Needed: national government support for LED street lighting adoption

Reading time: 4 minutes
18 March 2019

In 2015 The Climate Group, in partnership with Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), made a global call to action for all public lighting around the world to be light emitting diode (LED) by 2025. The role that energy efficient lighting technologies can play in reducing global energy demand, and the speed at which that reduction can be achieved, should not be underestimated or ignored.  Recently we have seen huge LED retrofit programs around the world, with Chicago replacing 270,000 old fashioned street lights, which will save taxpayers $100m over 10 years and avoid over 11,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. New York State is currently rolling out an ambitious LED program, replacing half a million street lights, saving 482 gigawatt hours per year. The program was announced by Governor Cuomo as part of an ambitious goal to reduce carbon emissions in the state by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

We are now making an invitation to national leaders: we ask that you join us and publicly support our call for wider LED adoption to achieve our 2025 scale-up target.

More and more cities around the world are benefitting from upgrading their public lighting to energy efficient LED technology. The unprecedented energy savings of 50-70% from LEDs compared to traditional lighting presents a compelling reason to urgently raise the priority of LED adoption. The drive towards connected LED street lighting also serves as a stimulus for wider renovation of aging city infrastructure, and for further innovations in smart city development and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives. It also presents the opportunity to build upon a connected and secure city lighting network with an expanding array of city-to-citizen data-based products and services.

LED street lighting is a no brainer for the many districts who own their own street lighting assets, have the necessary in-house knowledge and access to the up-front capital costs. Street lighting can account for up to 40% of a city’s electricity consumption, so upgrading to LEDs can present significant energy savings on top of reduced maintenance costs. The ideal is that these savings are then re-invested into other energy efficiency programs in order to stimulate further energy and financial savings.

However, many cities are not in this position, and this is when supporting energy efficiency policy and legislation, from state, regional or federal level can address some of these barriers and catalyze action. The role of leaders and policymakers at a state and national level in helping to facilitate adoption of energy efficiency technologies, and LEDs in particular, is critical.

Policies, incentives, and central funding for city capacity building can all help to accelerate the adoption of LEDs, and broader city renovations. Commitments to LEDs by city, regional and national leaders can also help to drive stakeholder alignment, build public consensus, boost investor confidence, and broaden public awareness and support for accelerated adoption.  The Climate Group is therefore urging adoption of such energy efficient technologies at scale and calling for wider national policy actions that can help increase the rate of city infrastructure renovation around the globe.

The LED lighting revolution can help deliver huge carbon and financial savings to households, cities and businesses alike - we are already seeing energy consumption in US households falling as a consequence. In part, this is down to householders replacing their old incandescent bulbs with LEDs, which can result in energy savings of 80%. This has been enabled by supporting light bulb efficiency standards, and the rapidly decreasing costs of LEDs as they roll-out further. However, a recent announcement from the current US administration has meant that these efficiency standards could be being watered down, which would end up costing consumers billions of dollars per year, and up to $100 per household.

As well as federal level policy, states can also introduce their own policy which can benefit their cities, businesses and citizens alike. For example, California, - one of the founding members of the Under2 Coalition - have ambitious energy efficiency targets and specific standards around lighting. From January 2018 the most inefficient bulbs were completely banned from sale, which will ramp up sales of LEDs. This was done in full consultation with manufacturers and retailers over a 10-year period to ensure a smooth transition. Consequently, around 250 million bulbs around the state are being replaced with efficient LEDs, resulting in savings to consumers of around $1bn on their energy bills.

In our upcoming webinar on March 26, we will hear compelling case studies from cities in Southern California and New York state have benefited from upgrading to LED street lighting. We will also discuss the perspective from National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Alliance to Save Energy, and how supporting policy is critical in driving the energy efficiency agenda.

Register here to secure your place.

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