In June 2014 the City of Houston and CenterPoint agreed to switch traditional streetlights in the City of Houston to LED lights. Two years have passed since the agreement was signed, and Houstonians have begun to notice the new LED streetlights. Taxpayers are also seeing savings in the General Fund thanks to this conversion effort.
With approximately half of the streetlights replaced in the last two years, our team was curious what the savings impact had been to date. By our estimates, nearly $900,000 has been saved through the bill period ending June 7, 2016. While the agreement was signed in June 2014, the conversion did not start until January 2015 after all the needed approvals were gathered. The first LED lights appeared on the City’s light bill in March 2015. You can check out the savings over time in the chart below.
How do savings work? The City does not own the streetlights and does not incur the capital cost of replacing the lightbulbs; instead, this duty falls to CenterPoint. The City does, however, pay for most of the operational costs associated with street lighting. The money to pay the electricity bill for streetlights ultimately comes from the General Fund – which is the City’s main governmental fund and is funded by taxpayer dollars.
When traditional streetlights are switched out for LED lightbulbs the number of kilowatts per hour (KWH) consumed decreases substantially. Not pictured on the chart below, the City has also saved approximately 19 million KWHs in the 16 months since the first LED streetlights appeared on our bill. This decrease in KWHs leads to a decrease in the electricity bill for the City. When the conversion is fully completed, the City estimates it will save between $2.5 million to $3.0 million a year compared to traditional lightbulbs (depending upon the price of energy).
Frank C. Bracco is a Senior Staff Analyst for the City of Houston Finance Department and is a member of the Performance Improvement Division. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.
Network to focus on solutions to infrastructure, city services, civic engagement challenges
September 14, 2015 -- Rice University and the City of Houston will join forces with 20 other cities and 25 other universities from across the country to create MetroLab Network, a network of universities and city governments charged with collaborating on solutions to the challenges confronting urban infrastructure, city services and civic engagement. The partnership was announced today at a Smart Cities event held at the White House.
The partnerships, made up of university representatives and city decision-makers, will use technology and analysis to research, develop and deploy solutions to the problems facing the systems and infrastructure on which urban citizens and regional economies depend. The network will focus on common challenges facing cities and develop shared, scalable solutions that can be deployed across the network.
The projects can be undertaken solely by a city-university partnership or by a team of city-university partnerships facing similar challenges so they can leverage network resources and expertise. The MetroLab Network will be organized and operated by a management team, initially led by Carnegie Mellon University.
“One of Rice University’s ongoing priorities is engagement with the city of Houston, and the MetroLab Network is an ideal way to build on our existing efforts,” said Rice President David Leebron.
“We’re thrilled that Rice and Houston are part of the MetroLab Network,” said Bill Fulton, director of Rice's Kinder Institute for Urban Research, which will be the network's main point of contact for the Rice and city of Houston partnership. Experts at the Kinder Institute will play a role in putting the available data into context and generating ideas about which urban problems that data can help address. “The time is right for a great research partnership that will help Houston -- and other cities as well,” he said.
“Rice University is one of this nation’s finest institutions of higher learning,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is a 1978 graduate of Rice. “Some of the best research minds around are available right at our front door. This partnership will allow us to tap into that wealth of knowledge to gain answers that will help us make informed future decisions in key areas.”
During the 2015-16 academic year, each city-university partnership will focus on three research projects to be completed by the end of the year. The city of Houston-Rice University projects will be:
Impact of housing change on neighborhoods and families
Significant anecdotal evidence indicates that in Houston, as in other large cities, families of modest means are being displaced by “gentrification” in neighborhoods close to the downtown area and being pushed to locations farther away from jobs and transit. Using city and county permit data on construction, demolition and substandard housing, Rice researchers will document the characteristics of housing and housing change in particular Houston neighborhoods, and compare them with current and changing neighborhood demographics. This research will be used to inform future housing and infrastructure policy in the city.
Impact of streetlights and neighborhoods
Using geographic information systems data about the location of streetlights and billing data about streetlight usage, Rice researchers will map streetlights in Houston and also map and analyze patterns reflecting when streetlights are in use or out of service. The streetlight data will be examined against data associated with neighborhood characteristics, crime, traffic accidents and other factors. This research will be used to inform the city’s decisions about where to locate new streetlights and how to prioritize streetlight repair.
Using data provided by B-cycle, which operates Houston’s bike-share system, Rice researchers will conduct an analysis of bike-share usage and accessibility of bike-share station locations. Houston trends will be compared with trends in Austin, Fort Worth and Denver using data provided by B-cycle. This research will be used to assist the city of Houston and B-cycle in decisions about future locations of bike-share stations as well as improved management and operation of the bike-share system.