Barriers Overcome: Five Stages to Change your Street Lights

Alexi Lynch

Street lighting is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from local government, typically accounting for 30 to 60 per cent of their greenhouse gas emissions.

What's more, the vast majority of Australia's 2.3 million street lights are old and inefficient, and a change to widely accepted energy efficient technologies can save councils nearly 80% in energy costs. Given the financial and environmental savings that are possible, it's not surprising that Australian councils are changing over their street lights by the hundreds of thousands.

Ironbark has worked nationally on street lighting efficiency and has assisted councils and regions in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, SA, WA and Tasmania to progress street lighting bulk change projects. This includes support through this entire process, including negotiation with distribution businesses and lighting suppliers throughout the preparation, delivery and finalization.

How to Change your Lights: The Five Stages

Every council we have worked with have gone through the following tried and tested process, broken up into five clear stages:

  1. Prepare (develop a business case or financial and technical feasibility analysis)
  2. Fund (through internal and/or external sources, including financing options)
  3. Define (develop the Project Plan, Design Plan and Communication Plans)
  4. Procure (purchase the materials, the installers and the project managers)
  5. Manage (on-going oversight, liaison with key stakeholders, reporting and ensuring electricity and maintenance savings are flowing through to councils) 

Barriers Overcome

In 2011 Ironbark Sustainability was commissioned by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to consult with councils, Distribution Network Services Providers (DNSPs) and main road authorities around the development of a National Energy Efficient Street Lighting Strategy to drive change nationally.

As a part of the development of this Strategy, Ironbark collated information on barriers to improving street lighting energy efficiency in Australia via a nation-wide survey. The strong response (over 200 respondent organisations) to the survey is consistent with the complex nature of the issue of energy efficiency in street lighting and the main barriers identified by councils were costs (most commonly capital cost); expertise and time to deal with the complexity of street lighting; and delays around lighting approvals and working with external stakeholders.

However the traditional barriers that councils faced have been overcome in many jurisdictions. Over the last few years the local government sector has seen energy efficient street lighting projects implemented and more efficient technology approved for use throughout Australia. Over the last decade the barriers have indeed been overcome:

Overcoming the Capital Cost Barrier 

  • The cost of undertaking a street lighting bulk changeover can run into the millions of dollars. However over the last few years dozens of councils were successful in receiving funding through the Federal Government's competitive Community Energy Efficiency Program (CEEP) which matched council contributions. On top of this, there is further funding available in NSW through the Energy Savings Scheme (ESC) and financing options through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. We've also seen costs come down dramatically through bulk procurement of materials (for example the MAV Street Lighting Program) and through more contestability in some jurisdictions. 

 Overcoming the Expertise Barrier

  • Quite simply, as more projects have been implemented, key players have learnt more. There are now a handful of staff at councils and local government associations around Australia whose sole role is specifically on energy efficient street lighting! At Ironbark we now have 7 staff working on street lighting. With tens of thousands of lights already changed in many jurisdictions many more stakeholders have "learnt the ropes". Having been in the street lighting game since the early 2000s, we can comfortably say that we've learnt more as we've progressed through projects and indeed are still learning. 

Overcoming the Relationships Barrier

  • Collaboration works. Arguing doesn’t. Every single successful project in Australia has been the result of cooperative dialogue and relationships between councils, DNSPs and other key stakeholders. This is not to say there are not disagreements along the way but in instances where councils and DNSPs have put down their gloves to work together, we’ve seen real action every time. And councils and DNSPs have benefited. In jurisdictions and projects where key stakeholders are still fighting the only people who benefit are lawyers and consultants. 

More Information

For more information on these services or to implement an energy efficient street lighting changeover at your council please contact us.

For Victorian councils, Ironbark has teamed up with the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) to achieve better financial outcomes for Victorian councils by establishing a panel of suppliers to provide energy efficient street lighting hardware to leverage economies of scale when purchasing lights. Councils have already been able to save up to 45% on materials procurement by working together through this process. The partnership also simplifies the resource requirements of councils and ensuring full compliance with the Local Government Act. Click here for more information or to join for free