Active Efficiency in Action

The best way to understand the value of Active Efficiency is to see it in action. There are many examples that demonstrate the potential of Active Efficiency. Between the economic, social, and environmental benefits, the hard work that goes into making these examples successful is something to be celebrated.

Streetlights as a Beacon for Active Efficiency Deployment in New York

New York State, home to more than 20 million people, is also home to more than 1 million streetlights. While an important public safety feature, the energy required to keep older streetlight models powered on is not only a drain on city budgets, but a source of carbon emissions. In 2018, New York launched the Smart Street Lighting NY initiative, with the goal of replacing at least 500,000 street lights by 2025 with energy-efficient alternatives such as LEDs, which can reduce streetlight energy use by 74%.

To date, the more than 286,000 LED streetlights installed by NYPA, utilities, and municipalities are saving 1,776 million kWh and $14 million in energy costs per year. But a partnership between Active Efficiency Collaborative members Signify and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) took the project to the next level: by looking more broadly at the role of streetlights in a community and incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) technology into upgrades, the partnership has set New York on track to lead in smart city development. NYPA also recently launched a completely digital maintenance service which uses connected nodes to provide real time information to contractors that streamlines system repairs.

The view from Albany

Albany, the capital of New York, partnered with NYPA in June 2019 to begin converting its nearly 11,000 streetlights to LEDs. A prerequisite for the project was purchasing the streetlights from the local utility with financing help from NYPA. City ownership of streetlights incentivizes the installation of more energy-efficient models as energy savings can offset the conversion cost and give back years of savings to city budgets. By the end of 2021, Albany will have replaced all its streetlights – projected to save the city $3.3 million annually.

“As we implemented Smart Street Lighting NY, we came to understand that these systems are no longer used just to illuminate roads. They are in fact vertical assets that can be utilized for smart city deployment.” Gil Quiniones, NYPA President and CEO, Former Active Efficiency Collaborative Chairman.

The project utilized Signify’s Interact IoT lighting platform. This platform integrates street lighting into a central dashboard, allowing the lighting to communicate with other smart city applications such as smart parking, waste management, and traffic control, allowing the customer to access an abundance of data. This connected, Active Efficiency approach enables deeper benefits than a typical LED conversion, including:

  • Reduced maintenance costs. While LEDs always involve lower maintenance costs and are proven to be longer lasting than incandescent models, streetlight connectivity further reduces costs by providing real-time status updates. When paired with NYPA’s streetlight maintenance service, failures are quickly and effectively resolved. Streetlights connect to the Interact platform with cellular signals, meaning there is no single point of failure.
  • Connected communities. Smart streetlights can do more than provide illumination: they can be an infrastructure asset to add devices such as Wifi and 5G equipment. This capability can bring internet connectivity to households previously without access. Because the future of energy requires internet access, closing the digital divide with public broadband could bring further energy savings to cities, as residents would have one barrier eliminated to implementing the smart home devices increasingly popular for reducing household energy burdens.
  • Public safety and equity. Better management of the streetlight system ensures that no neighborhood is left in the dark. According to Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, replacing a streetlight used to take six to eight weeks, whereas under the smart system and with NYPA’s service, it now takes hours. “I’ve had residents tell me, ‘I feel safe going to my car now.’ So it’s really having an impact,” Sheehan says.

Albany is just one of more than 130 communities participating with NYPA in Smart Street Lighting NY. With commitments made for 500,000 streetlights to be replaced, the state is on track for its 2025 goal, and the combination of NYPA’s support for municipalities and Signify’s technology shows the potential for this undertaking to be about more than lighting, but rather about an Active Efficiency future that is smarter, more connected, and more equitable.