Posted by Dan Barry
Los Angeles has a well-deserved reputation as a trend setting city, a place that sets the standard on style, fashion, art, and music. At the center of all this influence is Hollywood and the film industry.
Some of the most iconic and reoccurring imagery in film features the warm yellow glow of streetlights in the dark City of Angels. So when LA recently began replacing these high-pressure sodium lights with cold, blue, energy efficient LED alternatives, fans and film buffs worried that the new lighting would drastically change the way cities are portrayed in film, forever.
But LA’s investment in LED street lighting is influential in a much more significant way than in the color palate of film. As the largest such project in the world, LA’s leadership in transitioning to this new technology will set the stage—and expand the market—for similar investments by other major US and international cities.
Street lighting can account for as much as 40% of a municipality’s electricity costs, and the old technology we all grew up with requires a much greater investment in routine maintenance to replace fixtures or correct “day burners” that waste energy. LA estimates it will save $7 million a year in energy and $2.5 million a year in maintenance with the switch to LED on all 141,000 of its street lights. The residents of LA will surely appreciate this, as will the residents of the hundreds of large and small cities that have made, or are beginning to make, the switch.
So, how did Los Angeles, a city known for its excess, smog, congestion, and dependency on the automobile suddenly emerge as a global leader in urban sustainability? Slowly, but surely – and with the leadership of local elected officials and others dedicated to advancing urban sustainability, green and efficient energy, clean air and water, and transportation alternatives.
That leadership was on full display nearly a year ago, when ecoAmerica and its local partner, Climate Resolve, hosted Climate Day LA, a gathering of hundreds of local climate and sustainability leaders from across the faith, business, health care and public health, higher education, and local government sectors.
Participants came away with a better understanding of local solutions that all Angelenos can support, an assessment of progress made in Sacramento during the recent legislative session (as well as missed opportunities to achieve greater statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy commitments), a preview of the COP21 meetings in Paris, and fresh insights into how to more effectively communicate about climate solutions.
Once again, Los Angeles is setting the trend. This time, the focus is on advancing climate solutions at the local level that can save cities money, cut energy demands, and eliminate burdensome maintenance schedules. And while the uniquely warm glow of LA will certainly be missed, the city is shedding much needed light on a new legacy of climate leadership.
This story was originally posted on the Path to Positive Communities blog on October 21, 2015