Streetlight Ownership to Drive $250k Savings

In an effort to cut costs of maintaining and powering its street lights, a RI regional planning council is seeking state legislative help to acquire the assets. Inside we provide details on the legislation, cost savings and other similar efficiency activities

What Happened?

The Washington County Regional Planning Council is strategizing on how to acquire ownership of local streetlights in its 10 towns to reduce electrical and maintenance costs.

So What?

The Rhode Island General Assembly is considering two pieces of legislation that would help the Washington County Regional Planning Council take control of the streetlights more easily. The entire state spends more than $14 million annually on streetlight upkeep, while Washington County drops $1.2 million each year on lighting the community, and $750,000 is allocated to light maintenance. If the planning council is able to acquire ownership of the streetlights, officials estimate the county will save $250,000 over the next three years, while $350,000 could be assigned to the purchasing of more energy-efficient light bulbs.

What Would Change

Currently, municipalities in Rhode Island pay an estimated cost for streetlight bulbs and maintenance. The H5935 and S836 bills would enable the state Public Utilities Commission to adjust the cost of streetlights if a city were to provide energy-efficient light bulbs. Localities would purchase streetlights from the National Grid based on the new costs. Similar laws have already been enacted in Massachusetts and Connecticut. About 70 municipalities in Massachusetts own their streetlights and have reported savings of 15 to 50 percent.

Other County Efforts

The Washington County Regional Planning Committee is also pursuing a building efficiencies initiative that calls for Investment Grade Audits of 80 public buildings in the area to help reduce public energy bills. Once the audits are complete, towns can work to upgrade their infrastructure to reduce costs in the long term. The program is also a source of job creation as green and renewable energy sources will be introduced into the county.

The Town of Westerly has already been awarded a distributed generation standard contract by the state that will allow Rhode Island and the National Grid to work together on solar and wind power projects to upgrade infrastructure.

Cleveland Trials New Bulbs

Cleveland Public Power is also investing in more energy-efficient streetlights, replacing fixtures with LED options to reduce costs. The provider is testing four types of LED streetlights to determine which bulbs offer the most savings and quality to the community. The trial will last two years so the bulbs experience extreme weather year-round before the most durable option is discovered.

The streetlight initiative will cost Cleveland about $500,000 – mostly funded by city coffers and a $200,000 federal energy conservation grant. The program will test light bulbs on 500 fixtures, and eventually impact the 67,000 streetlights that line Cleveland roads. The bulbs being tested will cost anywhere from $250 for a 150-watt light to $750 for 400 watts, compared to the $125 150-watt and $150 400 watt bulbs in place. The current lights only last for four years, while the LEDs promise a lifespan of up to 25 years with 50 percent less energy consumption. The city is also testing smart photocell devices that attach to streetlights and notify the power provider of any bulbs in need of repair. These devices could ensure adequate lighting throughout the city as well as reduce the extent of outages when they occur.

Other Energy Projects

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