Streetlights and Carbon Neutrality



NCLGA Executive Recommendation: Endorse | Endorsed by the NCLGA and UBCM Memberships


WHEREAS BC Municipalities who signed the Climate Action Charter were supposed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2012 and streetlights represent a significant portion of electrical usage, especially for small northern communities;

AND WHEREAS BC Hydro owns a significant percentage of the streetlights under the 1701 designation, especially in smaller communities, which is preventing those communities from being able to address their carbon footprint by changing to LED streetlights:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NCLGA and the UBCM supports lobbying the provincial government to make the necessary changes to BC Hydro to allow all communities to reach locally appropriate solutions to switch BC Hydro owned streetlights to LED lights.

Additional Information

UBCM Comments: The UBCM membership has not previously considered a resolution requesting that the provincial government address the issue of ownership of streetlight infrastructure, to give local governments the option to install energy efficient streetlights.

Background Information

BC Hydro Owned Streetlights

Municipalities who signed the Climate Action Charter are required to be carbon neutral either through changes in operations, by purchasing carbon credits or through some combination thereof.  This creates a challenge, especially in small communities who do not have the resources or the density of population to make some of the options cost effective.  Streetlights represent a large electrical use for most municipalities.  BC Hydro owns most streetlights (classified as Schedule 1701 – Overhead Street Lights) in small communities and in some larger communities as well.  LED technology represents at minimum a 45% savings in electrical consumption and carbon emissions (the estimates vary between 45-65%).  Currently, for any streetlight fixture owned by BC Hydro, there is no mechanism to allow Municipalities to have them changed to LED fixtures even if the community is willing to fund the retrofit 100%.  Small communities are not significant enough power consumers to have Key Account Managers within BC Hydro to advocate on their behalf.  Additionally, BC Hydro doesn’t currently have a tariff in place to recognize the reduced power consumption of LED lighting.  Creating a tariff involves the BC Utilities Commission and is a slow process.


Haida Gwaii has had funding in place since the beginning of 2012 to replace 1701 Streetlights with LED fixtures and have been negotiating with BC Hydro to allow them to switch to LED lights since March of 2012.  The north end of Haida Gwaii runs exclusively on diesel generated hydro whose rates are subsidized by the rest of British Columbia residents therefore making the conversion to LED in all British Columbians interest.


Although BC Hydro is a large organization and the wheels often turn much slower where several levels of bureaucracy are involved, LED streetlights are not new technology.  NCLGA and UBCM need to strongly encourage BC Hydro to move quicker on this issue and to work with small communities, regardless of the amount of power consumption involved, to reach solutions that support BC Hydro’s green initiatives and BC Municipalities obligations under the Climate Action Charter.