Public lighting is a major cost for county councils up and down the country. Not only is it expensive, but the old, inadequate schemes lighting up Ireland’s towns and cities are, for the most part, extremely inefficient in terms of energy.
Last May, Kerry County Council adopted a new public lighting policy that will see energy efficient LED lights replace existing lights in an effort to adhere to 2020 energy targets. Street lighting costs the council €2million every year which amounts to nearly half its total energy bill. New and improved energy efficient LED street lighting would cut that cost by over €1million a year and provide more focused lighting in areas where it’s needed.
In 1998 there were approximately 4,100 public lights in Kerry. Eighteen years later, that number has jumped to nearly 13,000. According to Director of Services at the Council Charlie O’Sullivan, the effects of climate change and rising sea levels have been particularly noticeable in Kerry and have highlighted the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint.
Although the new lighting policy has been approved by the council’s Special Policy Committee, funding remains a significant barrier.
Commenting on the policy, Brian Lenihan at Kerry County Council said: “The cost of replacing that amount of lights is huge and it’s not just an issue for Kerry; this is a national issue. Funding is extremely constrained right across the country.” This issue is, says Brian, being addressed nationally and a funding model that would implement the policy is being investigated. “We’re limited in relation to what we can actually achieve at the moment so although the policy has been passed, we’re not in a position to move on it just yet. Our focus is on upgrading the existing lighting infrastructure with a limited number of new street lights to be installed if necessary.”
As they require little maintenance and last longer, the new lights will pay for themselves; a 70W SON lantern public light on a 6m steel column costs €1,469 but a 34W LED lantern would cost less in the long term.
Another reason for Kerry to review its lighting requirements is its status of a 700sq km area designated as an international Dark Sky Reserve, an area that boasts some of the world’s best views of stars at night. The intention is to take the glare out of the 400 lights in the core reserve area of Kells to Caherdaniel, an area where Star Wars was filmed.