Street Lighting - Getting the ‘light’ balance to achieve savings and safety

Street lights have certainly come a long way. With around 7.2 million in operation in the UK, and costs in the hundreds of millions, it’s no surprise local authorities are moving away from old, expensive dusk ‘til dawn lighting regimes for ‘smarter’ street lighting schemes.

Many local authorities have opted for part night lighting (normally lights out between midnight and 5am) as a method of reducing their street lighting energy costs. It’s also a way of improving their environmental credentials, especially when street lighting is a key area of energy expenditure. For example Essex County Council is estimated to have saved £1m and 8,000 tonnes of carbon per year from a part night lighting regime with 70% of its lighting ‘off’ after midnight.

Making changes to street lighting portfolio management makes perfect sense, especially when energy, maintenance programmes and ‘green’ government taxes costs are increasing. Although part night lighting brings obvious cost and carbon benefits, we should consider safety too – both for road users and residents.

There’s often concern from commentators like the AA that roads that are safe when lit can become unsafe with lights switched off. However, the evidence from some local authority trials show that levels of crime and numbers of traffic accidents do not increase.

There’s certainly a balance to be reached between ensuring local communities feel safe and the effective management of street lighting to keep costs down and reduce environmental damage.

SSE works with local authorities under a number of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs). Its Mayflower system provides local authorities with the flexibility needed to monitor and adapt lighting levels in response to financial, safety, legal and environmental requirements and pressures.

Using Mayflower, Hampshire County Council has been able to reduce CO2 emissions by 4,000 tonnes – the equivalent of the pollution from 1,600 cars every year. Their 100,000 lights and signs can switch on at 75% of full power, reducing to 50% at midnight and returning to 75% at 5am.

There’s no doubt that changing lighting regimes can bring advantages to those tasked with the effective management of an area’s street lights. However, it’s important to get the right balance in ensuring any commercial and environmental benefits are achieved while also meeting the social, safety and security concerns of local communities and road users.

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Mayflower Complete Lighting Control is a trading name of SSE Contracting Limited and is part of SSE Group.

About the author

Patrick Mitchell Head of Mayflower Complete Lighting Control

Patrick leads a team of dedicated professionals providing innovation for the wireless control and monitoring of street lighting and signage across the UK and Ireland. Mayflower, a market leading CMS provider, now controls and monitors in excess of 185,000 pieces of highways equipment meeting the energy control needs of its customers which include PFI and local government authorities. Mayflower Complete Lighting Control is a trading name of SSE Contracting Limited and is part of SSE Group.

Read more articles by Patrick Mitchell