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Three German towns are cutting energy costs and carbon emissions with street lights on demand

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In an effort to reduce their lighting bills and CO2 emissions, the local authorities of Dörentrup, Lemgo and Rahden – three rural towns in Western Germany – decided not to switch on all street lights permanently at night. In response, Dörentrup resident Dieter Grote came up with the idea of configuring the lighting system to allow residents to turn on specific lights when required by simply making a phone call. His idea was developed by local energy supplier, Lemgo Electricity Board, and in December 2006 the Dial4Light project was launched.

The system, which was initially installed on 25 streets in Dörentrup, could not be simpler. By phoning the Dial4Light call centre, streets, public walkways, sports grounds and sites of interest are lit up. The lights remain on for 10 to 15 minutes, after which they are automatically switched off again to save energy. While the user pays for the cost of the phone call, the town council pays for the electricity for lighting the route concerned.

“The project allows the town to save energy by having the lights on only when needed,” says Dial4Light project manager, Frank Bräuer. “That means that lights aren’t simply left on all night, but only come on when required. That saves a lot of money. Not to mention the environmental benefits.”

All streets controlled by the system are given a particular route number, which is displayed on lamp posts and the website. After registering their phones through the Dial4Light website, residents can immediately use the system. Thanks to voice-recognition technology, residents can light up the street they want by simply saying the route number.

Since adopting the Dial4Light system, Dörentrup has reduced its street-lighting energy costs by 35%. Due to this success, the number of roads involved in the project has been increased to 50.Statistics gathered suggest that cutting lighting by five hours a day, and reducing the number of switching operations by 365 per year, could save a town with 60 Dial4Light routes €53 000 over three years. This would result in an annual reduction of 115 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The system is particularly suited to villages, towns and suburbs without a demand for all-night lighting – in Dörentrup each stretch of road is lit up on average three times a night. There are plans to launch the scheme in five other countries and the company has received requests for its new technology from Sweden, the UK, the USA and Dubai.