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Center Line lighting upgrades to reduce energy consumption

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published November 16, 2017

 The Energy Reduction Coalition has completed interior and exterior building lighting upgrades in Center Line. Officials said upgrades on residential streets and athletics fields would be completed in the spring.

The Energy Reduction Coalition has completed interior and exterior building lighting upgrades in Center Line. Officials said upgrades on residential streets and athletics fields would be completed in the spring.

Photo by Brian Louwers

CENTER LINE — Officials say the municipal parking lots and offices, city parks and residential streets in Center Line will feature better and more efficient lighting by the spring of 2018, thanks to a new partnership between the city and the nonprofit Energy Reduction Coalition.

“The city, the taxpayers, are not putting out any money for the installation of these LED upgrades, which are being done to all municipal lighting, both on the interior and the exterior of buildings, in parking lots, parks and residential public street lights,” City Manager Dennis Champine said Nov. 14.

The Center Line City Council voted unanimously earlier this fall to approve an agreement with ERC, which will pay 100 percent of the cost of conversion. ERC will also incur all risks and costs to warranty and service the lights.

Robert Florka, the ERC’s chief operating officer, said the nonprofit takes a “unique approach” to improving lighting for qualified commercial, municipal and education partners. 

“What most companies do is, they ask lighting users to purchase lighting, and they try to justify that purchase by forecasting benefits that the user will supposedly get if all the assumptions remain true and are correct in the first place. We take a very different approach,” Florka said. “We think that approach doesn’t work because it forces the lighting user to make a bet that they’ll keep using the lights as much as they are now; that electric rates will not go down; that the products will work; that there won’t be better products available soon; that they’ll keep using it as much as they are today. That puts a lot of risk on the user.

“Rather than have the user make all those bets, we take a different approach, which is to look at what lighting is costing you today, then our program goes in and reduces that cost from the get-go and increases that reduction every year,” Florka said. 

By way of example, Florka said a user with a $100 annual lighting cost could see that amount reduced to just $80 through the installation of all LED lighting. He said that initial reduction of 20 percent could triple to 60 percent in subsequent years over the average life of the lamps. 

The user first enjoys the net savings through reduced energy costs out of pocket. After that, the excess savings is used to reimburse the ERC for the costs of the initial investment, maintenance and warranty for the lighting. 

“This way, the lighting user is always assured that they’re better off than they would have been, and the way we make sure that’s always true is that we look at it again every year,” Florka said. “If any of the inputs change, like the electric rates or how much you use the lights, we adjust the model accordingly, so you’re always better off than you would have been.”

He said the ERC typically spends between $11,000 and $2 million to upgrade lighting for its partners. For partners interested in using the lights, the ERC typically asks them to do so for at least two years. 

Jim Lamerato, the ERC’s chief financial officer, said the nonprofit has also worked with Auburn Hills, Berkley and Waterford.

Lamerato said the ERC has completed building lighting upgrades in Center Line and that residential street lights and athletics fields would be completed in the spring. He said the total initial cost of the conversion would be about $700,000.

Champine said the city had inquired about the feasibility of upgrading the football field lighting at Memorial Park through a partnership with the ERC and DTE Energy. He said an initial consideration found that the installation of new galvanized steel poles to mount new lighting, if required, could make that upgrade cost prohibitive.