When I blog about Montgomeryshire issues, I look for wider application. And today I've been involved in discussing two such issues - street lighting and wind farms (which will feature in my next post). This afternoon, spent an hour talking to the Chief Executive, plus the relevant portfolio holder and service manager at Powys County Council about street lighting. Powys has become the street lighting capital of the Council world - as famous as Tokyo and Vegas. The way it happened was not very smart, but there's no argument about it. Powys has become a street lighting laboratory. No good moan about it. We are where we are. I hope this pioneering spirit continues.
But first let us return to the beginning. In 2007 (or thereabouts) the cost of electricity was flying (why is a separate question) and councillors thought it would be a sensible idea to turn off one third of its street lights - and an appropriate budget was set. Personally, I was not opposed to that. But a councillor insisted there should be consultation. It took several months. The price of this consultation was delay. And by the time the consultation was over, the only way to meet the budget was to turn off two thirds of the lights instead of one third. And that's what the councillors did. No more consultation. They just did it - and consulted later. A review of what they did is now underway. Enough sparks flew to launch an Olympic Games. And one can understand the reluctance to consult again, because only a handful of community councils responded first time round. But enough of history. Where to go now.
For some time the Council's street lighting officers have been considering replacing existing lights with LED arrays. There's been one shining down on Builth Wells for a while. They run on 25% of the electricity needed to run existing street lights - green, economical and common sense. But it costs over £100 to convert each one, and around £400 to buy each new one. As it must, the Council is researching the best product and provider. Now, with budgets pip-squeakingly squeezed, its going to be difficult to find the upfront cost. But I'm told that the payback period is only 18 months. There's got to be a way of doing this - either with deferring some other investment for a year, or timing the change over two years. And when the running costs are quartered it will be possible to turn some lights back on again. In 10 years time, I reckon all street lights will be LED arrays. I wonder whether the Powys Pioneers will be the first to reach this state.