2013-07-11 / News

Rep. Ruggiero streetlight bill passed by assembly

Legislation now goes to Gov. Chafee for approval

The state General Assembly last week approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Deb Ruggiero to allow cities and towns to own streetlights, which would help to control costs.

Currently, streetlights in Rhode Island are owned and maintained by the utility company serving the area, which for most of the state is National Grid. The power company bills each municipality at a standard rate approved by the Public Utilities Commission. The service provides all the bulbs, fixtures and utility poles – which are owned by the utility company – as well as the charge for the electricity to power the lights.

If signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, the bill would enable cities and towns to buy streetlights from the utility company and maintain them locally.

“This bill will make more efficient street lighting possible because the cities and towns, which have to pay for the electricity, will be able to control the kind of fixtures to use, and because it requires a new price structure for that power, so those who use more efficient lighting will actually reap the savings,” said Ruggiero, who serves Jamestown.

Under the legislation, the power company would sell the lights to municipalities interested in owning them. The Public Utilities Commission, which approves the rate of power costs, would have to approve an alternative tariff that would take into account more energy efficient lights like LEDs. Currently, the tariff includes only one rate designed for traditional lighting, so there is no incentive for the use of more efficient lighting.

In Massachusetts, at least 70 municipalities that have purchased their streetlights have saved between 15 and 70 percent of their streetlight expenses. National Grid has testified it is in favor of the legislation.

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