Redefining efficiency for outdoor lighting
Improvements in the luminous efficiency of outdoor lamps might not result in energy savings or reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The reason for this is a rebound effect: when light becomes cheaper, many users will increase illumination, and some previously unlit areas may become lit. We present three policy recommendations that work together to guarantee major energy reductions in street lighting systems. First, taking advantage of new technologies to use light only when and where it is needed. Second, defining maximum permitted illuminances for roadway lighting. Third, defining street lighting system efficiency in terms of kilowatt hours per kilometer per year. Adoption of these policies would not only save energy, but would greatly reduce the amount of light pollution produced by cities. The goal of lighting policy should be to provide the light needed for any given task while minimizing both the energy use and negative environmental side effects of the light.