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More information about street lights

The environment and energy officers at your council can tell you all about the ins and outs of the current street lights and how important it is to switch to energy-efficient street lights. They’ve prepared some fact sheets and answers to some frequently asked questions.

You’ll learn all there is to know about street lights here:

01 How street lighting works

Q Who provides street lighting?

Electricity distributors provide public lighting services to councils (local, suburban roads) and VicRoads (arterial roads). This includes replacing globes at regular intervals, and maintenance of the lamps and poles. The electricity distributors also maintain wires, transformers and sub stations that make up the electricity network.

Q Who pays for local, suburban street lighting?

Councils pay for the public lighting service (from the electricity distributors) and for the electricity (from the electricity retailers).

Q What are the current lights on suburban / local roads?

Generally they are mercury vapour 80-watt lamps, which is technology from the 1980s that uses a lot of electricity. There are about 330,000 of these mercury vapour lamps in Victoria. It’s these types of lights that are the focus for the Give Our Streets the Green Light campaign.

Q What are the energy-efficient lamps that can save up to 70% of the energy?
A There are some energy-efficient lights that are approved for use in street lighting: a linear, twin 14-watt fluorescent commonly known as the T5 and a 42-watt compact fluorescent like the ones we used to replace incandescent bulbs in our homes. Both of these energy-efficient lighting options also have different wattage versions depending on where they’ll be used.

Here’s what they look like:
The current mercury vapour 80-watt lamps

The linear fluorescent twin 14-watt T5

The compact fluorescent 32-watt Compact Fluorescent Street Light - 42 Watt

Q What about using LED lights?

LED lights are increasingly being used in public lighting, from traffic lights to pathways. LEDs last a long time and are generally energy efficient. However, at the moment the LED lights available for local roads use more energy for the lower light levels in Australia, compared with fluorescent technology.

Q Can’t you just put in a new fluorescent globe into an old fitting?

Unfortunately, in most cases, due to the age and technology of the existing light fittings, the entire housing (where the globes are connected) and control mechanisms (how it lights up) must be replaced. This is why the cost of upgrading is high.

Q Why don’t we just turn the lights off late at night to save energy?

Street lighting is provided for community safety. Where lighting is provided the level of lighting for roads is guided by the Australian / New Zealand Standard 1158. There is no provision in the Standard for turning lights off. If Australian councils did turn the lights off during the night on roads, they may expose themselves to litigation should an incident occur. However, councils are taking stronger action where safe to do so, in other open spaces such as parks, car parks, sporting facilities, by removing lights that are not required, installing timers and replacing inefficient lights with more efficient ones.

» Read more about how street lighting works:
Download Street Lights Advocacy Campaign Fact Sheet



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02 How street lighting contributes to greenhouse gas emissions

Q What would be the greenhouse gas emissions savings from upgrading to more energy-efficient street lighting?

If all the mercury vapour 80-watt lamps across Victoria were replaced with fluorescents, we could save 1.56 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions over the life of the new lights. That’s 31.2 billion black balloons, 341,917 cars off the road for a year, or a city the size of Mildura’s entire household emissions for a year.

» Read more about how street lightingcontributes to greenhouse gas emissions:
Download Street Lighting Gas Emmissions Fact Sheet



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03 The costs of upgrading to energy-efficient street lights

Q What level of funding support from other levels of government do we need?

The difficulty with switching is the high upfront costs. In the case of a Victoria-wide switch, the cost would be around $120 million, depending on which lights councils select. The councils are asking for a minimum $150 funding contribution per street light switch from Victorian and Federal Governments. Victoria-wide, this would add up to around $50 million over four years, a contribution that would make the switch much more affordable for councils and the community.

Q Why should the Victorian and Federal Governments contribute to the cost?

Replacing 1980s street lighting technology with modern energy-efficient alternatives is a visible and certain opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The current street lighting system was set up by the Victorian Government, is regulated by the Federal Government and paid for by councils and the community. It’s a complicated model and has insufficient regulation or built-in incentives to attract wide-scale energy efficiency improvements.

Q What savings will we make by giving our streets the green light?

If the Victorian and Federal Governments funded a quarter to a third of the total upgrade costs across the state, we could achieve a 78,000 tonne greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and a $7 million cost saving, each year.

Read more about the costs of upgradingto energy-efficient street lights:
Download Street Lights and Funding Support Fact Sheet



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04 The street lights regulatory environment

Q How is street lighting regulated in Australia?

Read all about the regulatory environment for street lighting

» Download Street Lights and the Regulatory Environment Fact Sheet



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