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Creating a Plan to Convert Streetlights in Southeast Michigan to Energy Efficient LEDs by 2025

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
April 30, 2016

Street lighting plays an important role in the human landscape, providing public safety and place-making benefits. However, it is also the largest energy expense for many municipalities and accounts for significant environmental impacts. By converting their street lighting to LED bulbs, communities throughout Southeast Michigan have a great opportunity to save money, reduce their environmental impacts, and realize safety and aesthetic benefits for residents. However, municipalities’ participation in street lighting conversion projects has thus far been limited due to lack of information and communication about available community lighting options. This report, prepared on behalf of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office (SEMREO), explores the following perspectives of the proposed LED streetlight conversion projects: technical feasibility, street lighting policy, environmental impact analysis, social and community analysis, and financial analysis of available funding mechanisms.

For the technology analysis section, we performed a literature review of available street lighting technologies, with a focus on highlighting the energy and cost benefits of LED conversion project implementation. With their high efficacy and long lifetimes relative to conventional bulbs, LEDs were proven the best option for streetlight upgrades in Southeast Michigan. We also performed a policy analysis, examining policy incentives and disincentives for LED street lighting conversion projects in the state of Michigan, including utility incentives, legislative activities, and federal policy drivers. For our environmental analysis, we quantified the emissions reductions attributed to the demand reduction from the LED conversion project, and determined its potential as a cost-effective emissions reduction mechanism. In addition, we met with community members and identified the needs and preferences of the Eastpointe community, a SEMREO member, and found that participants were interested in the possibilities of solar-powered streetlights. Finally, we evaluated financing options and discussed financial barriers for undergoing such projects.

This comprehensive analysis includes a simple streetlight This comprehensive analysis includes a simple streetlight conversion plan for communities in Southeast Michigan region and several recommendations for municipalities participating in SEMREO’s Street Lighting Consortium. First, we found this conversion plan to be economically favorable, saving municipalities an average of 55% of energy savings and 32% of annual expenses savings, with an average simple payback period of 3.7 years. For our recommendations, we emphasize that upgrading streetlights to LEDs creates significant economic, environmental and social benefits: communities should continue being Consortium members, take advantages of economies of scale, and remain active in public consultation processes. Additionally, we recommend that the Consortium continue to advocate for energy efficiency-friendly policies, such as stricter energy optimization standards and inclusion of LED conversion projects in the State Carbon Implementation Plan (SCIP), and that the Consortium style itself as an advocacy and resource organization with dues-based membership. Finally, it is recommended that SEMREO members increase their outreach opportunities with the public to gain more support for streetlight conversions. An integrated approach such as the one laid out in this report could accelerate LED implementation process, assess the benefits, and help to increase participation in future programs. Our results could also be applied to municipalities in Michigan outside of SEMREO’s target region, but further large-scale data analysis would be needed to support this project at a state-level scale.

Research Areas
Energy Systems

Energy efficiency, LEDs, Southeast Michigan, Streetlights

Publication Type
Master's Thesis
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Deshpande, Nalin, Emily G. Durand, Yun Liang, Danielle Yuqiao Liu, and Grace McGinnis. (2016) “Creating a Plan to Convert Streetlights in Southeast Michigan to Energy Efficient LEDs by 2025.” Master's Project, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor 1-91.