Clinton Unveils LA's LED Street Lamp Initiative

Bill Clinton, seen here speaking at the 2009 National Clean Energy Summit, was on hand to announce the LED street lighting retrofit of Los Angeles. (Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund [CC by ND-2.0]/Flickr)

Monday was a big day for green jobs in L.A. While his better half was off in Japan honoring the Japanese sun god, former President Clinton paid a visit to Los Angeles to promote solar energy and help Mayor Villaraigosa launch what is the largest LED street lighting retrofit in the U.S. A joint project of the city of Los Angeles and the Clinton Climate Initiative, the project will serve as a case study for other cities to significantly reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The mayor announced that the city will replace 140,000 street lamps with new energy efficient LED lights. The LED's last twice as long and use about 60 percent the energy of a typical street lamp, saving more than 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and about $10 million in operational costs.

At the same time, the initiative will create immediate employment in "green collar" jobs, sustained over five years. This expenditure sounds surprising given California's dire economic situation, but with a combination of rebates and loans, the estimated $70 million project will be paid off in seven years, after which the city will see $10 million in annual savings.

As Clinton said, "This partnership is a tremendous example of how cities can cut costs, while also making a significant impact in the fight against climate change. I thank mayor Villaraigosa and the city for their leadership."

Lighting is one of the larger expenditures a city typically pays out — anywhere from 10 to 38 percent of total electricity costs. So LED street lights are a way to get some great green cred while significantly curtailing a city's operational budget. The lights are quite hi-tech — a square panel of several hundred light-emitting diodes (LED's) which come equipped with built-in sensors that signal if there are any problems in the unit.

After L.A. kicks off its LED project, the Clinton Climate Foundation will help other major cities follow suit.

This is one of the first projects to further Villaraigosa's GREEN LA program, which seeks to make Los Angeles the greenest metropolis in the U.S. by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy (35 percent renewables by 2020) and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030.