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Glasgow gets green loan to install low-energy street lights


A streetlamp. Photograph: Alamy


Powered by article titled “Glasgow gets green loan to install low-energy street lights” was written by Fiona Harvey, for on Tuesday 4th February 2014 07.00 UTC

Glasgow will be markedly less orange in the near future, and its council will be millions of pounds better off, under plans from the government’s green fund. Street lights will be replaced with low-energy LEDs so that the familiar sodium glow gives way to bright white light.

As well as saving money, it will be a boon to skywatchers in the surrounding countryside, as LED lights provide more illumination on the ground and less to the clouds. Close to 100% of the light goes downward, unlike conventional street lights which send a third of their glow into the night sky, causing light pollution.

The project is the result of a new finance deal from the government-backed green investment bank. Under the deal, councils will receive the cash needed for the replacements upfront, to be paid back over time as the savings materialise.

Shaun Kingbury, chief executive of the bank, which is headquartered in Scotland, told the Guardian: “This needs no government subsidy and is great place for us to invest.” He said all of the UK’s street lighting could be similarly replaced by 2020, with the potential for hundreds of millions of pounds in energy savings and massive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

“There are over 7m street lights in the UK, and many of them are over 40 years old and past their best. They need a helping hand and we want to offer everyone a programme [for replacement]. I have an ambition that by 2020 all street lighting should be energy-efficient LEDs.”

The UK spends 300m a year on lighting public areas, including streetlamps but also motorways and large areas such as hospital or local authority car parks. At least 80% of this expenditure could be saved by replacing the current lights with LEDs, which provide more light for less money.

Tests show that 80-90% of people prefer the bright white light cast by LEDs to the dim orange of the usual sodium bulbs. The green investment bank has come up with a financial proposition to spur the switchover, by which local authorities and other public bodies can receive the cash needed for the new lights upfront, to be paid back over time as they realise the efficiency savings from the new technology.

The new lights pay for themselves within five to 15 years, depending on where and how they are used, and their expected useful life is at least 40 years. “We take the savings as the capital cost so people do not have to pay more,” Kingbury said.

The green investment bank was set up with Treasury funding to invest in projects, including energy efficiency and renewable power, that cut greenhouse gas emissions but would be unlikely to be funded purely from the private sector.

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, told the Guardian this was a better option than selectively switching off lights, as some councils have been doing to save money. “There are disadvantages to switching off, such as crime and people’s sense of personal security,” he said.

Replacing the UK’s street lights, which make up 40% of the average local authority’s energy spend, would save the equivalent of the annual electricity use of more than 670,000 households, or taking more than 300,000 cars off the road.

The bank offers UK local authorities low-interest fixed-rate loans over a period of up to 20 years. The loans are designed to finance public sector energy efficiency projects, ensuring that repayments are made from within savings.

The bank has already invested £750m in a variety of projects, with £2bn of private sector co-funding. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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