Expert Voices: Emma Berndt

The director of our Outdoor Lighting program talks about why retrofitting street lighting is a brilliant opportunity for C40 Cities to cut costs and emissions.

"Whenever someone asks me why the C40 focuses on outdoor lighting, I think of this image of the Earth at night, composed of many different satellite photos taken from outer space.  It is striking to see all of the electrical light that is visible from hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface.  But when I look at this image I see something else: a large opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the quality of our outdoor lighting and save on energy costs. In fact, when my team at the C40 crunched the numbers, we found that they supported a compelling case for action

If all 220 million street lights around the world were retrofitted to more energy efficient technologies, we could reduce their energy consumption by 50 percent; cut carbon emissions by more than 40 million metric tons each year; and save approximately $8 billion dollars annually in energy costs.

"These are achievable goals. Recent innovations in lighting technology -- energy efficient lighting devices and remote monitoring and control systems -- have made it possible for cities to maintain or improve the performance of their street lighting systems, while significantly reducing energy and maintenance costs, which can account for as much as 60 percent of a City’s electricity spending, according to our program’s recent white paper.

"This is something my team has observed in our work with C40 Cities to date.  We are currently working with 15 C40 cities across the globe, from Los Angeles, which launched a large-scale retrofit to convert 140,000 street lights to Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures in 2009; to Ho Chi Minh City, which is launching an LED pilot project this year; to Rio de Janiero, which is establishing LED specifications and testing protocols.

"In each City, we help to establish a strong business case for large-scale action, and offer our expertise on project management, purchasing, financing and technology.  While up-front investment costs remain a challenge for Cities, the returns are often compelling, with built-in, long-term lower energy and maintenance cost savings thereafter. A recent study on C40 Cities, developed in partnership with Arup, found that outdoor lighting is clearly a top priority for mayors, reflecting both the ownership or operational control Cities have over streetlights, as well as the significant energy saving potential of outdoor lighting retrofits. 

"This is good news. Street lights are a part of our urban infrastructure that deserves renewed focus and attention as Cities work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and money, and build a green energy economy fueled by innovation."

Click here to find out more about Outdoor Lighting program.