BC Hydro gave a presentation to District of Clearwater council to provide an update on its street light replacement program.
The utility company is replacing upwards of 90,000 street lights in the province from ones that contain Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) to a light emitting diode, or LED, style street light in response to federal PCB regulations to phase out the product. All light ballasts containing PCBs must be removed by the end of 2025.
The District of Clearwater currently has 240 150-watt lamps, and 15 110-watt lamps, at a cost of $23.37 and $19.59 per lamp, respectively. Under the program, those lamps will be replaced with 259 114-watt LED lamps, five of which are already installed, at $23.89 per lamp.
In addition, from May 1, 2021, to March 31, 2024, a supplemental charge of $533 ($2.06 per light) is added to the District’s bill each month to recover the undepreciated value of the HPS lamps as they are being removed before the end of their service life.
The District hydro bill now ranges from $6,370 to $6,620 per month, up from about $5,845 before May 2021. Beginning April 2024, the expected monthly charge is estimated to be about $6,087.
Councillors brought up concerns surrounding the higher monthly bill.
In response, DJ Feinstadt, program manager, noted the incoming LED lights will drop the overall usage from 150 watts to 114 watts, so the district would be saving energy, but that the costs also include the purchase and replacement of the lamps, maintenance and customer service.
Coun. Lucy Taylor asked what the business case is if there were no cost savings to the tax payer.
The primary reason for replacing the lights, said Feinstadt, was the federal PCB regulations established in 2008. He added a lot of BC Hydro customers have been requesting LED street lights and that the LED street lights require less maintenance.
“With there being fewer failures, there’s a group safety,” said Feinstadt. “There’s less time in which a street light is burnt out and there’s a dark cloud within the community and risk something happening there.”
The work is scheduled to begin in spring of this year, completing in the fall. Before the work begins, however, BC Hydro staff noted there would be “pre-deployment meetings” with district staff to ensure all requirements have been met.
Mayor Merlin Blackwell noted there has been chatter around town about how bright the new LEDs will be and whether it will affect the night sky.
“The one benefit of the old sodiums is, they weren’t very glarey, whereas some of the newer LEDs can be quite bright, which is great if you’re trying to stop crime in the big city,” he said. “But when you’re trying to see the nice stars out, potentially, can be a little bit heavy.”