Cumbria County Council is set to invest £7.6 million in new energy efficient LED street lights.
In its 2014/15 budget agreed in February, the council decided to invest in upgrading thousands of old high-wattage street lights and replacing them with far more efficient and effective LED systems.
The new council policy on road lighting standards takes advantage of the ability to offer flexible levels of lighting from the new LED lights, which will start being installed by county council highways teams later this summer.
As well as helping Cumbria to be a greener, more energy-efficient county, the lights will also help cut the council’s energy bills, with £140,000 in savings set to be delivered in 2014/15, rising to £290,000 in 2015/16 and £430,000 a year by 2016/17.
Hand in hand with the investment in nearly 12,000 new LED lights will be a rolling review of all the remaining approximately 33,000 street lights in the county to see whether further energy efficiencies can be made. This may include deciding not to replace faulty or expired old lights in areas where communities would rather not have overnight illumination, or seeing whether it would be feasible and preferable to dim any of the approximately 3,000 ‘older’ lights which can be dimmed.
All of the new LED lights require less maintenance than the older stock and come with the ability to set lighting levels at the appropriate and safe level for their location. Most of Cumbria’s older lights by contrast can only be fully 100% on or fully off. Therefore the council’s policy to allow ‘dimming’ of lights where appropriate and safe will only apply to around a third of Cumbria’s street lights (the 12,000 new LED lights plus the circa 3,000 dimmable older lights).
Currently only around 50 street lights in Cumbria are set at dimmed levels (all are in Carlisle) - but trials on reducing lighting levels on these 50 lights have proved successful, with no safety issues or public concern raised at all.
Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member responsible for highways, said: “The council is just like households all over the country - we want to cut our energy bills and there are ways of using modern technology to do that. We're making the investment now to help us save money and conserve energy further down the line.
"I don't want anyone to be concerned that it's our intention to dim or switch off all the old street lights - this is not what this is about. But we believe there is scope to significantly reduce lighting levels while still maintaining safety. Some households have already told us they would rather not have their lights left on overnight and we want to use this new investment as an opportunity to review whether we can be more energy efficient and not over-light areas for no good reason."
The council is set to approve the energy saving street lights policy at a cabinet meeting on Thursday (15 May).