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Lancashire County Council: Low Carbon Street Lighting

Lancashire County Council have invested in Low Carbon Street Lighting, through the county wide conversion of 152,000 streetlights to energy saving LEDs. Since 2009 the council has cumulatively reduced carbon emissions by over 86,400 tonnes, reduced energy consumption by over 48,189MWh and saved almost £40m in energy costs.

The challenge


In 2009 the county council signed up to the Carbon Trust sponsored 5-yr Carbon Management Plan with the aim of reducing carbon emissions by 30% across all services. In terms of street lighting, activities centred around the widespread dimming of higher wattage streetlights and the installation of LEDs to replace a range of lower wattage discharge lamps.

When the Carbon Management Plan came to an end, the council along with many other local authorities were going through a period of austerity during which budgets were squeezed. As a result of budget reductions, the ability to continue with LED lantern replacements and carbon reductions in general was severely affected.

LEDs provided greater savings than dimming and in order so that some LED work could continue albeit at a slower pace, a recycling workshop was established.  This allowed returned non-LED lanterns to be stripped down and their components sent for recycling or disposal as appropriate. Any non-LED Lanterns that were in a good condition were stripped, cleaned up, refurbished using appropriate reclaimed parts and fitted with LED gear trays for re-use on site. The use of second-hand lanterns in this manner enabled an element of LED conversion works to continue but at a much-reduced cost.

If works were to continue at a faster pace significant funding needed to be found.

Operationally, it was challenging having a lighting stock of over 150,000 streetlights of differing heights, and configurations. These are located on varying roads that needed to be lit to varying levels dependant on traffic numbers and speed which caused logistical problems, particularly as one size of LED didn't fit all.

Having secured funding (see 'the solution') several meetings were held with suppliers to ensure that sufficient equipment was delivered on time and to the correct depot. It became apparent early on that lantern packaging was resulting in significant waste being generated and was also restricting delivery and storage numbers. The council worked with suppliers so that packaging was no longer an issue.

Phase 3 works should have finished in March 2021 but were delayed due to COVID-19 which, due to national lockdowns, social distancing, self-isolating staff, non-availability of vulnerable employees both within LCC and suppliers and their supply chain, brought its own challenges. Whilst works continued after the first national lockdown, new safer ways of working had to be devised which significantly slowed progress and increased costs as operatives where no longer able to share transport.

The solution

In 2015 the Department for Transport (DfT) invited bids for their first Challenge Fund.  Deadlines for submission were tight and a dedicated resource was set aside so that all necessary information could be pulled together and the various justifications and benefits (etc.) calculated. To make the bid more attractive to the DfT it included the provision of Electric Vehicle Charging Points as it was known that the department wanted to accelerate the roll-out of this equipment.

As a result of making a successful £19.8m bid, work started in June. By this time the range of lanterns had expanded meaning that more higher wattage lanterns were available, adding to the complexity and challenge of this work.

As a result of submitting this bid and seeing the financial savings that LEDs could achieve, the council invested a further £5m as part of an Invest to Save scheme which ran concurrently with the DfT scheme. Whilst this funding was welcome, it increased the size, scope and complexity of the works, as collectively the council was now looking to install almost 90,000 LEDs in a just a 3-year period.

When the DfT / LCC works had finished there were still in the region of 40,000 non-LED lanterns in place. Further funding streams were explored and in March 2018 Cabinet approved the submission of a business case to Salix Finance Ltd for a loan to finish the job off. Due to delays with tendering, works started in March 2019 and due to COVID-19 were delayed and are now due to be completed in October 2021.

All the above preparation and planning was undertaken by in-house staff who did this in addition to their day-job.

The impact

The impact on the county council, service users and the environment has been enormous as this work has enabled us to reduce energy consumption, reduce expenditure and save large amounts of carbon. A summary of the impacts associated with this work is provided below.

The amount the council is spending on street lighting energy has reduced. In 2009 the council's energy bill was in the region of £5.4m by 2020/21 it had fallen to £3.1m – a reduction of £2.3m. Cumulatively over this period we have saved over £40m in energy costs.

In 2009, the council's energy consumption was in the region of 68,590MHw. It is now down to just over 20,000MHw, a reduction of 48,189MHW – enough to power a small town.

In 2009 the council's street lighting activities were producing 35,101 tonnes of carbon. By 2020/21 this had reduced to 5,101 tonnes and cumulatively over this period we have saved over 86,400 tonnes of carbon.

Due to the financial savings the LED conversion and dimming works have generated, the council was able to keep all its streetlights on throughout the night, unlike many other councils who turned off large portions of their lights.  In addition, as LED lighting is more reliable than discharge lighting, we have seen a reduction in the number of light-out faults, down from 14,000 in 2015/16 to 3,200 in 2020/21 – a reduction of 77% meaning that more street lights are functioning more of the time

Lessons learned

A big lesson learnt was that we didn't always need to install new LED lanterns if we wanted to convert a streetlight to LED. We learnt from the recycling shop that fitting LED gear trays in existing lanterns provided a cheaper alternative solution.

This lesson was particular useful in those areas where we had decorative or heritage style lanterns. These are expensive to replace and fitting LED gear trays proved to be the most cost-effective option.


Paul A Binks, Highways Asset Manager, Lancashire County Council [email protected]