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Case Study: City of London

September 2023



How the City of London cut energy use by 57% with switch to LEDs and smart controls

Over the past five years, the City of London has been upgrading its lighting infrastructure with energy-efficient LED luminaires and smart city controls as part of its wider lighting strategy. The City's objectives included reducing energy consumption, lowering lighting maintenance costs, enhancing the quality of lighting across the City, and improving overall sustainability. 

Now, with new real-world data, we take an in-depth look at how the City has achieved these goals and how it’s continuing to adapt its lighting to tackle new challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • Lighting infrastructure upgraded to energy-efficient LED luminaires with smart controls over a five-year period
  • Upgrades have resulted in a 57% saving (2.9m kWh) in energy and 78% saving (2,000 tonnes) of CO₂ emissions per year
  • 20% reduction in the overall number of lighting assets due to improvements in technology and uniformity of lighting effect
  • Granular control via the UrbanMaster app enables fine-trim brightness levels as and when required

The City of London is home to one of the world's most important international finance districts along with a unique collection of heritage sites. While more than 350,000 people constitute its daytime population, what sets the City apart from other urban environments is that its nighttime residential population is just 9,000. Despite this, the City is still subject to many special considerations which have specific lighting requirements as well as ongoing special circumstances such as filming and public events which require additional flexibility in lighting schedules.

Prior to 2018, the City of London's lighting network was restrictive and used set lighting schedules that covered all its ageing luminaires. Maintenance was conducted periodically by manually checking each individual luminaire on a set schedule, and reactively implementing fixes where necessary. As a result, the City's lighting suffered from high energy consumption, inefficient lighting distribution, high maintenance costs, limited adaptability, and increasing environmental impact.

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A new strategy

In 2018, the City took the major decision to develop a new lighting strategy created in partnership with world-renowned lighting design practice Speirs Major. The strategy aimed to "deliver a creative, holistic and smart approach in which light and darkness are better balanced to meet both a functional and aesthetic need." The approach clearly articulated the City's objectives to prioritise safety, security, accessibility, sustainability, culture, planning, management, technology and delivery.

The bedrock of the City's lighting strategy was to fully replace and upgrade all existing street and amenity lighting to LED luminaires with partner DW Windsor alongside the installation of smart lighting controls and Urban Control's UrbanMaster CMS to monitor and manage the network of lighting assets. These changes aimed to address key lighting issues, leading to improved energy efficiency, enhanced control capabilities, reduced maintenance needs, and minimising environmental impact.

UrbanMaster by Urban Control UK

Urban Control's Central Management System (CMS), UrbanMaster, offered the City of London a cutting-edge street lighting control system that has revolutionised the way it manages lighting assets and infrastructure, offering unprecedented flexibility and control, and empowering the creation of a safer and more efficient urban environment.

UrbanMaster has allowed City of London to gain full control over its street lighting network through a cloud-based platform, which can be used across a variety of devices and locations. This allows for real-time monitoring and management of individual lights, using unprecedently granular data to provide accurate information on lighting assets' status, performance, and energy consumption. City officials and administrators can access and share this data from anywhere, enabling them to make informed decisions and to optimise the system's operation.

The City of London is a unique environment that needed a robust solution to support its objectives of reducing energy consumption while improving the quality of life for its residents, workers and businesses. Building on our strong relationship with City of London and DW Windsor, we deployed UrbanMaster, allowing the City unprecedented dynamic control of its lighting assets, helping to address over-lighting, cut carbon emissions and reduce light pollution.

—Jason Patey, Head of IT, Urban Control UK

One of the key advantages of UrbanMaster lies in its flexibility, which has allowed City of London to easily customise lighting schedules for individual or groups of lights, adjusting brightness levels and activation times based on specific needs, conditions or dynamically according to real-time data sources. This adaptability ensures that lighting resources are used efficiently, maximising energy savings without compromising safety and visibility for pedestrians and motorists.

In addition, UrbanMaster streamlines maintenance processes, with remote monitoring meaning the detection of faulty or malfunctioning lights is automatic and remote, allowing for proactive maintenance and faster repairs. Additionally, the system provides detailed analytics and reports, allowing cities to evaluate the performance of their lighting infrastructure and identify areas for improvement.

Implementation and analysis

Technology is becoming critical to making cities work better, especially with ever-increasing budgetary and environmental pressures for local authorities to consider. In 2018, the City began a phased switch to LED luminaires, with the CMS brought online the following year, adding remote monitoring and control of the entire street lighting network.

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There has been a threefold reduction in annual energy usage since 2016

annual co2 emissions chart

CO2 emissions have decreased by 85% since the start of the rollout

The project has delivered street lighting infrastructure that can be better controlled, amended and managed, with proactive fault finding and energy reading now and for the future. The project has also provided a significant reduction in energy and carbon usage, as well as maintenance costs. To date, the project has achieved:

  • 57% saving (2.9m kWh) in energy pa, saving City of London hundreds of thousands of pounds in energy costs
  • 78% saving (2,000 tonnes) of CO₂ emissions pa
  • 20% reduction in the number of lighting assets due to improvements in technology and uniformity of lighting effect  

The ability to raise and lower lighting levels remotely has alleviated both financial and environmental pressures on the City and created a benchmark to which other local authorities can aspire

The shift to LED lighting with smart controls has been a pivotal decision for the City of London, and one that aligns ours with a commitment to a greener future driven by the pressing need for sustainable and responsible urban development. The financial benefits to date have already been truly remarkable, with substantial savings generated in energy costs allowing us to direct resources towards other crucial community projects. As time passes, these savings will continue to grow alongside the many other efficiencies that this project delivers.

—Giles Radford, Assistant Director at City of London Corporation

The benefits of granular control

The ability to create different lighting profiles for individual lanterns across various areas and urban environments throughout the Square Mile has enabled the City of London to move away from a 'one size fits all' approach to lighting.

Optimisation continues today, with light levels being dynamically set and adjusted where necessary by stakeholders – with council workers able to walk the City and use the UrbanMaster app to fine-trim brightness levels as and when they see fit. The system even allowed an appropriate reduction in lighting levels during Covid to match the reduction in pedestrian footfall during periods of lockdown. This level of dynamic, granular control has a host of potential applications for other City stakeholders to leverage the lighting network to their benefit, including emergency services, events, and infrastructure engineering projects – which can be better lit during night-time operations.

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The experience of the City of London highlights the transformative potential of LED luminaires and lighting controls, supported by a CMS, in enhancing the energy efficiency, sustainability, adaptability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of new urban lighting infrastructure. It serves as a valuable resource for city planners, policymakers, and stakeholders interested in driving similar initiatives within their own urban landscapes.

The introduction of a street lighting CMS like UrbanMaster represents a significant step forward in urban lighting management. Its unprecedented flexibility and control have empowered the City of London to optimise its lighting infrastructure with new levels of control, adaptability and flexibility resulting in enhanced safety, energy efficiency, and cost savings. The City of London, DW Windsor and Urban Control continue to work together to better refine the project, creating a better lit environment for the City while cutting costs and environmental impact. 

The City of London is a vibrant mix of past and present – where modern skyscrapers tower over ancient streets. Over the past several years, DW Windsor has worked closely with the City to upgrade or replace its ageing lighting assets. The sheer variety of lanterns within the Square Mile made this a challenge, but we’ve been able to support the work thanks to the broad range of luminaries we offer – from traditional to contemporary designs. By replacing inefficient lamped products with intelligent LED solutions, we’ve helped the City achieve its energy-saving goals in line with its wider lighting strategy.

—Paul Murphy, Key Account Director, DW Windsor

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