The UK Public Lighting System

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The UK Public Lighting System

Never mind our ordinary everyday lighting demands but living in 21st century Britain brings new power needs and UK lighting requirements from the wider society, on a local and national level. For a long time now our energy needs have not just been about UK lighting. They have been about reducing our carbon emissions on a global level. The UK is a leader in its reductions, and we are all contributing.

UK lighting is of course important and has been for more than a century. Yet, the first household demands for energy were electric ovens and telephones, then swiftly came the radio, televisions, and stereo systems. Then of course were home entertainment systems with VCR’s and larger displays. Then the home computer, mobile phones, and finally the World Wide Web.

Throw into the mix smart device Wi-Fi technology, and that culminates in online demand and live streaming.

Photograph of London at night showing its demand on the UK public lighting systemPhotograph of London at night showing its demand on the UK public lighting system

UK lighting is of course important and has been for more than a century.

Nowadays almost every adult owns a smart device. In 2019, 79% of UK adults own a smartphone. Brits spend more than 2 hours online per day on their smartphones. In 2019, 72% of mobile connections are 4G, up from 66% in 2018.* As we stream online telly or work from home, we require ever faster broadband speeds. This demand is increased during the Covid19 pandemic when every household has been in lockdown or quarantine. Staying at home put more demand on power, and finally we required even better lighting, and lights to deliver a style of lighting for our needs.

In 2019, 79% of UK adults own a smartphone.In 2019, 79% of UK adults own a smartphone.

The other end of the scale is that this demand for power produces waste and increases our carbon footprint. So how as individuals, do we contribute?

If you’re interested in reading further about energy usage see our other blog post on What does low energy mean and what are the implications for lowering your carbon footprint.

Despite the UK leaving the EU, the government does have a plan to seek cooperation with the EU to support the delivery of cost efficient, clean electricity and gas. The draft document is called Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). On climate, the UK recognises the shared interest in global action on climate change and the mutual benefits of a broad agreement on cooperation.

on average UK emissions have reduced since 1990 by 7% every 5 years

Only a minority of UK councils have managed to develop proper strategic local energy level programmes. Projects tend to stop because energy is an optional area of local services, and consequently sparsely resourced in councils; in others, skilled staff have been redeployed or made redundant because of continuing reductions in local budgets.

But it is not all doom and gloom - on average UK emissions have reduced since 1990 by 7% every 5 years. This action occurs at both national and local levels. Pressure from government means local councils have consistently reduced streetlamp lighting. There are pros and cons to this, not only safety but mental health ones too. However, the broader benefits to the environment are felt too – cleaner, cheaper, and sustainable electricity usage. Oddly, there is no longer any more legislation in place for local councils to provide street lighting – which is probably why walking home from a night out is a much darker affair these days! This is also reflected in the development of bulb technology.

Only a minority of UK councils have developed proper strategic local energy level programmes for lighting.Only a minority of UK councils have developed proper strategic local energy level programmes for lighting.
Manchester at night and out lighting demands increaseManchester at night and out lighting demands increase

Even though western governments often show big ambitions, and little follow-through on various energy saving programmes, this is where you can do your part. Buying the right lamp or light and bulb for your room and making sure it is the right fit for that room.

At least we are still in control of our own lighting in our own homes because one day you might find yourself walking on a street with no lights, in complete darkness!

*finder.com