Taking ownership of streetlights
WHITE LAKE, NY — The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has developed a process by which municipalities and other entities can purchase streetlights that are currently owned by utilities, and upgrade them. The process was explained at a public meeting recently by Casey Mastro, the Central New York energy manager for the New York Power Authority (NYPA) on February 2. NYPA is currently working with various municipalities to walk them through the process.
Most municipalities in Sullivan County don’t own enough streetlights to make the a project cost-effective, but if enough municipalities in the county join together to move forward, then the effort can become worthwhile. The towns of Bethel and Tusten, representing about 280 streetlights, have already passed resolutions to move forward. Mastro hopes to sign on more municipalities to reach 400 or 500 street lights.
The first step in the process is for a municipality to ask the utility that owns the streetlights for a price at which it will sell those lights to the town. For most of Sullivan County, the utility is NYSEG. After the request, the utility has 90 days to respond. Mastro said, “Unfortunately, because this is a revenue-generating stream for them, they will probably wait—maybe not, but they may—wait to the 89th day, 11th hour,” to offer a quote, but because of the PSC process, the utility must offer a price, and the municipality can enter into negotiations over the price.
NYPA would design plans for the local projects, then aggregate all interested municipalities to bid out the different projects for a single price to keep costs down. Municipalities would save money because LED lights are less expensive to operate than the current high-pressure sodium lights. But perhaps more important is the savings on maintenance.
Municipalities now pay a maintenance fee of some $8 per month per fixture, and when a streetlight does need to be repaired, utilities often take 90 days or more to respond.
The NYPA plan would be to issue a county-wide contract for a local contractor to provide maintenance. This would bring down the cost of maintenance significantly, and this element of the program would amount to 60% of the savings generated by buying existing streetlights and upgrading them to LED fixtures.
NYPA is a nonprofit state organization, and Mastro’s pitch to the representative on hand was, “This is an opportunity to work with a trusted advisor like the power authority, energy engineering, design, implementation and full financing of a project so that a custumer like yourself is putting no money down… and effectively projects are cash-flow positive year one… your debt service is less than your operational savings.”
Mastro said he and his colleagues are working with 17 municipalities in Wayne County, NY involving a possible 3,598 fixtures. At the moment, municipalities are waiting on pricing from the utilities, but county-wide savings in that case are anticipated to be $400,000 per year.
Dan Sturm, supervisor of the Town of Bethel, said he expects that once the project is complete, and the payback period is over, the yearly cost for streetlights there will drop from $30,000 to about $7,000.
LED Information from New York State Energy Development Authority:
By replacing conventional street lights with energy efficient LED technology, communities can reduce street light energy use by as much as 65%, generating cost savings and emission reductions. In addition, street light projects can contribute to creating a well-lit, safer and more attractive community.
LED street lights last up to 100,000 hours and require much less maintenance than conventional ones. The opportunity to incorporate smart, connected technology such as dimming functions, enhanced law enforcement response and parking management offers a world of possibilities.