Glasgow blazes trail for green street lights

GLASGOW has become the first local authority in the UK to sign up for a new green loan to finance the switch to eco-friendly street lighting.

Glasgow's Union Street. The city has signed up for a green loan to finance eco-friendly street lighting. Picture: Complimentary

An upgrade of the city’s network of 72,000 ageing sodium lamps is predicted to slash energy bills by around two-thirds and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 45,387 tonnes.

Street lighting in the city costs around £8.5 million a year to run and is responsible for about 16 per cent of Glasgow’s spend on power.

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Now councillors hope most of the outdated lights will be replaced with energy-saving LED (light-emitting diode) versions by the end of 2015, ahead of the 200th anniversary in 2018 of municipal lighting coming to Glasgow.

The outlay for installing the first 10,000 new lamps is estimated to be £8.6m, but the new technology is forecast to save the city £8.9m over 18 years.

Maintenance costs will also be lower as the modern lamps are expected to burn for 15 to 20 years, which is up to six times longer than the lifespan of standard sodium bulbs currently in use.

Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “Glasgow is leading the way in meeting existing challenges head-on to become a smarter, more intelligent city.”

“My vision is to make Glasgow one of Europe’s most sustainable cities. It is our goal to improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and generate savings for the public purse. Glasgow City Council is not only creating a digital and low-carbon route out of recession with social justice at its heart, but also ensuring Glasgow is one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.”

Glasgow City Council is the first to take advantage of the new scheme from the Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank (GIB), the first of its kind in the world. The bank was set up with £3.8 billion of UK government money in November 2012 to help the UK move to a greener economy and has already invested £750m in energy projects.

Lang Banks, director of climate campaign group WWF Scotland, welcomed the announcement and called for all UK councils to make use of the scheme to help save money and combat global warming.

“This investment is great news for taxpayers. Some councils have estimated that street lighting makes up 10 per cent of their carbon footprint. Therefore, a nationwide shift to more energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs would make a significant dent in council-related carbon emissions.

“Pound for pound, improved energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to cut energy demand and the associated climate pollution. With the support of central government we would encourage every local authority to take similar action to save energy.”

The green loan allows UK councils to borrow at a low, fixed rate to fund environmentally friendly improvements, with repayments coming from the savings made.