Picture a crowded urban avenue at night. Movie theaters release swarms of pedestrians, who gather for coffee and dessert at street cafes. Those returning home late from work buy fruit at the corner market. Mothers desperate to get their babies to sleep push carriages around and around the neighborhood.
Now picture that same block at night without street lights. Dark, abandoned, and menacing, few venture out. Modern public lighting systems improve nighttime visibility, result in decreased criminal activity, and improve the sense of security among citizens. This increased visibility also ushers in increases in productivity, due to a rise in legitimate activity after dusk, and a longer workday that allows people to travel safely at later times.
Politicians benefit, too. Public lighting by nature is a highly visible indicator of progress, and can therefore be a very effective tool for municipal governments to show commitment to their constituents. Even better for the
politician, it is in many cases self-financing.
Technological upgrades reduce energy usage (and therefore cost), and those savings can cover the cost of the installation and maintenance of the new equipment. This depends on the starting price of energy: in markets where energy is highly subsidized, the same benefits may not apply.
For this reason, PPPs are a critical piece of the decision-making process. Through a public lighting PPP, government can purchase a service from a private operator—light—as opposed to an asset—the luminaire itself. The government will receive a lighting service of pre-agreed quality standard at all times during the contractual period.
The contract with the private operator simplifies the process and allocates appropriate risk to the operator. It bundles together the decision of the most appropriate technology, the purchase and installation of the efficient lamps and bracket, and the routine and unscheduled maintenance of the lamps and guarantee of the quality of that service.
Public lighting service can be measured through the intensity of the light and its coverage on the ground
beneath the lamp.
This last benefit is especially valuable because the contract requires preventative maintenance, thus avoiding the typical reactive maintenance habits of governments, which can be costly in the long run. Preventative maintenance requires keeping the lamps clean and ensuring they aren’t encumbered by foliage —a simple yet highly effective way to guarantee that the infrastructure will be functional for its full expected life. Effectively managing maintenance of a public lighting system also requires up-to-date systems, like a full GIS for identifying and managing assets, and well-designed processes, like public call centers, to ensure efficiency. The contract checks off these boxes as well – all so a few hungry theatergoers can ask the waitress for the check as they wrap up their night on the town.