Move to LED streetlights realizes $100K annual savings – The Commercial Dispatch
When you run a city, it’s always something.
“You know how cities are,” said Columbus Light and Water Board Attorney Jeff Smith. “It’s the little things that make people mad. We had a gentleman who would call in once a month or so and say he had ridden around and there were 56 lights out.”
The aging infrastructure behind those outages, incandescent bulbs’ weak orange light and climbing energy costs to keep them running all combined to drive the city and the utility to consider an ambitious, citywide switchover to LED lights back in 2019. The changeover, via a contract with Tennessee-based Path Company, was completed in July 2020.
The city financed the change via a $3.4 million lease-purchase financing plan at 3.49 percent interest, to be repaid over 15 years, according to City Attorney Jeff Turnage. Under the financing agreement, the city would pay $145,719 semi-annually.
The savings the city realized from the lower maintenance fees, longer life and much lower energy consumption of the LED lights would not only be enough to service that debt, but was projected to save the city money over that, Turnage said.
Turnage estimated that the city was paying about $500,000 to CLW every year for power alone.
“The projections were that the city’s energy use would drop from 314,124 kWh per month — totaling more than $500,000 per year — to 155,666 kWh per month, thereby reducing the annual energy costs to a little over $100,000,” Turnage said. “If you add that monthly cost to the annual lease purchase payment, it comes out to about $400,000. So, by undertaking that debt, the City reduced its annual energy consumption sufficiently that it should be saving a little over $100,000 even with the lease/purchase debt payments and the utility costs added together.”
According to figures provided by CLW General Manager Angela Verdell, the city’s savings on both power cost and electricity costs have been substantial. In 2019-20, the city bought an average of 304,584 kilowatt-hours of power monthly, which came to a monthly average charge of $43,065, or $516,780 that year. On top of that, the city was charged an average of $23,016 per month for maintenance, or $276,192 over the year, for a total expenditure of $792,972.
The difference with 2020-21 is stark. The average usage dropped to 166,425 kWh monthly, with an average monthly electric cost of $11,326, or $135,912 for the year. Maintenance also plummeted to a monthly average of $5,000, or $60,000 over the course of that year, for a total combined expenditure of $195,912.
Turnage said the savings would ramp up more as the program went on.
“The lights were financed for 15 years, but were projected to last for 20 years,” he said. “So after year 15 if the lights last as they were projected to last, the energy savings will jump dramatically. The projection was that over 20 years the city would save more than $6 million in energy costs, never mind the savings in the carbon emissions that are created to produce the electricity.”
Mark Rushing, who manages the electric division at CLW, said that the lifespan of the LED bulbs will certainly be longer than the old incandescent versions.
“The lights we had had been in for years, some of them five to 10 years, and that was a long life for those older lights,” he said. “The LED lights, I think the warranty on those are 10 years to start off. There’s been a few (LEDs that had to be replaced) but that’s within the statistical maintenance.”
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