30/11/2011 - Permalink

Town and parish councils look to save energy by joining streetlighting scheme

Related topics: Community

A scheme to save energy by switching streetlights off in the middle of the night is being embraced by parish and town councils across Shropshire.

Shropshire Council is converting 12,500 of its streetlights to ‘part-night lighting’ over the next three to four years, starting from April 2012.

It takes 8.7 million kilowatt-hours of power (and 4,750 tonnes of carbon) to run the council’s 18,500 streetlights, 2,600 illuminated signs and 101 sets of traffic signals every year, which is the same amount of power used by 2,600 homes in a typical year.

Converting 70% of these streetlights to part-night lighting, which means they can switch themselves off between the middle of the night and 5.30am, would reduce this by 20% – a saving of 1.7 million kilowatt-hours of power and almost 1,000 tonnes of carbon.

Other areas of the country are already switching streetlights off in the early hours of the morning, and a pilot scheme is currently running in Church Stretton.

Most parish and town councils are responsible for a number of streetlights in their area, and many are now contacting Shropshire Council interested in converting appropriate lights on their patch to part-night lighting.

As well as saving energy, the scheme will save money over the coming years as energy prices rise and the Government’s carbon levy tax starts to take effect.  It’s estimated that councils will need to pay £12 a tonne in carbon tax from next year, which would for example land Shropshire Council a bill of £57,000 if streetlighting stayed at current levels.  The proposals to convert 12,500 of lights to part-night lighting would reduce this by up to 20%.

Reducing streetlighting can also be a huge benefit to stargazers.  Various campaign groups have been set up to encourage councils to cut down on streetlighting so residents can see the wonders of the night sky instead of an orange glow.

The campaign is in partnership with West Mercia Police, and any areas which are a crime concern or need lights for road safety reasons will not have their lights switched off.

Councillor Simon Jones, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for transport, said:

“Having thousands of streetlights burning right through the night in areas when they are really not needed at that time of night is a huge waste of energy.  I would assure residents that we are thinking carefully about which lights are suitable to be switched off in the middle of the night, and we are working with the police and emergency services to make sure that public safety is not put at risk.”

Cabinet member for sustainability, Councillor Cecilia Motley, added:

“I think people are now realising how important it is to become more energy efficient, both for the environment and to save on energy bills.  It’s good to see town and parish councils showing an interest in making their streetlights more efficient to reduce their carbon footprint, and we are very happy to help them achieve that.”

Shropshire Council’s Protecting and Enhancing our Environment Scrutiny Committee will consider the criteria for deciding which lights will be exempt from the scheme at its meeting on Monday 5 December 2011.

Councillor Vince Hunt, scrutiny committee chairman, said:

“I am pleased this scheme is coming forward as it benefits on a number of levels.  It reduces the council’s carbon footprint, it will save money, and it will help return the natural view of the night sky over Shropshire – all of this with a scheme that nearly all of us will not notice.

“I am pleased that a lot of thought has also been put into where to leave the status quo, so the vulnerable and areas which need present levels of lighting will not be affected.  In short it is a win-win.”