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.