The city of Galveston’s plan to create a uniform system of street lighting will yield several benefits, including making the city more aesthetically appealing and safer. But its plan also reduces monthly expenses by converting all light types to LED.
It’s a smart move and a good example of a national trend of cities working to save money and energy.
LED stands for light-emitting diodes. And while LEDs cost more than conventional bulbs, they last longer and use less energy. Cities that converted to all LED lights saw savings of 40 percent to 60 percent yearly, Pete Milburn, senior project manager, said.
“About 80 percent of the CenterPoint streetlights are LED or they’re in the process of being converted to LED,” Milburn said.
In the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, the city paid $580,389 to CenterPoint Energy, which maintains, owns and provides services to most city streetlights, according to city documents.
While it’s financially wise to use LEDs, it’s also the responsible thing to do. Lighting accounts for 19 percent of the world’s total electricity consumption, according to newcities.org.
Almost two-thirds of that energy is used for lighting commercial and public buildings, with a further 15 percent going to street lighting, according to newcities.org, a global nonprofit that focuses on urban issues, usually with a progressive agenda. But whatever side of the political line you’re on, it’s difficult to argue against saving money and energy.
Projections indicate that 5 billion people — 60 percent of the world’s population – will live in cities by 2050 and, according to the International Energy Agency, the overall demand for lighting will be 80 percent higher by 2030 than in 2005, according to the World Bank.
“Simply by using LED luminaries, it is possible to provide better quality lighting, lower energy consumption and reduce CO2 emissions,” according to the World Bank, which is made up of 189 member countries who work to shape policies.
“In the United States alone, replacing outdoor lighting with LED lighting can save US$6 billion annually and reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 8.5 million cars off the roads for a year.”
Operations and maintenance costs also tend to be much lower because LED lights last at least four times longer than traditional bulbs, the World Bank argues.
Cities need public lighting. It provides safer streets for both motorists and pedestrians.
And public lighting, like any other service, can be a burden on municipal budgets, but wise investment brings returns.
Along with safety and aesthetics, improved lighting also improves city economies, studies have shown. People tend to dine out and shop later where lighting is adequate.
Galveston is right to take on a strategy to improve street lighting. In its plan, it also aims to correct several problems with Galveston’s streetlight system, including inconsistent fixtures and wattages, light pollution and varying pole heights.
It’s a bright idea.
• Laura Elder