Several councils have been saving money and cutting down on pollution by turning off some of their street lights. But this week Conservative-led Coventry City Council announced it is planning something more sophisticated – putting them all on a dimmer switch. It means that sometimes they will actually brighten the lights – after a football match for example – but that overall they hope to reduce their carbon emissions by 40% and cut energy bills by £684,000.
The cost will be considerable though – requiring all 28,000 street lamps to be replaced over the next 25 years. However some of the street lamps would have needed to be replaced anyway. The Coventry Evening Telegraph offers the following explanation of the figures:
The government is giving the council £125 million spread over 25 years towards the cost of the street light project to pay the PFI contractor, and the council will put in roughly the same by paying the current annual lighting maintenance bill of £3.1 million plus up to £1 million a year extra to cover the rest of the project’s costs.
I'm all for cutting the energy bills for street lighting. But the costs of what Coventry are planning sounds much too high – although if central Government is handing over £125 million it may help the figures add up as far as the council is concerned. Essex is cutting £1 million a year from its £3.8 million street lighting bill by turning some lights of between midnight and 5 am. There is no evidence that it has caused any increase in crime. Many other councils are adopting the same approach – Leicestershire, Gloucestershire several councils in Wales. If the Government was to apply this funding across the country it would cost billions. Yet big savings can be achieved within the existing set up.