Economic Matters Committee
HB 409 Street Lighting – Purchase of Equipment by Local Government and Tariffs
Position: The Maryland Public Interest Group supports the passage of HB 409. This bill establishes procedures for condemnation of street lighting equipment by local governments. It also requires electric companies to develop service tariffs for street lighting equipment owned by local governments.
Why Maryland Needs to Reduce Electricity Demand
By reducing electricity consumption, Maryland will address some of the biggest problems of its current electricity system. Those challenges include rising monthly costs, looming bills for additional infrastructure, and air pollution that worsens global warming and endangers public health. Energy efficiency can reduce the amount of electricity that must be produced at the dirtiest plants. Coal-fired power plants, which in 2009 produced 55 percent of the electricity generated in Maryland, are major contributors to Maryland’s poor air quality.
Lighting represents one of the largest uses of electricity in the Unites States, and it is estimated that nearly one-quarter of all electricity generated in the U.S. is used for lighting. A 2008 report (referenced below) estimates there are combined 60.5 million roadway and parking installations in the U.S. These lights account for an estimated 53.3 TWh of electricity usage annually — nearly 7% of all lighting. Fortunately, the potential for electrical savings through efficiency improvements in lighting is great; of the 765 TWh of electricity used for lighting in the U.S., 42% is being used by incandescent sources – the least efficient technology.
Benefits of LED Bulbs
Progress in the development of white LED technology has shown that it has the potential to transcend a number of these challenges and improve efficiencies across all sectors. It is estimated that LEDs could reduce electrical use for lighting by as much as 50% nationally by 2025.
According to the Baltimore Sun, if Baltimore City were to replace its 70,000 streetlights with LED street lighting, it could cut power consumption and carbon emissions by 30%-40%, and save more than $7 million a year. According to the Fiscal and Policy note, if Harford County were to retrofit current streetlights for LED bulbs, the savings in energy consumption alone would pay for the upgrade in 4-5 years.
In addition to reducing the costs incurred through energy consumption, LED streetlights would save local governments money through reduced upkeep costs. For example, $12 million of the $20 million that Baltimore spends on streetlights each year goes to maintenance, replacing burned out or damaged bulbs. This expenditure could be drastically reduced by switching to LED streetlights; according to EarthEasy, a sustainability group, LED bulbs can last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs, and because LEDs are solid (unlike traditional bulbs that house fragile filaments) they are not easily damaged. Some energy-efficient bulbs (such as CFLs) contain trace amounts of mercury, which can be released into the environment if the bulb is broken or improperly disposed of—LED bulbs contain no mercury.
Local governments that switch to LED Street lighting would drastically reducing their economic burden and their environmental and human health impacts simultaneously. Maryland PIRG supports HB 409 and requests a favorable report.
Lighting the Great Outdoors: LEDs in Exterior Applications. August 17, 2088. By Tyson Cook, Energy Solutions; Mary Bryan, Pacific Gas and Electric Company; Bruce Kinzey and Michael Myer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Accessible at http://www.aceee.org/sites/default/files/publications/proceedings/SS08_P…
A SMART SOLUTION: Empower Is Saving Energy, Saving Money, and Boosting Our Economy. WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2011. Maryland PIRG Foundation. Accessible at www.marylandpirgfoundation.org.
City wants green streetlights, but BGE blocks the way: Loss of lucrative maintenance deal seems to be at issue. May 22, 2011. By Jay Hancock. The Baltimore Sun.