Saving money by keeping the street lights on?
Singapore, 2nd June 2010
With the World Cup soccer just around the corner we find more and more stories about the host country South Africa preparing itself for the influx of visitors and wanting to show off their country to the world in the best possible way. We saw that most recently in China (Beijing and Shanghai for the Olympics and World Expo respectively) and it is now happening in South Africa (for the World Cup) and Singapore (Youth Olympic Games later in August). But the story that caught my eye today was a report about the city of Cape Town deciding to leave most of their 320,000 streetlights on during the day.
As it turns out drug addicts steal the electrical cables in their pursuit to sustain their drug habits’. Test carried out by the city on a stretch of 10 street lights showed that keeping the lights burning (with I assume the life high voltage being the deterrent) was massively cheaper than the cost of replacing the stolen cables. Hmmm…interesting approach, but not sure if this is the way, there must be other methods?
It is true that cars in many countries are required to drive their cars during the day with their head lights on. The obvious reason being safety and reduction of accidents. The difference is that cars have their own power generating capacity and thus do not waste actual energy. It is also true that lighting deters crime and anti social behavior, but this is generally applicable at night or in areas with no or starkly reduced day light.
Of course there are much deeper underlying social-cultural issues behind the occurrence of vandalism and theft. Lighting certainly has a role to play in deterring it, but whether keeping the streetlights on during the day is the solution remains to be seen. It feels to me like the reasoning and calculations behind this case are somehow flawed…