A common complaint of municipalities contemplating the deployment of LED streetlights is the resistance they face from electric utilities related to adjusting rate tariffs. While the LED streetlight technology creates immediate electricity cost savings, many utilities are not eager to pass the savings along to municipalities and taxpayers.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on the west coast and Progress Energy Carolinas (PEC) on the east coast have proven to be LED streetlight change agents, not defenders of the status quo. Not only have these utilities already implemented revised rate tariffs that reflect the lower energy consumption of LED streetlights, but they have also established turnkey programs that provide full-service purchase and installation for municipal partners.
Revised rate tariffs established by Progress Energy Carolinas will go into effect for the state of North Carolina on March 1, 2010. Similar revisions are expected to go into effect in South Carolina shortly after they are implemented in North Carolina.
PG&E, headquartered in San Francisco, California, offers multiple incentives to its customers including rebates on LED streetlight products as well as reduced prices created by PG&E’s high volume purchasing of LED streetlights. In order to qualify for the rebates, municipal customers must choose a product from the utility’s pre-approved product list.
PG&E offers a choice of LED streetlights from eight manufacturers: BetaLED, Cooper Streetworks, EcoFit, GE, LED Roadway, Leotek, LSI industries, and Lumec. Progress Energy currently offers only BetaLED streetlights. Both utilities continuously evaluate luminaires from other manufacturers as potential vendors for their turnkey LED streetlight programs.
The energy commissions that regulate PG&E and Progress Energy have established mandates for both utilities to be energy efficient. The electricity cost savings created by LED streetlights align well with the utilities’ energy efficiency goals. California regulators have established incentives for PG&E to reduce energy use through a revenue cap for the utility. The cap benefits PG&E’s municipal customers because it financially motivates PG&E to remove existing “energy guzzling” streetlights, according to John Sofranac, manager of street and outdoor lighting customer care at PG&E.
According to Bob Henderson of Progress Energy, “Even though the LED fixtures typically cost up to five times as much as traditional high pressure sodium lights, the long-term savings outweigh the costs.” The savings are realized through reduced electricity costs, lower maintenance costs, and rebates.
Henderson is organizing an Illumination Engineering Society (IES) workshop in Raleigh, North Carolina, focused on providing utilities with innovative approaches to deploying LED streetlights.