earlier this year, which provides some relevant links and references about both these issues. CFLs with less than 5 mg of mercury, and with 6,000 to 10,000 hours life are becoming the norm. Similarly, on the power quality front, CFLs which can withstand wide voltage fluctuations (150-250 V), have minimum efficacy of >55 lumens/watt, have high power factor (>0.8) and entail lower harmonics are now readily available at affordable prices, as have also been used for the ELIB program in Bangladesh.

One of the primary objectives of the World Bank –funded efforts in developing countries as well as similar initiatives being pursued by partner countries themselves [like - Government of India’s 400 million CFL program, "Bachat Lamp Yojana"… ] and those pursued by other organizations such as the ADB, UNEP, GEF, etc. is to introduce, create demand, and transform markets for highest quality CFLs at affordable prices. At the same time, long-term CFL’s mercury disposal and recycling options are also addressed under these initiatives, sometimes incentivized through potential carbon revenues.

Given the high energy efficiency benefits of CFLs compared to incandescent lamps, their application for mitigating electricity crisis have been pursued in many countries. As a result of the popularity and affordability of this technology, the worldwide demand for CFLs have grown rapidly . Over 3 billion CFLs were produced globally in 2009 compared to only 500 million in 2000. European Union, Australia, Canada, USA and some developing countries have actually started banning incandescent lamps altogether in favor of CFLs, through phase-out policies and mandatory regulations.

With the ongoing lighting technology revolution, it is expected that within the next 4-5 years, LED based systems – which do not entail the mercury problems at least and have longer life (and which are currently being applied cost-effectively for off-grid solutions) will start becoming viable for household lighting amongst grid-connected customers also. But, for now, it appears that CFLs outweigh both LEDs and incandescents, as a cost-effective option for widespread application of household lighting energy efficiency improvements.

February 14, 2011

Bangladesh is a developing country and most serious challenges we faces is power crisis. What ever we forecast for demand but our calculation failed because if you produce right now 7000 megawatt, it will fulfill with in a very short time because of many development and industries are waiting for power. If power is available, we will see many new projects, industries will consume immediately.

In electricity, when we save power it means we produce power. If somebody save 100 watt, another user can use that power. Therefore energy efficiency is essential in every electric product. All the develop world even India also have energy efficiency authority to motivate and regulating energy efficiency policy.

Now, let’s see in which sector we can reduce use of energy and some policy to motivate the people.

1. Major energy use in industrial sector and there are inductive and non inductive load. In our country, there are no major rules or not applied properly the rules for machine use. Like many industry using motor and sometimes those motor are not efficient at all and may be it will be recondition or old enough to be an efficient motor. Most of the inductive load do not have soft starter. Even in general use of water pump, there are no standard efficient level for selecting pump. Therefore people using 2500 tk water pump and that same 1 hp pump, in good branded one will be 7500 or higher. But people choose low price one which will destroy power and less efficient.

Now what we can do about it? Must have regulation for import machine, motor not old enough 3 years if recondition. Motor or machine THD level, efficient must check. Soft starter should embed in every inductive device.

2. Regarding the Electric bike. It is very good for environment but as we cannot support the energy they need it is now harmful. First of all, that DC motor china made and worse efficient. Then using very low price batteries all together it is destroying good amount of power. Now if we calculate 250000 e bike, avg battery power (4 pc battery 100 amp to 165 amp) = 4800 watt to 7920 watt, to charge up that watt 250000 bike * 6300 avg; watt = 1575 megawatt. We cannot tell everyday they empty the battery therefore it might be half 787 megawatt day. As they put charge at night time, still it is huge amount of energy and it cause sometimes transformer burst.

What we can do? Ban in import and catch up those bikes. Then we have to see the result otherwise give license to them and regulate that they must use 120 watt solar pv panel, energy star rated motor and high quality charger and batteries. But still it is problem for our energy crisis time.

3. Air condition: Now on days, we are used to use of these products. It is inductive load and consumed good amount of energy. Nobody cares to reduce the temp level or efficient products. Recently, at the same price, many manufacture offering 50% less power but same BTU because they are using DC motor. Therefore high tax, high electricity unit price where higher then 3-5 kilo residential load needed. But it may not be possible due to political and public emotion purpose. But still there are no substitutes to make energy expensive then people will careful to use of energy.

4. Lighting purpose: We came to new energy saving age and using cfl bulb or tube. It will save energy sure but it cause heavy damage in environmental. Every cfl contain mercury and emit UV. UV is harmful for our skin and mercury is highly radio active poison. When any bulb damage in our room, we have to keep vacant that room and open door, windows because of mercury vapor. After that we send it outside or sale. If it is goes to river, soil it will damage the water and its poison circle will start. It affect drinking water, fish and we take water or fish and cause cancer, unborn child defect, etc. Some tube light THD level also too high which decrease gird performance.

What we can do? Use LED light. It is environmental friendly, long life (50000 Hrs where cfl is 3000 to 5000 hrs), very less energy consume even one third comparing cfl. As it is still expensive, we can use certified cfl and rules and regulation for recycling cfl. Another thing is still now; customs do not have HS code or tax structure for led light, bulb or tube. Led light must have duty/ tax free access.

5. BTS for mobile operator: Bangladesh has rapidly expanding mobile uses and according to that base transmission station also need. Now, 25000 over BTS running and more 7000 or more coming within 2 years. For mobile company, energy unit rate must have different category (high). Every BTS they use 2 pc 1 ton air conditioner which run round the clock. Now, if we calculate everyday 18 hrs air condition running this means 32.4 kilo only air condition. 32.4 times 25000 = 810000 kilo everyday 810 megawatt everyday.

What is the solution: They have big investment and they can easily put solar / wind/ combined hybrid power generation system. If one BTS investment is near one core, they can easily put 5 to 10 % extra investment to do solar/wind/ hybrid power generation solution.

6. IPS: Most popular device in our urban area. Due to lack of electricity supply, these products become popular. But it is not efficiency products. As normal theory, when power convert, it cause some loss, main focus is minimizing the loss as much as possible. But our IPS, now making almost every technician in the every corner of the road. Therefore it design efficiency is very less. Then comes to parts, most of the parts are not standards because of cost minimizing. Transformer core, wire is very poor and it cause loss of current. If we calculate 20 % power waste in IPS, it is really significant amount where everyday we are using this product and use of this products also increasing.

What can do? Firstly, IPS must have some certificate/ compliance rules. Additionally, certain amount of load can put in solar pv. This will benefit supply side and demand side both.

Above all the circumstances, we find we must need energy efficient regularity authority and authority like energy star (who tested and give certificate for energy efficient products).

February 24, 2013

1. Environmental effect of CFL Mercury in a CFL lamp is harmful for our environment. The mercury content of a good quality CFL is 5-6 milligram. 1 cubic feet of soil can accommodate maximum 300 nanogram of mercury, so 1 CFL will require at least 589,000 cubic feet of soil! As such mercury content of CFL is hazardous.

Now, if you tell poor people getting light but you give so much harmful mercury which will effect our future, even mercury pollute water level, fish and we will get kidney, brain, liver problem, women got early abortion etc. You can just check mercury effect on fish and water search by google. For any developing project, we will see benefit and bad side. If long term visible and indirect side of danger list are longer then benefit, we drop the developments.

Now, cfl efficiency is you tell 55lm/watt but unfortunately we get 30 to 40 which lumen decay is very fast almost 50 % gone after 100 hrs and life written 5000 hrs but 2000 hrs to 3000 hrs is the best maximum.

I give you world bank documents

2.2.4 Component E. Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) 12. in 2010, under the ELIB program supported by the RERED project, about 10 million CFLs were distributed to households in exchange for incandescent lamps in 2010. However, post-installation surveys have indicated alarming levels of lamp failures. REB, the implementing agency, has claimed replacement of the poor quality bulbs from the supplier. The second-phase procurement of 17.5 million CFLs was initiated in late 2010 under the RERED project (before the post-installation survey results of the first phase was available), but due to various issues (including issues related to submission of fraudulent performance guarantees by the winning bidder) the procurement could not be completed.

Improper disposal of CFL bulbs regarding health impact of mercury. The technical specifications of the CFLs supported under the project required the mercury content to be no more than 5 milligrams per unit. Given the large number of CFLs supported under the project (about 7 million to be procured in addition to the 10.5 million procured under the RERED project) can have a collective significant impact on the environment if not disposed of properly. Elemental (metallic) mercury and all of its compounds are toxic, exposure to excessive levels can permanently damage or fatally injure the brain and kidneys. Elemental mercury can also be absorbed through the skin and cause allergic reactions. Ingestion of inorganic mercury compounds can cause severe renal and gastrointestinal damage. Organic compounds of mercury such as methyl mercury are considered the most toxic forms of the element. Exposures to very small amounts of these compounds can result in devastating neurological damage and death. When mercury enters bodies of water, biological processes transform it to methyl mercury, a highly toxic and bio-accumulative form. For fetuses, infants and children, the primary health effects of mercury are on neurological development. Even low levels of mercury exposure such as result from mother's consumption methyl-mercury in dietary sources can adversely affect the brain and nervous system. Impacts on memory, attention, language and other skills have been found in children exposed to moderate levels in the womb. Also breakage of a single CFL bulb in a room can result mercury vapor levels much higher than any international standard for prolonged exposure. However, one of the advantages is recycling of a CFL bulb. Virtually all the component can be recycled- the metal end caps, glass tubing, mercury and phosphor power can all be separated and reused. The metallic portion can be sold as scrap metal, recycled glass can be remanufactured into other glass products and mercury can be recycled into new CFL bulb and other mercury containing devices.

You can find this documents