Lighting Curfew Could Save the State Money and Energy

January 13, 2010

Information presented to me by the Northeast Regional Director of the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) indicates that the State of Connecticut could save up to $800,000 annually by simply reducing the number of hours certain roadways are illuminated. The premise is that the state wastes a substantial amount of electricity and money by keeping the lights illuminated from dusk until dawn. Additionally, turning off highway lights in certain areas during the overnight hours can be good for the environment in that it could save hundreds of tons in CO2 emission per year. At a time when the state is looking to save money, any cost saving ideas are worthy of looking into.

Under this proposal, which will come before the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee later this year, the Department of Transportation (DOT) would have the authority to turn off roadway lighting on limited access highways during portions of the overnight hours. The exception to this would be if it were determined by the commissioner of the DOT that the road warranted full overnight illumination for safety purposes.

In our area of the state, we are used to driving on roads without street lights so if the DOT can determine the highways in other parts of the state where the traffic is below levels that justify roadway illumination, setting a lighting curfew at midnight may something worth our while to consider.

For Connecticut to move forward with such a plan, the DOT would have to replace the hardware that controls the lighting on limited access highways in the state with new electronic programmable photocells, along with new energy efficient bulbs that go along with those photocells. The cost to convert lighting is certainly something that needs to be looked at very carefully, however it is estimated that Connecticut currently spends nearly $3 million annually for the lighting of our roadways.

Connecticut wastes an enormous amount of energy when it keeps the majority of its 18,000 roadway lights on until 6 in the morning. The proposed bill to turn off roadway lights after 11PM or midnight would reduce energy consumption by an estimated 1.2 million kilowatt hours (kWhs). According to the IDSA, the total replacement cost savings would be recognized within weeks.

As the ranking senator of the Energy and Technology Committee, it is my belief that we should be exploring all avenues when it comes to possible ways to conserve energy that will ultimately save money in the long run. Of course, we need to do so in a manner that does not compromise safety.

If you have any ideas about energy conservation or any other issue you think would be beneficial to the state, let me know. With the legislative session set to begin on February 3rd, now is a great time to contact me. I can be reached in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421.