THE region’s councils stand to save tens of thousands of dollars on energy-efficient street lighting, with hopes of partially offsetting a proposed steep rise in maintenance charges.
Regional Development Australia – Northern Inland (RDANI) has received more than $500,000 in funding from the federal government for the installation of LED lights in seven of the region’s local government areas: Armidale Dumaresq, Guyra, Walcha, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Tenterfield and Gwydir.
The New England North West will also become the first regional area in the state to start rolling out the new lights, with Essential Energy using the region as a trial site for testing the most effective type of LEDs.
David Thompson from RDANI is overseeing the project and said the choice of street light was critical to the energy cost-saving achieved, a good quality LED saving councils significantly more money through lower energy and maintenance costs.
Mr Thompson said the combined savings to councils could be in excess of $200,000 a year.
He’s also confident the LEDs will result in lower maintenance costs for councils, which were hit recently by a plan from Essential Energy for big hikes in maintenance charges for its street light network. Last month the company announced plans to overhaul its pricing structure, with maintenance charges rising for all 13 councils in the region, including a 39 per cent increase for Gwydir Shire and 36 per cent in Inverell.
“We have around 4400 older 50- and 80- watt mercury vapour lights in the seven council areas that are due to be changed and these can readily be replaced with 22-26 watt LEDs,” Mr Thompson said.
“I have calculated that the resulting energy cost-saving would more than offset the proposed light maintenance cost increases.
“The capital cost of these lights is expected to be higher than compact fluorescent luminaires, but this is offset by lower energy and maintenance costs.”
Phil Brown from Armidale Dumaresq Council said based on the estimates provided to council they were looking at savings of about $65,000 per year.
Given proposed price hikes for street lighting, any assistance was welcome, he said.
“It would seem that while we are saving on one hand, those savings are being eaten up by rising costs. However, the introduction of new lighting technology is only one of a suite of measures taken by council over the past five or six years to create efficiencies.”
Mr Thompson said apart from reducing electricity use, LEDS produced a better quality of light which improved public safety and could last up to five times longer.
Mr Thompson said Essential Energy hoped to start installing the LEDs in Armidale by March next year and have the project completed by August.