Maryland counties, cities and towns could soon have the power to take ownership of streetlights from utility companies.
A bill introduced by Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr. clarifies the process for local governments to assume ownership from utility companies with a goal of driving down the cost to operate the more than 300,000 streetlights in the state.
Carr (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, said $60 million is spent annually across the state on street-lighting services.
“That’s an equivalent of $400 just to change a light bulb,” he said.
And in Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties, Carr said the cost to maintain the lights could rise further if Pepco’s request for higher rates is approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Pepco serves portions of both counties.
Pepco is still reviewing Carr’s bill, spokeswoman Courtney Nogas said in an email.
“However, in recent years we have opposed several similar measures that aim to take utility owned streetlights without fair compensation,” she said. “We remain committed to negotiating with local governments who are interested in purchasing the streetlights within their jurisdiction.”
Carr said his bill attempts to define a formula for the value of the lights so that there is no haggling over the price to purchase ownership.
Energy efficiency is also at the heart of his bill.
Nogas said Pepco implemented in 2008 a multi-year effort to replace all of its mercury vapor streetlights with high-pressure sodium streetlights.
“High pressure sodium lamps were chosen by cities and utilities nationwide because they are more efficient than mercury vapor and were a cost effective option for large scale conversions,” Nogas said.
Carr said high-pressure sodium lamps are 1970s technology. Jurisdictions are now turning to induction or light emitting diode, LED, lights which last years longer and are more energy efficient than sodium lights, he said.
Public ownership would allow a county like Montgomery to decide what technology is best for its street lighting.
“It’s also a better service when you are able to put maintenance out to bid and hold a vendor accountable,” he said.
Montgomery County and Prince George’s County executives Isiah Leggett (D) and Rushern L. Baker III (D) are behind the bill.
Leggett’s spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the legislation would provide a useful opportunity should the county decide in the future that buying some lights would be in the public interest.
Montgomery does not have any current plans to purchase streetlights, he said.
Thirty delegates have co-sponsored the bill.