Outdoor Lighting: New Jersey utility nixes energy-saving LEDs

Jersey Central Power & Light blocks LED street light installation in Jackson against the wishes of town officials trying to spend grant money on SSL.

Oct 25th, 2010

In the aftermath of the Street and Area Lighting Conference (SALC) the stream of LED and outdoor lighting news slowed a bit leaving Jersey Central Power & Light to make news for the wrong reasons. The utility is blocking the installation of energy-efficient solid-state lighting (SSL) in Jackson, New Jersey standing in the way of the township trying to use a US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG).

According to the Tri-Town News, Jackson applied for and received a $464,500 EEGBC to replace legacy street lights with SSL hoping to reduce energy costs 40-60%. But the utility is refusing to supply LED street lights even though the town is prepared to cover the installation costs.

The utility has indicated that the LED technology is unproven. Moreover the utility is using safety as a potential issue along with the lack of defined LED-lighting tariffs as a reason to block the LED lights. But at least one Jackson city employee explicitly accused the utility of trying to protect the greater revenue stream from the less-efficient lamps.

Ironically, the very same topic came up in an impromptu lunch discussion at SALC. The table happened to include employees from a couple of utilities attending the conference to learn more about LED technology. And there were employees from a couple of LED manufacturers at the table. The business-oriented executive from an LED house asked the utility personnel why they would willingly support a technology like SSL that would essentially reduce their revenue.

The question was likely asked in jest, but the employees of Gulf Power and Georgia Power provided serious answers. The utilities are under a mandate from parent Southern Company to meet energy-reduction goals. And surely there is pressure and encouragement from the federal government as well. Still it was refreshing to hear the enthusiasm expressed by the utility employees for energy-saving technologies and measures.

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