At the Oct. 22 (Lake Oswego City) Council meeting a majority of the city council voted to approve conversion of the city’s streetlights to LEDs. They made not only a fiscally responsible decision but also one that helps Lake Oswego contribute to a sustainable society — one that is good for the environment, good for the community and good for the economy. Indeed some of the salient points of this “triple bottom line” perspective are:Castle

  • LEDs reduce electricity consumption by 40-60 percent, reducing the need for fossil fuel usage.
  • They contain no mercury or lead and last four to five times longer than current lights.
  • They significantly reduce light pollution and provide a truer color rendition than the yellow cast from high-pressure sodium lights, something safety agencies applaud.
  • And, most significantly, they will cost considerably less to operate and maintain than our current lights.
  • The economics alone could justify this decision. Staff’s report showed an investment of $1.7 million would save $240,000 per year, a return of greater than 14 percent annually. As council president (Jeff) Gudman pointed out, it is unusual to have a capital expenditure pay back anything. What also made this attractive is that this requires no increase in debt. By implementing this in two phases, staff was able to fund the first phase with capital budget money that won’t be spent this fiscal year and then use savings from the first phase to assist in funding the second phase. Additionally staff has learned that the first phase of the project qualifies for a $65,000 Energy Trust of Oregon grant and may also qualify for an additional grant in the second phase. Purchasing now also allows the city to get substantial volume discounts by combining its purchases with the city of Portland’s. All of this is probably why councilor (Jon) Gustafson said, “This looks like a no-brainer.”

    Indeed it is, but that wasn’t clear to some members of the audience or to some of the councilors. They were concerned that this project would take away from needed street maintenance and thought maybe if we waited we could purchase the LEDs for less. Neither is actually true. Staff could name no projects that would be delayed by this funding and noted that putting this decision off would most likely increase the project’s cost because we would lose the ability to piggyback our LED purchases with Portland. In fact it is important to realize that this project isn’t competing for funds, but the savings can become an additional funding source in perpetuity.

    From a sustainability standpoint, this project is a great way to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible.

    It is probably not the last good example we will see. City Sustainability Coordinator Susan Millhauser is convening a city committee composed of representatives from various city departments along with a representative from the Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board to ferret out new opportunities.

    As former councilor Mike Kehoe said to me in earlier emails regarding this project: “I agree that it makes the most sense to spend the money and do this now. I love projects like this that have a relatively rapid payback. Thanks for looking for more.”

    Hopefully with time all of the council will agree with Mike.

    Duke Castle is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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