Streetlight conversion to LED continues

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 3, 2016

Piotr Zajda/Shutterstock.com

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Continuing a process begun in 2012, the city will finish the replacement of its stock of mercury vapor streetlight fixtures with LED lighting with help from the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.

To date, 3,500 fixtures in the city have been replaced through the program because of an Energy Optimization Rebate from the energy office. Now, Community Development and Inspection Director Chris Rayes said that the city will receive another rebate to help pay for the replacement of the final 500 fixtures.

“We are down to the final 500 mercury vapor fixtures being converted to LEDs,” he told City Council Jan. 18. “This is a $101,000 project with an estimated payback of just over two years.”

The city will receive a $20,500 rebate and so, with the savings from paying for the operation of cheaper LEDs versus the mercury vapor, the fixtures will pay for themselves in just over two years. Currently, the city pays lamp charges of $107,690 each year; the new lights will incur lamp charges of $68,900 per year, resulting in a projected annual savings of $38,790.

St. Clair Shores joined other communities through the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office earlier this year in challenging DTE Energy when it applied to the Michigan Public Service Commission for a permanent annual rate of $165.70 per fixture.

DTE Energy began the LED program as an experimental program, and the city initially paid $108 per year for an LED light when the program first began, a significant savings over the $180 that the city was paying per light in 2012. That number jumped to $146 per light in 2015, and DTE is asking for a higher permanent rate going forward.

Rayes said that the Michigan Public Service Commission did not agree with DTE’s higher rate methodology and that the matter is now in pre-mediation. Rayes said a new cost structure is expected to arise from the mediation, “which should significantly reduce the cost for LEDs versus the costs they (DTE) are proposing.”

He said DTE had to explain to the commission how it came up with the rate it was charging, and the utility couldn’t justify the cost.

Nevertheless, he said, “we still expect significant savings, even with the new rate.”

Councilman Peter Rubino asked if city officials have seen the expected savings since the fixtures began to be installed in the city. Rayes said they have, and that the light is brighter and more dependable than the mercury vapor fixtures.

Mayor Kip Walby said residents seem to want the new technology to come to their streets.

“I get a number of emails wanting to know when it’s coming,” he said.

The motion to proceed with the replacement program, which will go from Nine Mile Road to the southern city limits, passed unanimously.

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