LED street lighting: the key benefits

From saving energy to protecting the environment, from reduced maintenance costs to light quality: here's why LED lighting is so beneficial

Published on 9 December 2019

I benefits of LED street lighting

Those few individuals who have had the good fortune to observe the Earth from space all agree on one thing: viewed from a distance our planet is truly magnificent. And it's even more so at night, when the cities are lit up to become bright flecks that trace the outlines of the continents.

But urban lighting comes with a heavy cost. In fact, it's extremely heavy, at least according to a study carried out by a team of Italian, American and Israeli researchers that was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management. Indeed, the study found that Italian municipalities spend up to 4 or 5 times more on street lighting compared to those in Germany and other northern European countries. We're talking about around 6,000 GWh, amounting to a total of 1.7 billion euros, in other words €28.70 for every Italian.

So, what's the solution? A significant contribution could be made by replacing the traditional bulbs that are used in street lights with LED bulbs, a light source that offers numerous benefits. For an equivalent level of luminous flux emitted, for example, LED bulbs consume a lower quantity of energy compared to the bulbs that are commonly used in street lights, offering energy savings of 65% or even greater. Lower energy consumption also means less carbon dioxide emissions and, therefore, increased environmental sustainability.

We can also add the fact that LED bulbs have a longer useful life, as much as up to 100 thousand hours of use, between 10 and 20 times longer than a halogen or fluorescent bulb. This therefore means lower maintenance costs and a more efficient lighting system.

But the benefits don't end there. The quality of light provided by LED bulbs is better than that of other sources, particularly with respect to the colour rendering index, which ensures an improved perception of the illuminated environment and reduced eye strain.

Due to the low heat dissipation of LED bulbs and therefore their low heat emission, a feature that sets them apart from other light sources, they are perfect for illuminating monuments, ancient buildings, including those that are decorated and frescoed, and therefore all those areas of significant artistic and architectural value of which Italy has so many in its historical town centres. Finally, LED lights are easily dimmable. This means that the intensity of the light can be regulated, modifying lighting levels depending on the requirements of a particular location at a specific time.
And yet, despite all these benefits, LED street lights are still not commonly used. According to a survey published in October by the market analysis company Arthur D. Little, less than 15% of the world's 320 million street lights are LED. The European average is even lower at 10%, but with huge disparities between the continent's major cities, which have more financial resources and greater organisational efficiency than smaller towns and cities. In Milan, for example, all of the street lights are LED. But the majority of Italy's councils are struggling to even plan their installation as well as to find ways of financing it, despite the fact that the initial investment would be recouped within the first year of operation given the low levels of energy consumption offered by this type of lighting.