Last week Powys Council announced that they will be replacing their existing street lights with LED Street Lights. They will be spending £1.5 million to replace over 5,000 street lights. Staffordshire council is doing the same and Herefordshire completed their switch to LED last year. Yet sleepy Conservative-led Shropshire Council are… errmm… doing nothing!
Currently, Shropshire Council is trialling the use of LED street lights. (There is one of these LED Lights on Station Road in Whittington.) However, they are making a costly mistake by not rolling out the more economically efficient LED lights. At present, Shropshire Council considers that the capital cost of swapping their lights is too high and are hoping that the cost of the lights comes down.
“…a significant number of columns are presently posing an unacceptable risk and are in urgent need of replacement” Shropshire Council, Challenge Fund Bid 2015
In my view, this is a very poor decision. When you consider that 88% of the lights are made of decaying concrete or that 44% are over 25 years old and 14% are over 50!! Shropshire Council said in 2015 that data to May 2014 showed that a significant proportion of the 4,060 light tested presented an “unacceptable risk and are in urgent need of replacement.” They identified that 252 needed immediate replacement and an additional that 2,347 needed replacement by 2017/18. So 65% of those tested needed replacing presenting an “unacceptable risk and are in urgent need of replacement.”
They could use some of their £175 million cash reserves or they could borrow the capital cost from the Government’s Green Investment Bank, given that interest rates are still at historically low levels. Either way, replacement is increasingly inevitable anyway. It is economic madness to do nothing when the long-term on-going savings are huge and the obvious benefits to public safety are widely accepted.
In 2014 The Government invited all Highways Authorities in England, including Shropshire Council, to submit bids for a slice of the £275 million Challenge Fund. 28 authorities were successful in meeting the fund’s criteria and putting forward the strongest bids. Shropshire’s bid in 2015 was unsuccessful. Arguably because their bid lacked ambition. They only wanted to replace lights over 35 years old. Other similar bids were bidding to modernise the whole network. This failure left Shropshire with its old and inefficient street lighting. Fast forward 2 years and many many authorities are putting Shropshire to shame, investing to save considerable money on their energy bills.
Safer, Brighter, Cleaner and Cheaper
Just like domestic LED lights used in your home, there is an initial capital cost to replace the lights. However, the ongoing savings thanks to their longer life expectancy and replacement costs, and the direct savings in terms of power consumption. This means that the year on year savings quickly outway the initial capital cost. Using LED Streetlights also has the upside of improved lighting, reducing crime and improving safety for both pedestrians and road users alike. Due to the more directional lighting, they also reduce light pollution in the night sky and aren’t as much a nuisance to residential property. They also contribute to reduced Carbon Dioxide emissions, don’t use dangerous heavy metals or emit UV radiation.
Street lights in Shropshire use enough power to light every house in Whittington Parish
According to Shropshire Council, it takes 7.7 million kilowatt-hours of power to run their 18,500 street lights, illuminated signs and traffic signals every year – enough to power 2,600, or every home in Whittington Parish, for a year! Annually they spend £800,000 on repairing and renewing Street Lighting. The electricity consumed by an ‘average’ light costs between £25 and £65 a year. Both the capital replacement and maintenance cost and the energy costs could be radically cut by switching.
- Councils spend 30% of their total annual energy bill on Street Lighting;
- Savings of 50%-80% can be achieved by switching to LED lights;
- LED lights have a life expectancy of 24 years and last for 100,000 hours;
- Standard Sodium lights last for 15,000 hours;
- Fluorescent lights last for 25,000 hours;
- LED Lights are directional making sure the light only goes where it is needed.
- Old lights disperse light everywhere, with as much as 30% going upwards;
- Old lights offer poor lighting leaving many dark areas;
- Old lights are a nuisance near residential windows.
It doesn’t take much searching on Google to see how everywhere else is getting on with upgrading:
Cheshire East Council are upgrading 24,000 street lights to LED
Kent County Council decided to replace all 118,000 of their lights with LED lights and project an annual saving of £5.2 million a year on their electricity consumption.
Bracknell Forest are replacing 13,000 street lights and expect to save £12 million over the life of the lights
Herefordshire Council has already replaced most of their 12,000 lights. They expect to see a return after 5 years and savings of over £16 million on their energy and maintenance costs over the next 20 years.
Doing nothing is not acceptable
According to Shropshire’s challenge Fund bid, the annual energy saving would be about £300,000 a year. That is £300,000 that can be reinvested in services, reinvested in the Street Light network or to reduce council tax levels. Over the lifetime of the new lights (24 years) that saving would be about £7.2 million of energy savings. With rising energy prices that saving figure has to be considered a conservative estimate. Given that many of the new light would last beyond that lifetime, the savings could be considerably more. At a time when money is tight, these are precious savings that need to be made
Given the environmental benefits, the “unacceptable risk” of column failure and the significant ongoing savings, doing nothing is not acceptable.