Simple Fix: Change the light bulbs in street lights

It’s no secret that the city of Stockton is facing some tough choices in terms of finances. In the weeks and months to come, city leaders and stakeholders are going to have to make some very difficult decisions on how to reign in the city’s budget. Luckily, there are some policies that are no-brainers in terms of saving the city money in the long run. One of these ideas: change the light bulbs in street lamps.

In a recent article in Atlantic Cities, the secret costs of street lighting were examined. Street lamps turn out to be huge energy guzzlers for city governments. In some cities, the energy consumed by street lamps may comprise more than half of the city’s energy bill. Several cities across the country are learning that a shift to more energy efficient street lamps can save millions of dollars over the course of a light bulb’s life, not to mention the added bonus of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Take San Diego, for example. There, the city plans to replace 35,000 street lights (about 90% of the city’s total street lighting) with energy-efficient induction bulbs by 2013. Once the replacements are complete, the city will see its lighting bill go from $4.7 million a year to $2.8 million. City leaders estimate that the bulbs’ higher initial costs will pay for themselves through energy savings in just six years. Moreover, newer light bulbs can last for over 10 years, whereas older bulbs need replacing every three to four years.

In terms of energy consumption, the city estimates that the new lighting will reduce electricity use by 16 million kilowatt-hours per year while trimming yearly carbon pollution by more than 12,000 tons.

Thankfully, Stockton is not completely in the dark ages when it comes to updating its street lighting. The city’s Climate Action Plan includes language that encourages the incorporation of energy-efficient bulbs in street lights and traffic signals in the city’s capital improvement plan. According to the plan, the city has goals of installing energy efficient bulbs in 50% of street lights and all traffic signals. The plan also identifies funding opportunities provided by PG&E as well as grants and loans from state and federal agencies. While the plan is not binding, hopefully the city understands the cost saving potential of an energy-efficient street lighting policy.

There is really no other choice here. Replacing old street lights with newer, energy-efficient versions saves the city big chunks of money while also helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The only barrier is higher costs upfront to install and purchase newer types of bulbs, but since these bulbs pay off in the long run, these initial costs are essentially negated over just a couple of years. After making so many short-sighted decisions in the past that are now costing the city heavily, making a simple switch to a policy that potentially saves the city millions is an obvious decision for Stockton.

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Categories: features

Author:David A. Garcia

David A. Garcia founded SCL in March of 2012. He holds degrees from UCLA as well as Johns Hopkins University and currently works as the Director of Community Development at The Cort Group in Downtown Stockton, and previously worked as a researcher/analyst for a congressional agency in Washington DC. The views expressed here are solely of the author.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. City adopting SCL’s bright idea « Stockton City Limits - May 16, 2012

    [...] In a post last week, I discussed how switching to energy-efficient bulbs in street lighting could net the city big savings. Yesterday, the city announced a program to do just that. I am going to go ahead and take all of the credit for this move (not really). [...]

  2. Palo Alto: The city as open digital platform — Tech News and Analysis - September 19, 2012

    [...] If Open Budget spreads to cities across the state, citizens may soon be able to compare their towns’ respective police and library budgets and create a virtuous cycle of civic improvement. Alternately, we may see yet another form of the digital divide in which Palo Alto residents get apps while Stockton residents work to keep the street lights on. [...]

  3. GIASTAR – Storie di ordinaria tecnologia » Blog Archive » Palo Alto: The city as open digital platform - September 19, 2012

    [...] If Open Budget spreads to cities across the state, citizens may soon be able to compare their towns’ respective police and library budgets and create a virtuous cycle of civic improvement. Alternately, we may see yet another form of the digital divide in which Palo Alto residents get apps while Stockton residents work to keep the street lights on. [...]

  4. Palo Alto: The city as open digital platform | Apple Related - September 19, 2012

    [...] If Open Budget spreads to cities across the state, citizens may soon be able to compare their towns’ respective police and library budgets and create a virtuous cycle of civic improvement. Alternately, we may see yet another form of the digital divide in which Palo Alto residents get apps while Stockton residents work to keep the street lights on. [...]

  5. Palo Alto: The city as open digital platform | Mobile Marketing Solution - September 20, 2012

    [...] If Open Budget spreads to cities across the state, citizens may soon be able to compare their towns’ respective police and library budgets and create a virtuous cycle of civic improvement. Alternately, we may see yet another form of the digital divide in which Palo Alto residents get apps while Stockton residents work to keep the street lights on. [...]

  6. Palo Alto: The city as open digital platform | BaciNews - December 28, 2013

    […] If Open Budget spreads to cities across the state, citizens may soon be able to compare their towns’ respective police and library budgets and create a virtuous cycle of civic improvement. Alternately, we may see yet another form of the digital divide in which Palo Alto residents get apps while Stockton residents work to keep the street lights on. […]

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