Smart street lighting strengthens role of utility in smart city landscape


The link between utilities and smart cities is strengthening as utilities around the world start rolling out smart lighting applications.

In recent weeks, ComEd in Illinois has announced that they will upgrade 140,000 street lights to smart units and Tampa Electric have just recently followed suit. It is estimated that the ComEd initiative could save Chicago in the region of $10 million annually. Of the 221 cities being tracked by Navigant Research’s Smart City Tracker, a quarter are rolling out smart lighting initiatives.

Both Tampa Energy and ComEd have started converting traditional lighting infrastructure to energy-efficient LED technology utilising a smart street lighting solution that allows communication between the utility and street lighting assets. 

By improving their grid communications technology, these utilities are able to reduce expensive field operations whilst providing real-time notification of outages, thereby reducing response time, and supporting roadway safety and crime reduction. They are also able to remotely control streetlight fixtures using advanced grid capabilities such as dynamic dimming.

In New York, the State government is directing $7.5 million towards the installation of smart LED streetlights. The money will be available for municipalities to partner with the New York Power Authority to install energy efficient and intelligent smart LED streetlights.

The state has set a target to install 500,000 smart streetlights by 2025.

Not just a US phenomenon

This trend is being seen in areas outside of the US, with a recent report stating that Australia and New Zealand will invest up to $780 million in streetlights over the next decade. Over 95% of streetlights in Oceania will have been converted to LEDs, while 70% will be networked by 2027.

Says Ben Gardner, president of Northeast Group: “The New Zealand government is now funding 85% of the cost of streetlight projects and Australian states have come up with new financing mechanisms and lighting codes that are encouraging deployments. New Zealand already has over 25% of its streetlights networked.”

Australia’s move to develop smart city infrastructure has been a key driver. The majority of the streetlights are primarily owned by utilities, but as smart city plans increase, smart street lighting will provide a critical foundational layer.

Meanwhile, Eurelectric has reported that European cities are aiming to have 10 million smart street lights installed by 2025. 

Many city leaders believe that smart street lighting is a first step toward the development of a smart city. As well as increasing efficiency and improving carbon emissions, the street lights can provide the backbone infrastructure for other smart city services and applications. These include public safety, traffic management, smart parking and environmental monitoring. 

In France, Enedis, the local DSO is piloting the use of street lighting infrastructure and electric vehicle charging.  

According to Domonique Lagarde, Director of the Electric Mobility Programme for the utility: “We have recently completed a pilot in which we utilised the public lighting grid as charging points and found the right solution to make this work from both a technical and contractual perspective in order to effectively deliver charging infrastructure without having to develop new grids specifically for charging. We are now wanting to roll this out to a larger area.”

Your experiences?

What smart city initiatives are you undertaking in your utility? Have you been trialling smart street lighting or EV charging infrastrcture? Do you have an interesting lesson to share with the greater utility and city community? Let us know what successes you are having

Q&A session: Smart Cities and the utilities that enable them

We discussed these, and other smart city opportunities in our Smart Cities and the utilities that enable them webinar last week. Due to the fact that we had a number of questions that were unanswered during the webinar, we are going to be hosting a follow up Q&A session on 13 March at 3pm CET in which we will provide access to our speakers and the opportunity to ask those questions about smart cities that are currently unanswered. Register here for the Q&A session today.

Until next time!