OPPD accelerates $39 million plan to upgrade to LED streetlights

OPPD accelerates $39 million plan to upgrade to LED streetlights
World-Herald News Service

The Omaha Public Power District is accelerating its timetable to replace aging high-pressure sodium streetlights with more efficient, longer-lasting LED lights.

An operations manager briefed the OPPD board this week about the district’s $39 million plan to replace all 98,744 streetlights the district maintains with LED lights over the next five years.

That tally includes upgrading streetlights in 44 cities and towns, 248 sanitary improvement districts, five counties and others operated by the state Department of Transportation in the 13-county OPPD service area.

The change will cost OPPD more capital up front than waiting for all of the district’s traditional lights to require replacement, the district’s financial officers and CEO Tim Burke said.

But each of the new lights should last longer, up to 20 years instead of five. They require less maintenance, and they cost less to operate than traditional streetlights.

This should save taxpayers money, OPPD says, because communities and the state pay OPPD to power and maintain streetlights.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Burke said, because ratepayers are taxpayers, too.

Preliminary estimates show OPPD customers, mainly cities, towns and counties, could save $77.5 million over 20 years. Officials estimate electricity savings of more than 39 million kilowatt hours per year.

As recently as 2010, replacing traditional streetlights with LED lights wasn’t economically feasible. In those days, replacing a traditional light with an LED fixture cost more than $600.

Today, the cost to do so is down to less than $300 and trending down toward $200, said Todd McLochlin, lead utilities coordinator at OPPD. The lights are getting more durable and more natural-looking.

“The differential in replacing a fixture versus replacing a bulb is not significant enough (any more) to make us want to change a bulb twice versus changing a fixture once,” he said.

Some OPPD customers might not want to wait five years for the change, Burke said.

“We’ve been in conversations with the City of Omaha,” Burke said. “We met with them last week.”

The utility plans to meet with other customers soon.

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