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Retiring street lights in the U.S. could save 5.2 billion kWh of electricity annually, saving municipalities $572 million.



In 2009, the City of Boston had 64,000 electric street lights which use 65 million (M) kWh annually [1]. Even after upgrading to high efficiency LED lamps, consumption will be approximately 26M kWh annually. Nationally, there is a mix of sodium vapor, metal halide, and LED street lighting installed by approximately 19,000 municipal governments.

We know that in 2007 18,000 of these municipaliteis had small populations (<10k people), 900 mid-sized (10k-200k), and 100 large (200k+) [2].

Assuming that street lighting electricity consumption correlates with municipality population size, we can approximate total consumption using Boston's figures.

Let's ssume that the 100 large municipalities consume as much as Boston (26M kWh). 100 of these municipalites yields an aggregate consumption of 2.6 billion (B) kWh.

If the mid-sized consume only 8% of the large municipalites, on average, this would mean that each used 2M kWh of electricity for street lighting. Multiplied by 900, mid-sized municipalities consume 1.8B kWh in electricity annually.

And if we say that only 1,500 of the largest small municipalities light their streets and with only use 2% of Boston's electricity, this sums to 780M kWh.

All told, it's reasonable to estimate that almost 5.2 billion kWh of electricity are being used to light streets annually. At $0.11 per kWh [3], we are spending roughly $572M per year on lighting what is really just mostly empty space.

The most difficult part of this proposal is the social change associated with accepting darkness at night.




Category of the action

Reducing emissions from electric power sector.

What actions do you propose?

Encourage local citizens to petition their local municipal governments to retire street lighting as it comes up for maintenance.

Craft a kit of support materials to help citizens:

  • Make the case on budgetary grounds,
  • Address crime/safety/security concerns,
  • Address economic activity concerns,
  • Counter lighting industry opposition
  • Highlight environmental benefits (energy, carbon, light pollution)

Who will take these actions?

  1. Local citizens (who want to reduce unnecessary electricity consumption & light pollution)
  2. Local business owners (who likely believe lighting in commercial districts generates sales, or profit from the sales & maintenance of such products)
  3. Municipal government department of public works staff (who make purchasing and maintenance decisions)
  4. Municipal government committees/boards (who represent all of the above groups)

Where will these actions be taken?

Anywhere with public street lighting is used.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

What are other key benefits?

What are the proposal’s costs?

Time line

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