Bright idea a big saver

New Plymouth district councillor Shaun Biesiek has renewed calls for the city to switch to energy-saving streetlights.

He wants more than 8000 streetlights to be converted to LED lamps, and the issue has finally made its way to the council table.

The $5.5 million dollar project is expected to save about $10m in operating costs every 10 years.

Biesiek said the investment, although costly, would provide significant long-term savings for the community.

"If we are to control future rate rises, we simply need to spend some capital now to achieve it," he said.

"Part of what I see as a job of a council and a councillor is not just to focus on the immediate issues but also look ahead to the future and future generations."

The investigation into LED lighting was started by former mayor Harry Duynhoven, Biesiek said. "And I have supported it since day one.

"For my house it has cost me little to install LED lights, but they have a 25-year plus life span, and instead of 75 watts of power it will be 12.5w for the same light output.

"Add up a house full of light bulbs and you start to see the real benefits."

He proposed the current streetlight bulbs would be replaced starting first with the oldest bulbs that were ready to expire.

It was likely some of the newer bulbs would be replaced before they were due to be, but the council would instead reap savings from the cheaper-to-run LEDs, he said.

Council roading manager Max Aves said the current streetlights had been surpassed by technologies that provided better light and greater energy efficiency.

The LED lights had been trialled on six New Plymouth streets, including Heta Rd and Tukapa St, and the council had been impressed with their performance, Aves said.

"We believe if we install these throughout the district over a five-year period, the investment will pay for itself after 10 years, then save nearly $10m in operating costs in the following 10 years," Aves said.

It was likely 52 per cent of the project would be funded by the NZ Transport Agency and it was proposed the council's share be funded 50 per cent through borrowing and 50 per cent through the existing streetlight renewal reserves.

LED lighting was being used in many cities around the world.

Sydney had about 6500 LEDs, which had resulted in a 25 per cent energy saving, while there were 141,000 LEDs in Los Angeles, which had led to a 63 per cent energy saving.

Several New Zealand cities, including Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin, have already made the switch to LED streetlights, and many other councils, including Wellington, are looking at doing the same.

The district's four community boards will discuss the proposal this week and it was expected to be in front of the full council on September 23.

Taranaki Daily News