Half a million Euros saved by changing lightbulbs

Carlos Carabaña

In 2004, Malaga City Council undertook an ambitious project: to replace all the incandescent lightbulbs in their traffic lights with LED bulbs. In a province with more than 160,000 vehicles and a city with over half a million people, 25,969 red, green and amber bulbs are used in over 4,000 traffic lights at more than 470 junctions.

With these numbers and knowing that LED lights have an energy consumption of 90% less than traditional bulbs, the resulting energy saving is around half a million Euros a year for the local authority. Talking in kilowatt hours per year, this is a reduction from the 5.8 million consumed with incandescent lights to around a million.

However, like all investments, this one needed money on the table. According to the council’s own figures, this was 2.7 million Euros, paid by the council, the IDEA agency and the Andalusian Regional Government.

The advantages are not only financial: LED lights last longer, up to 100,000 hours compared with the 1,000 hours that traditional bulbs last. They are also more robust, being better able to withstand jolts and other kinds of movement. They are clearer from a distance. Furthermore, in environmental terms there is a strong plus, since the changeover in Malaga provides an annual saving of almost a million kilos of CO2.

To give a specific example, the newspaper 20 Minutos published an item about the Alcazaba Tunnel. This 180-metre long tunnel links Malaga Park and La Malagueta to Calle Alcazabilla and the Plaza de la Merced. According to the newspaper, installation of LED lights here brought a change from 28,000 Watts to 5,000 saving 17,000 Euros annually. The light emitted is also more natural and less aggressive.

According to DGT magazine, however, it is possible to go further: take away the traffic lights all together. A few years ago in Amorebieta, a municipality in Biscay province with around 20,000 inhabitants, it was decided to make changes to the town centre. In the year 2000, a new road built outside the town took much of the traffic away from the centre, and at that time it was decided to remove all traffic lights and replace them with zebra crossings. Soon afterwards, the municipal police reported an 80% reduction in accidents. And zebra crossings only consume white paint.

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