Grasping these opportunities will be easier for developing countries, since they are often creating city infrastructures from scratch. By investing in energy-efficient solar-powered LED, cities can leapfrog to a zero-energy lighting solution.
The benefits for rural off-grid communities are just as great. Today, 1.1 billion people across the world are cut off from reliable electricity. That’s one person in seven, forced to rely on kerosene lamps and candles in their homes. The terrible consequence is that 1.5 million people die every year from respiratory illness and fires. Off-grid solar LED can end this injustice at a fraction of the cost of kerosene, bringing to communities the light they need to develop and live well.
In the industrialized countries, the most urgent task to achieve energy efficiency is to renovate existing infrastructure. We need to make sure that all public, and private, spaces make the best use of energy-efficient technologies. This investment will also reap dividends in other areas, such as making cities safer and more livable.
For example, Los Angeles recently became the first city in the world to control its LED street lighting through mobile and cloud-based technology. Next to the big energy savings and a greatly reduced bill for electricity, other benefits include safer streets and reduced maintenance costs. The city is also piloting the Philips SmartPole, connected LED street lighting with Ericsson 4G LTE wireless technology built into the street pole. This combines high quality lighting with improved 4G network performance in urban areas – benefits that go beyond illumination.
Connected street lighting is, manifestly, a win-win proposition: good for a city’s public purse, good for the environment. Yet such projects are still the exception. Of approximately 300 million street lights across the world, only about 10% are LEDs. And just 1% are connected. If nations are to make meaningful gains in energy efficiency, policymakers need to make LED street lights the norm in every city.