Bright Lights, Bright Futures


If metro Detroit converted 50,000 street lights to LED technology, what kind of impact would that make? Cities and taxpayers alike would benefit from the cost savings, and our region would move one more step from rust belt to green belt.

On Wednesday, November 13th, city staff and elected officials from 25 southeast Michigan communities, DTE Energy’s Community Lighting team and representatives from several Michigan agencies came together for a full-day of dialogue about upgrading municipal street lights to LED. Attendees and presenters learned about the latest technology, replacement strategies and financing options.

The Regional Energy Office hosted the convening in partnership with the City of Dearborn and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), a peer-to-peer network of local government professionals from cities across the United States and Canada dedicated to creating a healthier environment, economic prosperity and increased social equity.

Attendees were welcomed to the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center by Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr., who emphasized the importance of local leaders developing a long-range vision that includes economic as well as environmental sustainability for their communities.

Chief Sustainability Officer Maggie Ullman with the City of Asheville, North Carolina, presented about the City’s approach to upgrading 8,000 street lights to LEDs. DTE Energy’s Community Lighting team described the process of how communities can work with DTE Energy to plan and implement their LED street lighting projects. Keynote presenters Mike Lambert, a senior lighting designer with KCL Engineering and Jim Frazer, principal of Gridaptive Technologies offered an overview from a national perspective of LED technology, how it works and the future evolution of roadway lighting controls.

Local experts, including David Massaron, Attorney and Counselor at Law, Miller Canfield, Ken Randazzo, Manager, Commercial Energy Optimization Programs, DTE Energy and Todd O’Grady, Commercial Program Coordinator, Michigan Saves, discussed options available to city governments for financing LED street light upgrades. The session highlighted bond financing, Program-Related Investments (foundation funding), street light assessments and millages and DTE Energy’s Energy Optimization program.

Additionally, attendees heard from fellow southeast Michigan local governments in a peer-to-peer panel discussion about strategies for success for planning and implementing LED street light projects.

Why LEDs?

The benefits of upgrading old, inefficient street lights are many. They include:

  • Fiscal savings for cities and taxpayers: Street lights account for about 20% of a municipality’s energy bill. Most cities have old street lights—LEDs are generally 20-30% more efficient and decrease energy usage and expenses.
  • Public safety: In many of the communities we work with, lighting is a public safety issue. The most vulnerable neighborhoods often lack adequate lighting. The cost savings from LED upgrades would support more complete coverage in their communities, such as in neighborhoods and downtown districts.
  • Addressing climate change: Upgrading street lights region-wide could have the impact of reducing the electricity use in the region by 2,000 MWh and cutting emissions by 1,411 MtCO2e each year. That’s the equivalent of powering 194 homes with electricity for one year or planting 1,157 acres of forest.

The Regional Energy Office hopes to create a replicable model that can be applied in other metropolitan areas across the country, a goal supported by the USDN and many city officials in attendance at Bright Lights, Bright Futures. Those in attendance were excited to be part of a project that demonstrates to the nation our commitment to helping each other save money and energy, working together toward a more sustainable future for metro Detroit.

Get Involved.

Coming out of the workday, cities from around the region were enthusiastic about developing a regional strategy for upgrading an estimated 50,000 street lights over the next few years. The upgrades to 50,000 street lights are anticipated to net cities fiscal savings of approximately $6 million a year over the 15 year lifecycle of the technology.

Starting in the fall of 2013, the Regional Energy Office will be working with communities and support them in identifying financing for and implementing their LED street light projects. To find out more about how your community can be involved, please contact Energy Programs Manager Jennifer Young at 866.402.1061, ex. 712 or