ON MONDAY, TTEC launched its campaign to distribute free bulbs using light-emitting diode (LED) technology to its residential customers.
While the utility was quick to note that the four nine-watt bulbs should save customers as much as $25 every two months, it did not mention the reduction in energy costs that widespread distribution and a hoped-for change in customer taste might bring to its energy acquisition costs.
Power generation at TTEC's facilities at Cove Estate and at many of the upstream electricity generating companies, Trinidad Generation Unlimited, Trinity Power and Powergen, run largely on natural gas, which has experienced supply issues and cost adjustments.
The distribution of 1.6 million household bulbs was promised by Minister of Finance Colm Imbert in the 2019-2020 budget, and the distribution will keep that promise just in time for the 2020-2021 budget presentation.
It's no accident that the company has also installed 1,813 LED street lights at a cost of $18.6 million at the Queen's Park Savannah, Corinth overpass, and the Curepe interchange, among other locations.
That works out to a cost of $10,259 per installed lamp. A business, even a state utility, doesn't spend that kind of money on public lighting without a strategy for recouping the expense.
A hundred solar-powered LED street lights have also been installed at a cost of $3.4 million, costing $34,000 per light, though in remote areas like Manzanilla the elimination of material and installation costs for power lines would have helped balance the expense.
Lower power drain clearly results in less expense for TTEC as a customer of raw electricity.
TTEC also hopes to reduce its contribution (17 per cent) to TT's outsized carbon footprint. This country is ranked 72 out of 209, delivering a hefty 0.1 per cent of global carbon emissions.
But using less energy with LED bulbs is simply a bright idea.
I began migrating away from CFL bulbs five years ago, back when consumer grade LED bulbs were hefty, ugly things.
There are just three CFL bulbs in use in my home and office today, and two of them are just awaiting burnout to be replaced by LEDs.
Now, you might think LEDs are an unassailable win, and on paper they certainly are.
CFL bulbs were a welcome energy saver, but fluorescent technology uses a poisonous vapour sealed in the bulb tubes to generate light. Shards of shattered bulbs are smeared with mercury.
LEDs are generally less dangerous, though low-intensity red LED lamps, the sort used in street warning lights, have been found to contain dangerous amounts of lead.
Compared to fluorescents, which have been around longer, as bluish-green bulbs for decades, the technology used in consumer LED bulbs is more recent, though it is evolving fast.
The first bulbs I bought to replace CFLs were heavy and quite ugly. Their bulbs were shaped to fit into the spaces used by incandescents in odd designs.
One in every four either died soon after installation or within a matter of weeks.
The ones that burned in successfully did last longer than comparable CFLs and much longer than incandescents.
One of the original bulb replacements has been on 16 hours a day for the last five years. Mentioning that is probably putting malyeaux on it, I know.
More recent units have proven to be better designed as well as more reliable.
That last bulb I can't replace? It's a glass enclosure that needs a narrow bulb. The LED bulbs that fit it eventually overheat and burn out in the enclosed space. A CFL works in it for now, but I'm still looking.
Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there