Accelerating adoption of LED street lighting: Event in Austin, Texas shows there’s “no need to wait”

Reading time: 4 minutes
2 December 2014

NEW YORK: Light-emitting diode (LED) street lighting is a mature technology which offers big energy savings opportunities and should be urgently scaled up today, said experts from The Climate Group and Philips at an event in Texas, US.

On November 20, 2014, The Climate Group, in collaboration with Philips Lighting, held an LED Scale-up presentation at the National League of Cities Congress of Cities Exposition in Austin, Texas.

Entitled 'No Need to Wait: Accelerating Adoption of LED Street Lighting', the presentation focused on The Climate Group’s ongoing LED Scale-up consultation process, and covered typical challenges faced by cities, particularly around retrofits, replacements and upgrades of street lighting assets.

Speakers were Dr. Ben Ferrari, Director Partnerships, The Climate Group and Dr. Peter Curley, Technologist, The Climate Group, and Niels Van Duinen Head of Business and Professional Support, Philips Lighting.

The presentation was opened by Dr Ben Ferrari who explained the role of The Climate Group and our goal through 2014 to focus on the acceleration of LED adoption for street lighting. He explained how LEDs are a mature technology that represent an “excellent energy savings opportunity, which could be actioned today”.

Then Dr Peter Curley provided examples of the energy savings that are possible with LEDs, and the additional benefits that can be exploited by using intelligent pre-set LED luminaires, smart sensor triggers and scheduled dimming of LEDs, as well as the operational flexibility and future-proofing advantages that a centralized lighting management system (CMS) can provide.

LED adoption challenges

Peter Curley went on to present the different LED options open to cities when considering street lighting and highlighted key remaining adoption challenges. He pointed out that a common challenge faced by many cities in the USA is aligning stakeholder interests particularly around the ownership of street lighting assets and incentivising investor-owned utilities to explore the various LED lighting options.

Neils Van Duinen from Philips Lighting then presented the company’s ‘Lighting as a Service’ business model, which offers an alternative approach to street lighting for cities. In this model, the city pays an agreed fee for the delivery of a lighting service. It is clear this model can offer cities a way to transfer the risk of sourcing finance and upgrading their street lighting hardware to a dedicated service provider. In doing so they can dramatically reduce energy bills, as well as explore options to future-proof their cities and linked smart city services. This service approach is already being used in Washington and currently under consideration by the city of Chicago. 

The presentation was attended by more than 80 city and municipal representatives. Audience comments and questions highlighted the benefits of LEDs experienced by those cities that have already adopted the low carbon technology. But challenges were highlighted: in certain circumstances, investor-owned utilities may have reduced incentives to adopt energy efficient LED lighting as they would have to first fund the initial installation process, and then there could be a subsequent reduction in tariffs and their overall revenue stream from municipal lighting. At present many cities pay utilities fixed tariffs for street lighting and maintenance, and utilities may elect to use low cost, off-peak electricity at night to power street lights, and also may take advantage of excess generating capacity.

Energy savings

This barrier to adoption of energy efficient technologies for utilities is not a new problem. However, with the advent of LED lighting offering not just small savings but the potential for electricity savings of 50-70% across all street lighting, there is an urgent need to find solutions that offer utilities routes to decouple rates from sales, and thereby reduce the risk of being penalized for adopting energy efficient LED solutions.

At present cities have several options open to them, including buying lighting assets back from the utilities. Some cities have explored joint action law suits to challenge utilities to recoup past lighting fees. An alternative solution could be to bring the various stakeholders and state policy advisors to the table to explore workable solutions that allow such energy efficient solutions to be adopted and for all those concerned to see a benefit.

The Climate Group was approached by representatives of over 15 cities to help explore such solutions with utilities and accelerate the adoption of LED lighting in their cities. We will now seek to convene meetings with a range of energy policy and utility representatives and advisors over the coming months, to develop a series of recommendations specifically focused on accelerating adoption of LED lighting.

Finally, as part of the broader international LED Scale-up consultation, the event and follow up will provide routes for participants to request further information that could help answer key questions or remaining issues and concerns.

Read presentations from the event:

The Climate Group - No Need to Wait: Accelerating Adoption of LED street lighting

Philips - About Benefits instead of Products

The Climate Group’s ongoing 2014 global LED Scale-up consultation aims to help address the remaining key barriers to LED adoption.

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