Balatonfüred may be a tiny town, but it's got great ambition. The small resort on the northern shore of Hungary's Lake Balaton has beaten its larger and higher profile European neighbours in an efficiency move.
And what's more, it could kick start an entire trend across Europe that will see energy savings of up to 70%. Balatonfüred is the first town in Europe to roll out GE's LED streetlights. Local authorities everywhere need to bring down operating costs and reduce carbon emissions, so it will only be a matter of time until this move is replicated across the continent.
Let's shed some light on the current situation. Most streetlamps currently in place are in desperate need of an upgrade. Streetlighting accounts for a whopping 30% of the average local authority's energy bill – lighting is a very resource-hungry utility. It becomes especially wasteful when the lights aren't operating at their most efficient and therefore haemorrhages funds that could be better used elsewhere.
In Balatonfüred, a town with a population of only 13,500 people, 1,400 GE luminaires have already been rolled out. Far from dipping its toe in the water, Balatonfüred is bullish in its approach. The town is already planning to install the lighting across the entire town and reap the benefits.
It isn't just from an environmental standpoint that things become more attractive with LED lighting. The luminaires shed a clear natural light that makes objects look their normal colour, as opposed to bleaching them in an artificial looking yellow or white light most of us are used to seeing on streets and highways. All in all, people feel safer with the lights and the town looks great, even in the twilight hours. The lights are also manufactured in Europe so the future looks bright for the industry in more ways than one.
So with environmentalists, the local authority, and residents all singing the praises of the lights, surely there's a queue of council chiefs a mile long who want to try it out?
According to István Laskai, Regional Sales Manager for GE Lighting EMEA, although there's a wide appreciation of the plus points of using the technology, there are still hurdles that have to be overcome.
He said, “We know from previous conversations with local authorities that gaining buy-in from senior management can be the most difficult stumbling block to overcome, as there is still an on-going unwillingness to take on more debt in these times of austerity measures. However the reality is that upgrading to energy efficient lighting and reducing costs are in fact two sides of the same coin.”
According to experts, including Agostino Renna, President and CEO GE Lighting EMEA, the move to using LED's is inevitable because of the socio-economic factors witnessed globally. Increasing populations and the growing aspiration to lead wealthier lifestyles will mean there will be an increase in energy demand over the next 20-25 years. Technology such as the lighting used in Balatonfüred will need to become commonplace if we are to meet the growing demand. Having the foresight to invest initially and taking advantage of funding currently available to local authorities from the EU will pay off quickly. It will ultimately cost less to light the streets.
But it isn't just a case of using LED lights on the roads instead of traditional ones. Increased efficiency and overall operational improvement will come from making the dumb lights incredibly smart. Making use of the industrial internet, whereby lighting is connected to a central online connection, can see lights generating data. This data will help the lights to make decisions of when they are needed to emit light and operate more efficiently and effectively. No road users should be kept in the dark but at the same time, residents don't want to be kept awake by unnecessary lighting.
In Balatonfüred, the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far and LEDs will continue to be rolled out to shape the town's greener future. The road ahead is bright indeed.