Street Lights & CO2 Emissions

By March 25, 2021 No Comments

Ever since their introduction, way back in the preindustrial era by the Greek and Roman civilizations, street lights have become a necessary component in human society. They light the dark paths at night, and as a result, they prevent accidents and increase pedestrian safety. Street lights also reduce crimes as criminals hardly commit misdeeds in the light. Street lights are truly a boon for citizens.

Although a great asset for human society, street lights are known to be one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions! How? Read on to find out.

Carbon Emissions

Before proceeding further, let us first differentiate between carbon and carbon emissions. Carbon is a naturally-occurring element, like copper, gold, silver, oxygen, hydrogen, etc. It is omnipresent – it is in the air we breathe and exhale, it is in the food we grow and eat, and in fact, it is literally in our own body! Carbon is the second most abundant chemical element in the human body. In case you are wondering what the most abundant chemical in the human body is, then the answer is oxygen. Anyway, that is carbon for you.

Now, when it comes to carbon emissions, the entire focus is specifically on carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide or CO2 is a gas, occurring naturally. It occurs through numerous natural sources, such as through volcanoes, geysers, the decay of organic materials, and even the air we (and animals) breathe out.

Nature, as it tends to do, keeps these naturally-occurring CO2 emissions in check. Most of the carbon emissions are absorbed by plants and the oceans. This way, the earth’s ecosystem is maintained.

The problem, however, arises with the entry and interference of humans! Humans, more than often, do not play by nature’s rules. For our own energy needs, we burn fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas, which releases extra carbon and other unwanted greenhouse gases. At the same time, we cut down countless CO2-absorbing trees either to collect wood for building or fuel purposes or to make way for new urban or agriculture development. As a result, CO2 emissions keep on increasing.

When we humans create additional CO2, nature doesn’t have a way to offset it.

Street Lights & CO2 Emissions

Since 1875, street lights are powered by electricity. Even today in the 21st century, street lights are powered by electricity. While initially there were only a few hundred street lights, but today there are over 300 million street lights, which are powered by electricity.

These street lights keep on burning all night, even when there is no one around, and they consume the majority of electricity that comes from burning fossil fuel.

Burning fossil fuel means an increase in carbon emissions.

The cities all across the globe are also growing, and more and more people are migrating into the urban areas. Since street lights are a necessary component of modern society, the cities will need them when they expand.

More street lights mean more energy demand and more energy demand means an increase in the burning of fossil fuel. The end result: an exponential increase in carbon emissions.

Consequences of Additional CO2

The greenhouse effect flourishes the life on earth as we know it and carbon dioxide plays a cardinal role in offering a suitable warm temperature that our planet enjoys. Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth’s temperature would be around -18°C (-4°F) in contrast to our planet’s actual temperature of 14°C (57.2°F).

CO2 usually absorbs radiation and prevents the heat from escaping from the atmosphere of our planet. With additional CO2, however, more heat is trapped in our atmosphere, and as a result, Earth’s weather patterns disrupt, and global warming arises.

Now, we all know the effects of global warming – right? Rise in sea level, extreme weather, drop in crop productivity, etc., which all adversely impact the lives of every living being.

What we can do?

For starters, let us first cut down the energy usage or at least stop energy wastage. The burning of fossil fuels for energy generation is one of the two main reasons for the increased CO2 emissions. If we spend energy wisely, we can make a great difference in limiting CO2 emissions.

There are a number of ways to lower energy usage or energy wastage. For instance, let us upgrade regular street lights.

By upgrading regular street lights to connected smart street lights, energy savings, as well as a reduction in energy wastage is possible.

Connected smart street lighting can be controlled remotely from a command center. Controlling street lights remotely means it is possible to dim the lights during the off-peak hours. This can save energy considerably. Smart street lights with motion sensor, like from TVILIGHT, can further reduce the energy wastage. Such intelligent street lights offer adequate illumination spontaneously only in the presence of a human being. In the absence of a human, the street lights burn at a predefined level, for example, at 30% brightness. As a result, optimal energy efficiency is realized without compromising citizen safety and contentment.

Adopting renewable energy also helps reduce carbon emissions. Energy generation from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and hydro, can help meet the growing energy demands of many applications.

Finally, planting trees or at least stopping deforestation can help a lot to curb excessive carbon emissions. Plants and trees are the top sources to absorb carbon emissions and keep our planet’s ecosystem healthy.

Earth is the only known home we have for now. Let us do whatever we can to keep it as our home for years to come.


TVILIGHT B.V. is a European market leader specialized in sensors, wireless lighting controls, and a complete portfolio of street lighting management software – to manage, monitor, operate and maintain citywide public lighting infrastructure. Our smart lighting platform and Open API allow integration to a city’s preferred software platform and thus constitute an open, reliable and future-proof base for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things. The company has installed over 300 projects globally across 20 countries, including iconic cities and critical infrastructure around the world. Tvilight’s international projects include Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Dutch Railways, Port of Moerdijk, Seoul, Beijing, as well as some of the largest German cities such as Düren, Münster, Cologne, Dortmund, and Berlin.

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