11 April 2012
Technology costing £1.7 million would centralise Devon County Council’s controversial scheme [known as part night street lighting] to turn off street lights in the dead of night to save cash and energy.
Exeter has been earmarked for the first phase of the new system, which would eventually be rolled out across Devon.
The city is next in line to see many of its 12,000 street lights turned off or dimmed between 12.30am and 5.30am to save cash and reduce its carbon footprint.
But campaigners are warning that it could put public safety at risk.
The new technology, which will be considered by the council’s cabinet today, would mean that the system could be operated over a web-based interface, from a central point.
The cost of up to £1.7 million is expected to be paid back over about six years from savings generated by the scheme.
Devon’s 76,000 street lights account for almost a quarter of the authority’s carbon footprint, and the energy they use alone costs £3.4 million a year.
In January 2009, the council agreed a policy to switch off many street lights between 12.30am and 5.30am – though some lights stay on all night on busy routes or where a need has been demonstrated.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “The scheme was expected to save up to 4,000 tonnes of CO2 and approximately £450,000 on the council’s electricity bill over the entire programme.
“However, after just one year, figures show that there has already been a CO2 emission saving of nearly 2,900 tonnes and a cost saving of £484,000.”
He said the new system would allow the council more flexibility to manage, monitor or dim lights progressively, as traffic and pedestrian numbers dropped, and turn them on and off as needed.
He added: “We believe a combination of part-time night lighting and the new remote monitoring system means savings for taxpayers, savings in CO2 emissions and makes for a more efficient and cost-effective street lighting network.”
Mr Hughes said the council understood some people were worried about the possibility of more crime occurring during the hours of darkness.
“Crime levels have been monitored since the scheme was introduced and in some instances, this has shown a reduction in night-time crime since part-night lighting was installed,” he said.