Feature, Outdoor

How to get the funds you need to join the LED revolution in public lighting

A street in Blaenau Gwent, Wales, lit using a retrofit LED product from Harvard Engineering

There’s a revolution going on in lighting in Britain.

LEDs, which use much less energy than traditional lighting, last longer, and provide a better colour of light, have taken the world of lighting by storm, and allowed local authorities to save thousands of pounds by replacing old lighting technology with new.

Every year, across the country, about seven million streetlights clock up a cumulative electricity bill of more than £300 million. Fewer than a million of those lamps have low-energy light sources.

And that’s not to mention all the old-fashioned lighting in the UK’s public buildings, schools, hospitals and social housing.

This is a big challenge for local authorities who are under more pressure than ever to get their costs down. Some have responded by switching off streetlights at night – but this has proven highly unpopular and potentially dangerous.

The good news is that help is at hand from the latest LED technology, and from funders such as the UK Green Investment Bank and Salix Finance, both of which provide low, fixed-rate loans over a period of up to 20 years.

The Green Investment Bank (GIB) has £3.8 billion of funds from the UK government to help make the economy greener and, in the case of LED streetlighting, the premise is simple – the funders provide the capital to cover the initial outlay for equipment and installation, and the loan and interest are paid off through the subsequent savings on energy bills. According to the GIB, more than 100 councils have expressed interest in LEDs.

Funding will be one of the key topics up for discussion in the free conference content at LuxLive in November. There will also be debates on smart streetlighting – how the latest technology can turn streetlights into communications nodes, and how to get local residents on board with your lighting upgrade.

‘Bad lighting does not come cheap, it carries an electricity bill which can be cut by up to 80 per cent with a move to low-energy LED lighting,’ says UK Green Investment Bank chief executive Shaun Kingsbury. ‘Making the switch saves councils money, increases community safety and dramatically reduces the UK’s carbon footprint.’

The GIB Green Loan is essentially a corporate loan that covers the setup, capital investment and installation costs of lighting upgrades to LED, with repayments being made from forecast savings.

The first recipient of a ‘green loan’ was Glasgow City Council, which is in the process of converting its 70,000 streetlights to low-energy LEDs. A £6.3 million load will finance the replacement of 10,000 lanterns along Glasgow’s arterial roads.

The new lights are expected to use at least 50 per cent less energy than the incumbent versions and will cut the council’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 18,000 tonnes over the next 18 years.

A further 60,000 streetlamps and their columns will be replaced in the next phase of Glasgow’s LED lighting project, which is complementary to the city centre Future Cities Demonstrator project. This incorporates intelligent lighting and focuses on the city centre.


Councils who go LED can make big savings right away, says Gregor Paterson-Jones of the Green Investment Bank

Immediate savings

‘Councils that make the switch to LEDs could make financial savings immediately, with their streetlighting electricity bills up to 80 per cent lower and overall energy consumption down by about 20 per cent. This would make significant contributions to financial budgets and carbon-reduction targets,’ says Gregor Paterson-Jones, managing director of energy efficiency at the GIB. ‘Uptake of LED streetlighting has been slow so far, but we have spoken to more than 100 local authorities across the UK over the past year and believe one of the barriers is the impact the up-front cost of replacing bulbs with LEDs, columns and intelligent management systems would have on budgets.’

But Glasgow is not the only location that has capitalised on low-cost, green-focused funding. Salix – which provides interest-free funding to the public sector, and will be represented at LuxLive in November – is working with Bournemouth Borough Council on a £4.3 million streetlighting project with the objective of achieving financial savings of £17 million over the life of the project. Salix is part-funding a wider project totalling £7.8 million and work is under way to replace all of Bournemouth’s 16,500 streetlights to make the system more efficient. The replacement of the lamps with new LED units is expected to prevent the emission of 71,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the life of the project. Councillor Michael Filer admits the town’s lighting network was aged and in ‘need of modernising’, adding: ‘This is a huge programme of improvement works that will benefit the whole town.’

Also, Blaenau Gwent embarked on a Salix-backed project last year under which it was agreed that the local authority would purchase LED light engines from Harvard Engineering. The scheme comprises the replacement of gear trays on 2,534 low-pressure sodium lanterns (those are the old-fashioned ones that glow really orange) and 1,498 high-pressure sodium lanterns.

Wakefield College has recently completed a lighting upgrade project throughout a number of campus buildings which is set to save over £2.25 million and 6,000 tonnes of carbon over the life of the project. As part of an energy use review, LED lighting was identified as a critical factor in helping the college achieve its target of reducing its carbon footprint by 30 per cent by 2015.

Before the upgrade, Wakefield College had a mix of different kinds of fluorescent tubes that were expensive to maintain, emitted different amounts of light and were consuming over 1.4 million kilowatt-hours each year, resulting in very high running costs. With a £360,000 Salix loan, the college replaced all its lamps with LED lighting. After the upgrade, energy consumption fell by nearly a third – projected savings are over £85,000 a year.

The college is the first in Yorkshire to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard and Shane O’Donnell, Wakefield College’s energy officer, says: ‘It shows we have taken real action on climate change by reducing our carbon emissions ourselves, rather than just paying others to offset our carbon emissions.’

For local authorities hoping to emulate such projects, GIB has produced a route-map to help local authorities and public bodies make a business case for transitioning to low-energy streetlighting.

GIB has also developed a financial model to accompany the business case and shape the loan so interest and repayments are only made from forecast savings, and standardised loan documentation, developed with Glasgow, that should save other local authorities time and money in agreeing a finance package to convert their streetlighting estates.


To keep up-to-date with the latest in lighting technology and learn how you can make the most of it, don’t miss LuxLive on 18-19 November. Register now at www.luxlive.co.uk