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LEDs “lowest hanging fruit” for cutting energy consumption

Replacing all streetlights across the world with LEDs would slash global electricity consumption on lighting by half, according to a new campaign calling on cities to support “The Big Switch”.

Replacing all streetlights across the world with LEDs would slash global electricity consumption on lighting by half, according to a new campaign calling on cities to support “The Big Switch”.

The campaign, LED = Lower Emissions Delivered, was launched by non-profit organisation, The Climate Group, at the annual Climate Week NYC in New York.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage all cities worldwide to switch their streetlights to LEDs by 2025.

According to the campaign, this “Big Switch” would reduce global electricity consumption on lighting by 52 per cent and save 735 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. 

‘No-brainer’

Lighting as a whole currently accounts for nearly a fifth of global electricity consumption and six per cent of global CO2 emissions. With LED technology costs continuing to fall, Mark Kenber, chief executive of The Climate Group, described the switch as a “big no-brainer”.

“When it comes to tackling climate change, LEDs are the lowest of the hanging fruit and easiest to implement. It’s technically proven, commercially viable and already resulting in major savings for cities around the world”, he said.

Streetlight trials

The campaign comes on the back of a series of trials in 12 major cities around the world – including New York, London, Kolkata and Sydney – which found that LED streetlights can achieve energy savings of 50-80 per cent, as well as improving visibility and reducing road accidents.

Harry Verhaar, head of global public and government affairs at Philips Lighting, which conducted the trials with The Climate Group, said: “Renewing existing infrastructure with LEDs needs to be a priority if cities are to realise the benefits of saving money and energy, and better lit, safer streets.”

The movement is already catching on in the North West. Greater Manchester’s 52,000 traffic light bulbs have already been replaced with LEDs, while Bolton is aiming to switch 26,000 street lights by April 2017.

With the number of street lights in the world’s cities set to reach 350 million by 2025, the total opportunity is huge. In the US alone, outdoor lighting currently consumes around $10 billion (£6.5 billion) worth of electricity every year. By switching all of this lighting to LEDs, The Climate Group estimates that the US would save more than $6 billion (£3.9 billion) a year and reduce carbon emissions by 40 million tonnes – the same as taking 8.5 million cars off the road.

Business case

The same logic can be applied for individual businesses. In June 2015, Green Intelligence reported on how Tameside manufacturer, Coleherne Ltd, cut its energy consumption on lighting by 72 per cent by replacing its metal halide high bay lighting with LEDs. 

The move is saving the company £3,600 and 42 tonnes of carbon a year, with the total investment set to be paid back in just over one year.