Tuesday, 19 August 2014


LED (light-emitting diode) use has increased dramatically in recent years.  LEDs are now widely used for a range of lighting applications including traffic signals, vehicle headlamps and room lighting because of their low energy consumption and long lifetime.

They are also being used for street lighting. In a notable Australian example the City of Sydney in March 2012 began a three year process of replacing a total of 6,448 conventional street lamps with LEDs.  After 16 months the city had reduced energy usage by more than 27% - in the process saving $300,000 and reducing carbon emissions by 1,547 tonnes.

This example, as well as overseas examples, should be encouraging the changeover more widely throughout Australia.

The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA) is concerned that the ownership of public street lights by electricity distribution authorities has led to the avoiding or deferring of installation of these more efficient, environmentally friendly LEDs.

In Australia local councils are responsible for provision of public street lighting which costs these councils collectively over $400 million per year.  Yet 90% of these street lights are owned and maintained by utility companies.  The IPWEA believes that this has produced a conflict of interest where there is no real incentive for power suppliers, who are in the business of selling electricity, to reduce its consumption by installing more energy efficient lights.

According to the IPWEA the changeover to LED street lamps would bring tremendous benefits to both local councils and the environment, halving power consumption and reducing Australia's CO2  emissions  by as much as 720,000 tonnes per year while also saving councils throughout the country as much as $87 million collectively.

The IPWEA also believes LED street lighting brings other advantages. Traffic safety is improved because of the clarity of the whiter light enables drivers to react better to emergencies and maintenance expenses are significantly lower for LEDs.

Perhaps the Federal Government could become interested in a national changeover program.  After all, changing the nation's street lights to LEDs could be a really effective form of "Direct Action" in reducing carbon emissions.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 18, 2014.