More than 20 million smart street lighting controls have been deployed around the globe making this easily one of the most widely adopted and proven smart city technologies.
Smart street lighting controls can monitor whether lights are working properly, report faults when they are not, dim lights in the off-peak to save energy, measure energy consumption, optimise maintenance tasks and improve asset management.
In the past 5 years, more than a million LED street lights have been deployed across Australia (about 40-45% of the national stock of 2.5 million street lights). Unlike many other countries, smart street lighting controls have not featured widely in Australian LED upgrades thus far. However, some recent large project announcements and rapidly gathering interest in smart street herald a change in the market.
This month, the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources released a briefing paper on the topic and suggested that regulatory reform to recognise the metering capabilities of such systems may be imminent.
IPWEA CEO, David Jenkins, recently spoke to Schréder Australia CEO, Kaushal Kapadia, about developments with smart street lighting controls:
David: What do you see as the main benefits of smart street lighting controls?
Kaushal: Fundamentally, smart street lighting controls are about better asset management: Knowing where each street light is, what type it is, what it is doing, if it is working and being able to control it remotely. Remotely controlling street lights allows a utility and council to implement dimming and switching schedules to generate energy savings too, and to homogenise switching ON/OFF times across large populations of lights. Adding to this, some of the metering data that is generated by the controller devices, in particular voltage data, can be used by utilities for grid monitoring use cases.
Smart controls systems are a simple technology in some ways but also transformative. There is little doubt that smart controls will change how we all manage public lighting assets in the future.
David: Why do you think it has taken much longer to see widespread adoption of smart street lighting controls here in Australia as compared to other countries?
Kaushal: In some other countries like the UK, parts of the US and in New Zealand they have implemented policy reforms that allow customers to much more easily claim the energy savings benefits from dimming and trimming their lights. These energy savings are a really important part of the business case.
It now looks like similar policy reform might happen in Australia and I think that this development is likely to see a big shift in the market.
Australia also has a unique challenge in comparison to some other countries, which is its size. Street lights that are located outside of densely populated urban areas are often clustered across large geographical areas with long distances in-between. New communication technologies and services like NB-IoT networks from the mobile network operators are opening up opportunities to cost-effectively connect these distributed and far away street lights. This is an important development, because connecting the street lights that are the furthest away creates the most value for remote asset monitoring use cases.
David: What kind of take-up has New Zealand seen compared to Australia?
Kaushal: In New Zealand we have already seen commitments that will result in more than 70% of their street lights being smart controlled over the next few years. In contrast, in Australia, we are in the low single digits.
New Zealand offers pretty good evidence that, when you establish the right policy settings, this technology is taken up widely.
David: One big difference in Australia is that most of our street lighting is owned and managed by utilities. Do you see that as a barrier to adoption of smart street lighting controls?
Kaushal: We can see a lot of interest now from our utility customers and we know that a lot of utilities overseas that own street lights are taking up the technology.
There is no question that the business case for smart street lighting controls is more complex when the owner of the street lights and the ultimate customer are not the same entity.
It is more a question of timing in that it just takes a bit longer for folks to come to grips with a more complex business case.
When technology deployments become more complex and larger scale as is the case with utilities, it is critically important for customers to have the right partners available in the market that cannot only supply the technology, but also the required project delivery and support services to deliver the desired business outcomes over sometimes very long contract periods. In this regard, Schréder has invested into and built a dedicated, Australia-based team over the past few years. This puts us in a position to provide these capabilities to our Australian customers with local staff and resources from our many offices around Australia.
David: Do you see smart street lighting controls becoming the norm in the future for all the lights that councils, road authorities and utilities manage?
Kaushal: Yes, smart controls are absolutely going to be the norm in the future.
Almost every LED street light being bought in Australia today already has the necessary capability to support a smart street lighting controls node.
We are now starting to see other types of public lighting like decorative fixtures and floodlights also able to accept smart controls.
In the future, I fully expect that every street light will be shipped to councils, road authorities and utilities complete with smart controls.
A clear definition of business outcomes and benefits is paramount for our customers to make investment decisions. And through our experience with many larger and smaller scale deployments, we can see that the use cases from smart controls are becoming increasingly clear to our customers, driving interest and adoption in the market.
A panel discussion and a number of speakers will focus on smart street lighting controls at the Street Lighting & Smart Controls Forum on 4 May 2022 at IPWEA’s International Public Works Conference in Adelaide. Click here to register.