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City of Columbia enters contract with Dominion to install LED street lights

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:25 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A new partnership between the City of Columbia and Dominion Energy will soon bring more energy-efficient lighting to city streets, and save the city some money.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Columbia City Council approved a 10-year contract with Dominion to replace over 8,000 of the city’s overhead lights that illuminate roadways with LEDs.

Robert Anderson, Columbia’s Director of Public Works, said the city has wanted to switch their older, high-pressure sodium bulbs to LED lights for some time. When Dominion approached the city around eight months ago with the plan, they jumped at the opportunity.

Anderson said the program has a number of benefits for city residents and the environment.

“Long-term, this will be a great benefit to the city’s climate protection plan and what they’re doing to protect the environment,” he said.

Cost savings is also a big draw.

In an effort to encourage municipalities to reduce their carbon footprints, Dominion is offering a monetary incentive for cities like Columbia to make this switch.

“You may be asking, ‘Well, why is Dominion Energy offering this incentive to the city?’ It’s good for the environment, the reduced energy consumption reduces methane emissions, and that ties back into our commitment to reducing methane and carbon emissions by 2050,” Dominion Energy Spokesperson Ashley Cunningham said.

The incentive is for the first five years of the contract. Without it, the city is estimated to spend around $119,000 monthly for electricity.

With the incentive applied, Columbia is estimated to pay around $92,000 a month to illuminate city streets with LEDs. This equates to about an $8,200 monthly savings.

“We figured out when we put it on paper that it’s going to save us somewhere we estimate, once the contract’s up and running, somewhere over five years we’ll get about $489,000 will be the total savings of the program,” Anderson said.

The older lights that the city is currently using are less expensive to operate, but they’re being phased out and their monthly price is increasing. The price of LEDs, conversely, has been going down for a decade.

A greater draw for the city than the monetary savings is the environmental impact.

“I want to say it’s about savings but it’s not,” Anderson said. “The trend in going to LED, using less electricity in the light, the wattage reduction that you get when you do this is tremendous. So we are saving electricity off the grid by doing this project.”

The city is estimated to save 4.7 million kilowatt hours annually by making the move. According to Dominion, the average household per month uses between 10,000 and 12,000 kilowatt hours.

“So if you use that to kind of contextualize what the city’s using, potentially they could save what would be the equivalent of the energy that 475 households use per year is what they would potentially be saving as far as energy consumption,” Cunningham said.

In addition to lowering energy consumption by 30-60 percent, Dominion notes that LED lights are brighter, crisper and last longer.

Under the terms of the contract, Dominion will handle all installation of these new lights. Anderson hopes Columbia residents will be seeing Dominion trucks on city streets in the coming months as they work to upgrade the overhead lights.

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