British Columbia

BC Hydro considers replacing thousands of old streetlights with brighter, more energy-efficient LEDs

The utility maintains about 95,000 streetlights around the province. Converting these older lights to LED could lead to cost savings of 50 to 70 per cent, according to the UBCM.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities is pushing for the change to happen quickly

Older, orange-hued lights and newer white LED lights line the same street near Vancouver's False Creek. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

BC Hydro may begin installing thousands of light emitting diode (LED) street lights across the province this summer.

The utility currently owns and maintains approximately 95,000 streetlights around the province, roughly 30 per cent of all streetlights in British Columbia. Most of the ones attached to BC Hydro's electricity poles are high pressure sodium (HPS) lights.

LED lights are known to last longer, are brighter and render colours significantly better than HPS lights.

The transition to the energy-saving technology could lead to cost savings of 50 to 70 per cent for the smaller communities who rely on the utility's public lighting, according to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM). 

A resolution supported by the UBCM last year encouraged the provincial government to require BC Hydro to quickly replace streetlights with LEDs or provide smaller municipalities who depend on them with the financial resources to continue paying for BC Hydro's energy "inefficient" fleet of streetlights.

LED streetlights near Vancouver’s Olympic Village. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

According to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the utility's board of directors will make a decision on the plan later this month. If approved, the transition to LED would start this summer with an expected timeline of two to three years. Communities will be given advance notice for when the work will take place.

The ministry said details of new street lighting rates are not yet known. BC Hydro still has to propose new rates to the B.C. utilities commission for approval.

When reached for comment, BC Hydro said it could provide no details on the estimated cost ahead of the board's decision. 

For years, environmental advocacy groups have pushed governments to adopt LEDs.

And in recent years, several Metro Vancouver municipalities have begun making the switch.

Burnaby, which completely converted to LED last spring, said streetlight consumption dropped by about 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, Richmond and Surrey have both replaced a significant number of older streetlights with the more efficient alternative.

Vancouver also plans to convert all streetlights to LED. This past December, 17 locations in the city already featured the bright lights, resulting in a 40 per cent reduction in collisions at those sites, according to city hall.

In 2015, the Climate Group, a non-profit organization based in the United Kingdom, said indoor and outdoor lighting accounted for roughly 19 per cent of the world's electricity usage.

If all of the world's lights were replaced with LED, global electricity consumption for lighting would decline by more than 52 per cent, said the group that same year. 

With files from Gian-Paolo Mendoza and Bridgette Watson