The future is bright..

By on 25/06/2013 in Blog

Sandy Taylor, Birmingham City Council Head of Climate Change and Environment, talks about how Birmingham is one of the leading European cities in the development of sustainable lighting, which is saving money and the environment:

Over the last 18 months, I have been pleased to be a member of a European Commission dedicated Task Force, through our active membership of the Eurocities network, which has been looking at the wider introduction of Solid State lighting across European cities. Solid State Lighting is better known as Light Emitting Diode (LEDs) and these have become much more easily available even in the last 9 months. And the reason is not hard to find. They can save up to 70% of the electricity used for lighting compared with current lighting systems - fluorescent, CPL, etc.

I was able to show how Birmingham has been leading a quiet revolution in street lighting over the last 12 months, with the City Council and our partner Amey well on the way to a target of replacing more than 95,000 street lights with state of the art LED technology. As well as improving safety, the programme could eventually see the council’s energy bill cut by up to £3m annually, as well as carbon emissions being slashed by 60%. And of course these new lanterns because they are more reliable and can be remotely managed also are reducing maintenance costs.

And the rest of Europe is taking notice. Our experience is now included in the report which we produced called “Lighting the Cities  – Accelerating the deployment of innovative lighting in European cities” (see published on the 18th June. The report has highlighted the inspiring examples of cities who are at the cutting-edge of this technology – including Birmingham! – and shared their experiences.

As the European Commissioner Neelie Kroes says in her introduction to this report: “lighting accounts for about 50% of the electricity consumption in cities”. This is a staggering amount, and highlights just how important it is that we encourage as many of our fellow European cities as possible to take up the challenge and help meet the ambitious European Union target of increasing overall energy efficiency by 20% by the year 2020.

So I am pleased that we were able to come up with a series of concrete guidelines that may help other cities and local authorities to develop their own sustainable urban lighting strategies and make the switch to LED-based lighting easier to do. There are more than 90 million streetlights across Europe and more than 75% of those are over 25 years old! So there is a huge opportunity to cut Europe's energy bill overall. Here in Birmingham we have already started on that task.

But there is also much more we can and should do, by actively taking action to review all our indoor lighting in Birmingham. This includes our own Council buildings, as well as encouraging businesses and householders to consider replacements of their own lighting units as well. Of course this is may not be easy to do as it can be difficult to get the right advice and support on which type of LED is best. So we will be looking to put in place the means by which we can actively promote LED usage in the city.

Through the Birmingham Green Commission agenda led by Cllr McKay, we will be setting down the actions we will be taking to accelerate the take up of LEDs as part of our energy saving agenda for Birmingham. This report provides a framework for action for us.

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