The White House Wants To Upgrade 1.5 Million Light Poles

Lights burn above a pole at a telephone station at the Metro station in Vienna, Virginia on January 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KARE
Lights burn above a pole at a telephone station at the Metro station in Vienna, Virginia on January 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KAREN BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- The White House is planning to announce Friday an initiative to help convert 1.5 million light posts in the United States to more efficient technologies.

The announcement will be made as part of the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., according to a White House official. President Barack Obama will address around 200 mayors from across the country Friday afternoon.

The Obama administration had previously set a goal of working with cities and municipalities to upgrade 500,000 light poles as part of its Better Buildings program. But the White House said that strong interest in the program convinced the administration to triple its goal to call for 1.5 million by May 2016. The "Presidential Challenge for Outdoor Lighting" will be run through the Department of Energy.

The DOE will provide staff resources to towns and cities to help them adopt more efficient technologies like LEDs and motion-sensing capabilities, and to connect local governments with funding options to pay for the upgrades. The White House estimates that cities spend about $10 billion each year on outdoor lighting, and this effort would save money and lower energy use. More efficient technologies could cut cities' energy use for outdoor lighting in half, the White House estimates.

"Already we've had two states and 10 cities participate, and we've gotten a whole bunch of other entities saying, 'What can we do?'" said the official.

The official also said the program is one way the White House is seeking to involve local leaders in efforts to address climate change by cutting emissions. "If you're a local leader, you want to be able to say to your constituents that you're doing something," he said. "This is a very direct way."

The two states participating are Tennessee and Rhode Island. Participating cities are: Huntington Beach, San Diego and Los Angeles, Calif.; West Palm Beach and Saint Petersburg, Fla.; Little Rock, Arkansas; Detroit, Flint and Dearborn, Mich.; and Portland, Maine.

The Mid-American Regional Council, the Southern California Regional Energy Network, and the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office have also committed to participate.



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