–  The article is authored by S.P Garnaik, Business Unit Head (Lighting), EESL 

Street lighting and how it fits into the smart cities’ paradigm

According to a research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, the report titled – ‘Strategic Opportunity Analysis of the Global Smart City Market,’ talks about how a smart city is one that has adopted at least five of the eight following smart parameters. For instance: Smart energy, smart buildings, smart mobility, smart healthcare, smart infrastructure, smart technology, and smart governance.

Street lighting plays a key role in many of these aspects, and as far as smart technology and smart infrastructure are concerned, illumination is a key subject within society. It plays a critical role in the development of a nation, facilitating connectivity, trade, safety and education. A good lighting infrastructure can act a catalyst for the positive evolution of a nation, from a social, economic, and cultural standpoint. Visibility on the streets is directly linked to the safety of pedestrians, drivers, and passersby. Thus, streetlights not only aid in making roads safer while improving walkability, but it also adds appeal to public spaces. It is pivotal for lighting to be sustainable and environment-friendly. It must align with the SDG’s of a nation, especially through cost and energy efficiency. India was perhaps a frontrunner in recognizing the importance of a sustainable and energy-efficient lighting infrastructure, at the national level.

Providing robust streetlight to illuminate India’s Smart Cities is not a challenge – India has already invested in high quality, future-ready smart streetlight infrastructure. The Street Light National Programme (SNLP) has installed over 11 million smart streetlights since its inception five years ago, making it the world’s largest street lighting programme.

The whole process has helped mitigate 5.11 million tons of CO2 emissions; these have helped save 7419.21 MUs of energy per year. Smart lighting has been recognized as the most actionable and ready-to-implement technology for cities to transition to a low-carbon economy and peak emissions in the next decade. Once implemented across India’s smart cities, these smart and energy-efficient streetlights can enable further peak demand reduction, annual energy savings and reduction in emission levels. Streetlights are connected through a web-based monitoring system that enables remote operations and additional operational savings, making them ‘smart infrastructure’ and ‘smart technology’ assets. By delivering lighting in public places and on roads when needed, cities can optimize their operations and greatly save on both the financial and carbon cost of lighting. We will now delve into the ‘smart’ aspect of these streetlights.

India’s future-ready streetlight infrastructure

Also, we must recognize the role that the Internet of Things (IoT) plays in the development of smart cities. SLNP uses a Central Control and Monitoring System (CCMS) that uses GPS and internet technology.

The system centrally monitors and controls tens of thousands of lights, instantly switching them on at sunset, and off at sunrise. The system also sends an automatic SMS and email alert to the mobile number of the official in charge of maintenance in case of any technical defect, malfunctioning or tampering.

Through CCMS, lights can be monitored and managed from any part of the country via a computer or laptop. CCMS has ensured that urban local bodies, municipalities, and public-sector utilities have ease of maintenance of the LED streetlights installed. CCMS has mitigated the need for manual monitoring mechanism apart from resulting in significant energy savings. For example, the installation of CCMS-enabled LED 95,000 lights in the city of Destiny, Visakhapatnam saved around 40 per cent of electricity consumption. Consequently, the local DISCOM’s electricity bill came down to around Rs.100 lakhs per month, as against Rs.170 lakhs a month. Further, the 95,000 lights needed only 4500 CCMS boxes for remote management, demonstrating the ease of deployment. The CCMS brought down the cost of maintenance Rs. 100 lakhs a year, as against Rs.600 lakhs a year. The system also helped achieve indirect savings for the municipality by reducing the turn-around time for repair and maintenance. CCMS also aids in data analytics, via which DISCOMs can perform load forecasting and plan DSM activities in the state. Cities can also choose to aggregate details from the CCMS for street lighting online, giving residents a real-time understanding of their lighting infrastructure. For example, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, a DISCOM in Hyderabad city, created a website allowing anyone to view zone-wise information of the CCMS-connected LED streetlights and their status.

Benefits across the value chain

The large cost savings and an array of benefits exemplify the need for adopting an IoT-led approach for India’s street lighting. They also demonstrate their potential and scalability for India’s Smart Cities. While smart street lighting, from a technological standpoint, integrates seamlessly into India’s smart cities vision, smarter and innovative business models can be the catalyst for their faster adoption. For example, to bring in mass-scale transformation, Energy Efficiency Services Ltd. (EESL), an entity under Ministry of Power, Govt. of India, for the SLNP adopted a unique strategy of partnering with states, municipal bodies and ULBs, replacing conventional streetlights with LEDs at its own costs with no upfront investment by the municipalities, which made LED streetlight adoption even more attractive. Utilizing its unique business model, EESL recovers its capital investment over time by monetizing the savings that occur due to the reduction in energy and maintenance costs. A seven-year contract with the local bodies guarantees a minimum energy saving of typically 45-50% and provides free replacements and maintenance of lights at no additional cost to the civic partners. SLNP has also improved the quality of life of citizens in India, generating prosperity in local communities, through increased employment opportunities.

Thus, the future of illumination in India lies with smart streetlights. Lighting accounts for 19% of the total global usage and 30-50% of an average city’s energy bill, so smart street lighting presents a compelling case. It also opens another pathway for climate action, as by reducing the need for energy, we lower our impact over the environment and climate change. Hence, with benefits such as automated complaint management, easy redressed, and troubleshooting, along with immense energy and monetary savings, smart street lighting is set to be at the nucleus of India’s smart cities vision.