Local authorities all over the country are on the lookout for new ways to cut waste and save money.

In some cases, it’s as simple as lowering consumption. But in others, such as Southend-on-Sea’s recent switch to LED street lights, more efficient technologies help to cut emissions without disrupting business or affecting residents.

This is part of a pioneering public initiative that could encourage the private sector to save money on its business electricity too.

Full lighting at half the energy

Last year, Essex County Council started a scheme to turn off 70% of their street lights between midnight and 5am, in order to save £1 million a year in energy costs. Despite the council keeping the lights on near public walkways and railway stations, it was a move that caused some controversy, with many fearing an increase in night-time crime.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, however, is trying a different approach. By replacing their street lights and illuminated signs with light-emitting diode (LED) technology, they’re able to keep their lights on at night while saving around £25 million over the next 25 years.

It’s expected that the new LEDs will use at least 55% less energy than their current lights, and could cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 16,500 tonnes.

‘Bringing this popular project forward is a win-win situation,’ says Councillor Martin Terry. ‘The sooner we replace every lamp in the Borough, the sooner we can save money, reduce carbon emissions and provide residents and motorists with brighter, cleaner light.’

Green funding for a green project

To finance this huge undertaking – which involves the replacement of 14,000 lanterns and 4,000 illuminated street items – the council has secured funding from the Government’s Green Investment Bank (GIB), who will provide £8.2 million, alongside a £5.1 million grant from the Department for Transport.

And the best part for Southend? It shouldn’t actually cost the council anything at all. The GIB’s Green Loan has a low rate that’s fixed for up to 30 years, where the repayments on the loan are less than the savings gained from using the LED technology.

Are LEDs the future of Britain’s streets?

Southend-on-Sea may have been the first local authority in England to replace its street lights with funding from the GIB, but it wasn’t the first in the UK. Earlier this year, Glasgow City Council signed a similar deal with the GIB to replace 10,000 street lights with energy-saving LEDs, with the aim of cutting its emissions by 18,000 tonnes over the next 18 years.

According to Gregor Paterson-Jones, GIB’s Managing Director of Energy Efficiency, it’s a move that plenty of other UK authorities could start to benefit from.

‘Councils that make the switch to LEDs could make financial savings immediately, with their street lighting electricity bills up to 80% lower and overall energy consumption down by around 20%. This would make significant contributions to financial budgets and carbon reduction targets.’

Last year, a report from the GIB found that we could save £200 million a year by replacing all of the street lights in the UK with LED technology. Do you think more councils should take on the same deal as Glasgow and Southend-on-Sea?

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