Smart public lighting, which allows communities to save energy, is gaining ground

Smart public lighting, which allows communities to save energy, is gaining ground
Nearly 25% of French public lighting uses LEDs, ie 2.5 million streetlights out of a total of ten million. Milan Noga rec /

At a time of savings and energy sobriety, municipalities are equipping themselves with smart streetlights and LED bulbs, allowing them to reduce “up to 65% their energy consumption”.

Turn on the streetlights only when a pedestrian or car passes? This is now possible thanks to various solutions, which local authorities are gradually adopting. A phenomenon which is accentuated with the promotion of energy sobriety, demanded by the government. In France, according to the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), public lighting consumes more than 56 TWh (Teta Watt hour) each year, i.e. 12% of the annual consumption ofelectricity.

To reduce these energy costs, some French companies have developed boxes that attach directly to streetlights. They thus make it possible to control their lighting during the night and to achieve substantial savings. Concretely, the intensity of the streetlights is lowered to 10% during the night and automatically turns back on when a movement such as a pedestrian, a bicycle, a truck or a car is detected. For vehicles equipped with headlights, the intensity of the lighting of the streetlights is less important. According to the founder of Kawantech, Yves Le Henaff, “this device saves 65% of energy consumption“.

The first fleet of Kawantech boxes was installed on 500 streetlights in Toulouse in 2016. Today, the start-up has 4000 in service, distributed among other places in Bordeaux, Lyon, Lille, Strasbourg, Limoges and Rennes. But for Yves Le Henaff, “metropolises develop slowly, unlike small territories which have a shorter and more efficient decision-making cycle“. He observes, however,a general acceleration in demand since the beginning of the year, in particular with the increase in electricity prices“. Note that a box costs 200 euros per unit, to which you must generally add an annual subscription of a few euros. For Bruno Lafitte, lighting specialist at theAdemethe energy gain is much higher than the energy cost» enclosures. They thus representa good investment», especially if they are installed on LED street lamps.

This is precisely the choice made Jean-Luc Moudenc, Republican Mayor of Toulouse. “During my last mandate, I initiated a process to replace all of our public lighting with LEDs. We are currently at 60% of the equipped fleet, and we will be at 100% by 2026“, he says. He adds that “the drop in consumption is considerable, between 50 and 70% depending on the streetlights“. Currently, nearly 25% of French public lighting uses LEDs, ie 2.5 million streetlights out of a total of ten million. In addition to the installation of LEDs, 1,800 streetlights in Toulouse are equipped with Kawantech housings. For Jean-Luc Moudenc, “the objective is to equip up to 20,000 by 2030, i.e. 30% of all devices“.

Switch on the lighting with a single click

Other players are also taking over the smart public lighting market, such as the J’illumine ma rue application, developed since 2015 by Frédérick Nuguet. Like Kawantech, a box is installed on the streetlights, at a price of 390 euros, supplemented by an annual subscription of 120 euros. One of the major differences lies in the use of this box. Indeed, it is local residents who turn on their street lighting themselves, by pressing a button on their computer or telephone. Customers include the towns of Saint-Brieuc, Cergy Pontoise, Urrugne and Épron in Normandy.

This municipality of 2,000 inhabitants in Calvados has three J’illumine ma rue boxes, which cover half of the municipality. “On average, the device is turned on between two and three times a night», notes Franck Guéguéniat, mayor of Épron (PRG). Installed since June, the boxes have been fully financed by the SDEC, the public energy service in Calvados. “We will try to extend support until the end of the year“says the mayor. For Franck Guéguéniat, the savings can already be seen on the electricity bill: “from a financial point of view, these devices allowed us to save between 7000 and 9000 euros.»

If the elected official does not hide his satisfaction, the residents are more mixed. “This works well on LED streetlights but not on halogen bulbs, which require gradual lighting. By the time the light comes, I’ve already gone home“points out Guy, a resident of Pont-de-l’Arche, in Eure. Marine uses I light up my street when she receives guests but “thinks it stays on too long – about fifteen minutes – when five minutes would be enough“. Alexis denounces him, “an application used wrongly and through with lights that are constantly turned on“. For Sabrina, this lighting “benefit the criminals» and would like «that a camera is also added to the enclosures“.

Because the extinction of lights is synonymous with insecurity for 90% of French people, according to a report on lighting in communities by the French Association of Lighting (AFE). In 2019, the government indicated that it “It is difficult to establish a precise correlation between local decisions to switch off public lighting and a change in the number of acts of delinquency. In terms of road safety, the trend is even globally opposite since darkness seems to push many motorists to greater caution.“. The co-founder of I light up my street, Frédérick Nuguet, specifies that the company “is considering integrating the application with surveillance cameras“, but this solution”will not be effective before 2023“.

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