Big Switch: LED rollout would cut 2.3% of global emissions

If the world leapfrogged to LED lamps in all sectors, global electricity consumption for lighting would be reduced by more than half (52%), with 735 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided each year

The Time Square Ball in New York, which has been re-fitted with LEDs

The Time Square Ball in New York, which has been re-fitted with LEDs

That's according to a new report, titled 'Support The Big Switch', which has been launched this week by The Climate Group, as it hosts its annual Climate Week NYC in New York.

The report refers to The Climate Group's 'LED = Lower Emissions Delivered' campaign, which encourages cities to realise the carbon and cost benefits that come with switching to LED.

The Climate Group chief executive Mark Kenber said: “As an emissions-cutting and money-saving technology, LED street lighting is the big no-brainer. There is no longer any reason why the big switch shouldn’t start today, accelerating adoption in the US and around the world.

“Our global trials and stakeholder consultations have shown that, when it comes to tackling climate change, LEDs are the lowest of the low-hanging fruit and easiest to implement. It’s technically proven, commercially viable, and already resulting in major savings for cities around the world."

With the number of street lights around the world likely to hit 350 million by 2025, The Climate Group's report reiterates how local governments, utility companies and financial institutions need to work together to ensure that all new and existing street lights are LED – or of equivalent energy efficiency – by they year 2025.

LED by example

In 2012, The Climate Group worked with Philips Lighting ti trial LED street lights in 12 major global cities including New York, London, Kolkata and Sydney. The trials, detailed in The Climate Group's report, concluded that LED streetlights can achieve energy savings of between 50-70% - which could increase to around 80% if partnered with LED smart controls.

In New York, the city replaced 250,000 street lights with LEDs - the largest project of its kind in the US. The report suggests that, by 2017, the city will have saved $14m in energy and maintenance costs. According to the report, if every outdoor light in the US was LED, $6bn would be saved and the carbon reductions would be equal to taking 8.5 million cars off of the road.

Making the switch to LEDs also has socio-economic benefits - with better visibility reducing the number of road accidents - along with additional opportunities for commercial investment. But the uptake of LEDs in cities around the world is still too slow, according to the report.  

Philips Lighting's head of global public & government affairs Harry Verhaar said: “The current renovation rates of existing streetlights are too slow. We need to double the renovation rate so that we keep pace with the rising demand for energy. Renewing existing infrastructure with LEDs needs to be a priority if cities are to realize the benefits of saving in money and energy and better lit, safer streets."

Infographic: LEDs Lighting the Clean Revolution

Lightbulb moments

Globally, India's Ministry of Power has announced the country will save £580m by installing 20 million LED streetlights by 2017 as part of a country wide shake-up on renewable policies.

And the LED lighting rollout is beginning to gather pace here in the UK, with a number of regional initiatives announced over the past few months.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council recently became the first local authority in England to secure finance from the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) to replace its existing streetlights with low-energy alternatives. And earlier this month, Bristol began the second phase of its plans to convert 20,000 lights to LED.

According to an exclusive edie energy management survey, 76% of energy managers said that energy-efficient lighting systems are the top area they are focusing on for their businesses this year. 

Matt Mace


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