Currently, there are 315 million streetlights in the world, which will grow to 359 million by 2026. The public outdoor lighting market is currently undergoing a period of change where legacy streetlights are being replaced with new and more efficient LED, or solid-state lighting, technology.
Taking this new technology a step further, these LED streetlights are also being networked together with communications to become “smart” streetlights.
LED and smart streetlights are projected to reach 89% and 42% of the total streetlight market, respectively, by 2026. This will total a $69.5 billion market opportunity over the next decade. From 2016 to 2026, global investment in LED street lighting is expected to be $57 billion.
LED streetlights will transform cities and municipalities across the globe over the next decade. LEDs offer longer lifetimes, lower energy consumption, and reduced maintenance expenses when compared with legacy streetlight technologies.
In most developed countries, LEDs are already an economically beneficial alternative to existing streetlights over the lifetime of the streetlight when energy savings are considered, despite their higher upfront cost. But in the next few years, LED streetlights are expected to reach cost parity with legacy technologies (and in some cases already have), making their benefits to costs immediately positive. At this point, they will make economic sense as replacements in almost all countries. Also, many emerging market countries are rapidly urbanizing and in need of improved urban infrastructure, creating further drivers for this market.
But LEDs are not the sole element in modernized public outdoor lighting. Networked “smart” streetlights help cities further to reduce costs with their dimming capabilities and reduced maintenance costs. As the costs for networked streetlights also rapidly decline, these smart streetlights will find a growing role in cities and municipalities across the globe. Smart street lighting is already taking off in major markets such as the US, UK, and China.
In many developed countries, smart streetlights are serving as part of larger “smart city” concepts, where communications networks can be used to link items such as electricity and water meters, traffic lights, and parking meters.
Smart streetlights also greatly improve safety conditions in a city by reducing the “down time” of streetlights. As soon as lamps expire, officials are notified, so streets rarely go without lighting. In many emerging market metropolises–and US cities–that are managing rising street crime, this will be a particularly strong benefit.
Some challenges must be overcome
Overall, the LED and smart streetlight market remains young, and some challenges must be overcome. Most importantly, costs must continue to fall for financing to be feasible in many countries – so far costs have continued to fall at a rapid rate. Even so, vendor-led financing (i.e. performance contracting) must continue to develop to enable projects in many geographies. In some emerging market countries, multilateral financing can help overcome these challenges, and in 2014 the World Bank announced a $1 billion fund exclusively for LED street lighting.
Another challenge is a lack of standardization. Particularly for networked streetlights, undeveloped standards could limit vendors’ ability to meet rising demand across the globe. Finally, a general preference towards conservatism could lead some cities to stick with legacy technologies even in the face of clear savings from LED and smart streetlights. Back in 2012, Northeast Group conducted a survey of over 100 US cities, towns, and municipalities that were on the vanguard of LED streetlight deployments. The response was overwhelmingly positive from these early adopters—residents complimented the better light, law enforcement officials praised safety improvement, and cities overall showed significant cost savings. Since then, the business case for LED and smart streetlights has only grown stronger.
Better quality, less cost
Improvements in technology have driven costs down while improving the quality of the lights. Northeast Group’s most recent 2016 assessment of over 1,000 LED projects in over 90 countries shows that these benefits are shared by cities and municipalities across the globe.