Why one city's 're-lighting' plan will make it a brighter, safer and smarter place to live

We've often recommended smart streetlight initiatives as a practical first step for cities envisioning a more sustainable, livable future. Yes, smart streetlight networks make streets safer and cost less than traditional lighting to operate and maintain. But there are more very good reasons to consider smart streetlights for your city. The story below explains how the city of Albuquerque, its lighting provider and Council Global Lead Partner Cisco plan to use the opportunity to take advantage of as many of those reasons as they can. — Doug Peeples


When the city of Albuquerque and lighting company Citelum started designing the city's Lighting Master Plan a little more than a year ago they wanted to do more than simply replace the city's traditional high-pressure sodium lighting with more efficient smart LED street lights. A lot more. And they wanted to do it without much upfront cost.

The 'relighting' contract approved in late November calls for replacing more than 20,000 of the city's 32,600 lights over 12 months at a cost of $20 million.

Good news for city residents
As the city outlined in a news release, project benefits include:

  • Enhanced public safety
  • Enhanced street safety
  • Energy and maintenance cost savings of $19 million over the life expectancy of the new lighting
  • Controls that allow for lighting to be adjusted to accommodate different locations and needs

The LED network also is expected to cut CO2 emissions by 123,000 tons over the course of the project and reduce light pollution.

And there's another benefit for residents. The reduced energy and maintenance costs are expected to pay for the installation, rather than new charges or fees.

Also, those cost savings will help pay for smart city architecture that will be built on Cisco's Kinetic for Cities network of edge analytics, street-level sensors and the applications and uses it makes possible. As Cisco U.S. Public Sector Senior VP Larry Payne said in a statement, "Cisco is proud to work with Citelum to provide the Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform to enable city officials to make data-driven decisions to help improve public safety, energy efficiency and quality of life for Albuquerque's residents."

The lighting plan, also referred to as Envision ABQ, is a performance-based contract requiring Citelum to guarantee the energy and maintenance cost savings throughout the 15-year agreement. It also calls for the company to guarantee that 98% of the streetlights are operational at all times and quick outage repairs.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who initially proposed the street lighting upgrade, said in an earlier statement "This initiative will not only make our city more beautiful and energy efficient, but it will also improve public safety. Crime does not like a stage and by strategically lighting up our neighborhoods we can make Albuquerque safer."

The city's streetlights are owned by both the city and utility Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). Upgrades of the city's streetlights not included in the contract will be negotiated with PNM.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.