Mayors Voices: Antonio R. Villaraigosa

Greening Our Planet, One Bulb at a Time

At 6,500 miles, Los Angeles has the largest network of streets and roads and the second largest number of street lights – 210,000 – to light the way.

In 2009, the City of Los Angeles teamed up with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to find out how much those lights were costing the City - and our climate.

The answer? Too much.

We found out we were spending almost $15 million a year while emitting about 110,000 tons of carbon into our atmosphere to simply light our streets. That’s why we took on the most ambitious LED street light conversion program in the world.

We planned to retrofit over 140,000 lamps (the remaining lamps are historic and could not be retrofitted) with LED bulbs in five years. We hoped to achieve a 40% energy savings and reduce 40,500 tons of carbon emissions per year, with no impact to the City’s general fund.

At an event last week, I was proud to join President Bill Clinton to announce that, in just four years, we have now retrofitted every bulb. 

Because of new technology, we’re seeing more than 60 percent in energy savings and more than 47,000 tons in carbon reductions. That’s like taking almost 10,000 cars off the road, which hits home in a city like Los Angeles.

By saving energy, we’re also saving money. Taxpayers are saving more than $7 million per year, and that number will continue to rise as the program matures. The LED bulbs also last two to three times longer than their predecessors, translating to less time and money spent replacing them.

The LED street light program may not be glamorous, but it’s had a tremendous impact on Los Angeles’ carbon footprint. It’s one of the many reasons Los Angeles has reduced emissions more than any other city in the nation, coming in only fourth worldwide. We’re greening our city with an all-of-the-above approach that includes kicking our coal addiction, quadrupling our use of renewable energy, cleaning up the air at the nation’s largest port, and opening more than 680 acres of parkland.

As part of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, we're raising the bar for urban environmental policies, and we're urging every city from coast to coast to join us. Already, cities including Seattle, Las Vegas, and Boston are replicating this model. Individually, initiatives like the LED street lights program can transform a community. Collectively, they can set new global standards for positive urban development.

This post also appeared on the Clinton Foundation's blog on June 18th, 2013. For a detailed case study about the project, click here.