Municipality looks at converting 800 streetlights

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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The Municipality of the District of Digby is trying to comply with provincial road lighting legislation despite huge hidden costs.

Old streetlights cast a yellow light on the streets of Digby, Nova Scotia.

  The Nova Scotia government announced legislation last April that would require all roadway lighting to use energy-efficient LED lights within five years.

The municipality is installing three test lights to help them make decisions about which light to install.

They are installing a 55-watt light from Amherst's LED Roadway Lighting in Morganville at the intersection of Morganville and Sissiboo Roads. They are installing two 43-watt lights at the airport, one from LED Roadway and the other from Cooper Lighting, an American company with a manufacturing plant in Ontario.

Terry Thibodeau, the municipality's coordinator of renewable energy and climate change, says the test lights will allow councilors and citizens to compare the lights' output before council decides what to do with the 855 lights around the municipality.

The conversion of all the lights would mean using 250,000 kwh less electricity and therefore pumping 330 tonnes less CO2 into the atmosphere.

That works out to a yearly savings of $43,000 on electricity costs for the municipality. The province has estimated a total savings in Nova Scotia of $18 million a year due to less energy and maintenance costs.

However the conversion itself won't be cheap and having only five years to make the switch makes it even more expensive.

The municipality, as do most municipalities, currently leases their lights from Nova Scotia Power. The energy utility will charge the municipalities a stranded asset fee—that is, the value of the lights being removed from service before they are fully depreciated. The stranded asset fees could amount to $8 million province-wide.

The municipality is hiring a summer student to do an inventory of the municipality's lights, to physically count and confirm which types of lamps are out there and where.

The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities would like to see the conversion deadline extended to ten years. By that time, all the lights currently in service would be fully depreciated and the stranded asset fees would effectively be reduced to zero.

The UNSM is also concerned about the cost of installation, which is still unknown. Nova Scotia Power doesn't have the capacity to convert all 120,000 streetlights in the province within five years and would either have to hire and train more staff or incur overtime. According to Department of Labour regulations, if a contractor other than the utility does the install, they will have to add a $100 fuse, which will need to be replaced every five years. That would negate the maintenance savings associated with the LED lights that need only be replaced every 15 to 20 years.

Thibodeau says he has heard they may cost as much as $700 installed which would put the municipality's costs close to $600,000.

He doesn't know yet if the municipality will buy its own lights outright, lease them from NSP or perhaps participate in a program, if the province comes out with one.

The town of Digby has also installed two test LED lights near the cannons at the cenotaph on Water Street.

Digby Courier

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power, Cooper Lighting, Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Department of Labour

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Morganville, Amherst Ontario Digby Water Street

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