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Towards a brighter future for street lighting

•  Lighter nights are coming - but street lights shouldn't be forgotten
•  LEDs offer big cost savings, improved quality and safety
•  Free workshop aims to boost lighting projects

Having survived the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, the clocks are set to go forward in a couple of weeks. Dare we dream of Spring’s arrival? Hopefully.

One thing’s for sure: lighter evenings ahead will mean less hours of street lighting are needed – but just because lights are in use less as the conditions get kinder, doesn’t mean that improving their energy performance shouldn’t remain high up the agendas of decision makers.

LEDs prove outstanding option

As the UK partner in Premium Light Pro, we are running a series of free workshops throughout the year to help those in the public and private sector get lighting projects moving.  Quality of product, design and installation is vital if energy savings are to be realised, and this will be a key focus of this collaborative work.

Upgrading street lights to LED can be one of the easier wins for councils to reduce operational costs, as a number of examples have shown in the past year.

Street Lighting at sunset

Big financial savings – plus added value

Premium Light Pro recently showcased Torbay Council’s 2016 upgrade of their street lights, featuring a control system, and altering the colour temperature of some road lights to improve driver facial recognition, while reducing energy consumption and making cost savings of over £100,000.

More recently, Islington Council, as part of a pledge to 10:10’s Lighten Up campaign, put the wheels in motion to upgrade 11,350 street lights to LED – which is estimated to save the council £400,000 per year. 

Beyond energy savings, best practice projects have also increased controllability, safety, reduced light pollution and improved aesthetics.

Islington, for example, will see 4,025 ‘heritage style’ lanterns that are vital to the area’s look and identity preserved – simply retrofitted to contain LED lamps. Here, too, the safety aspect is a big motivation. The council expects that the ‘cooler’ colour temperature of the LED lighting will make the streets safer, by aiding facial recognition via CCTV cameras.

No need to turn off the lights

This is Britain, so it’s sensible to start planning for when it’s cold and dark even when the weather’s starting to look up. And one far from positive development when considering how to light up the gloom is that in the current public sector funding climate, many councils have been forced to dim or turn off street lights.

It was reported in 2017 that this equated to around 42% of lights from 104 UK councils. It’s no surprise, then, that this causes concern about road safety and crime. 

But here’s where energy efficient bulbs like LEDs can make a big difference. Lights with a lower operating cost can be left on for longer, with added controllability which enables dimming on roads and outdoor spaces to be smarter, providing more light when it’s needed.

Kick-starting a mass upgrade

Whilst LED upgrades sound like a no-brainer, in reality there is a long way to go before they become the norm on the UK’s thoroughfares.

Street lighting accounts for around 4% of the UK lighting electricity bill, but only about 1 in 5 lamps are currently LED. The energy saving per street light is estimated at around 35%; if this could be realised across the entire UK stock, cost savings could be in the region of £77 million.

So, light’s been shed on the situation, Now is the time to take action.

The free Premium Light Pro workshop on street lighting is on Wednesday 28 March, in partnership with the Lighting Industry Academy. It is suitable for public sector procurement, sustainability and energy managers. Sign up now

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.