The City Council has approved a plan to use $14.7 million from Entergy New Orleans to convert old streetlights into energy-efficient LED units on the east bank of Orleans Parish.
The money cannot be used in Algiers because Entergy New Orleans does not operate there. People who live in that neighborhood get their power from Entergy Louisiana.
The measure — basically the same idea that Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposed in presenting his 2014 budget last fall — received the council’s unanimous support last week.
The one-time allocation, through the council’s Energy Smart program, is intended to help the city reduce its costs for both electricity usage and streetlight maintenance because the LED — or light-emitting diode — fixtures use less energy and last longer.
The bulbs traditionally used in streetlights have a supposed life expectancy of three years but often burn out in one year, outgoing Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said.
When Landrieu took office in 2010, there was a backlog of more than 16,000 streetlight outages in the city, his office said in a news release. Since then, the city has fixed more than 43,000 lights, but because lights are continually burning out as others are repaired, there currently are about 4,400 outages.
The new lights are expected to last seven to 10 years and use 30 percent to 50 percent less energy, the city said.
“So the cost savings that the city should experience is twofold,” Hedge-Morrell said. “One, the maintenance of those poles will go down in terms of what we have to pay for lights. And two, the bill that we have to pay for energy should go down in the long term.”
The city has about 54,000 streetlights, including those on federal and state highways. More than 17,000 have been converted to energy-efficient lighting since the city received federal money for that purpose in 2012.
The $14.7 million comes from a reimbursement from Entergy New Orleans to its customers.
“This is money that New Orleans ratepayers would be getting back this year,” said Hedge-Morrell, who chaired the council’s Utilities Committee for the past four years. “This is the first year that we’re going to look at putting money that we’re getting as reimbursements into future investment in Energy Smart.”
The measure passed 6-0, with Councilwoman Stacy Head absent.
The money can be used only on conventional streetlights, not the decorative ones that dot parts of Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue, Hedge-Morrell said.
The terms of the agreement require that the money be deposited into a special bank account and be used only for converting current streetlights to energy-efficient ones. It can not be used, for instance, on infrastructure projects. It also can’t be used to reimburse the city for costs it already has incurred in the process of converting streetlights. The city will be required to file an annual report to the council documenting the use of the funds.
Also as part of the deal, Entergy and the city will draft a resolution outlining how those conditions will be enforced. Councilman James Gray asked that the written protocol also explain how the city and Entergy will decide where to begin installing the new lights.
The money is not expected to cover the entire cost of upgrading the city’s streetlight system, Landrieu aide Eric Granderson said. So far this year, the city already has spent $1.6 million in Community Development Block Grant money as well as $500,000 in general-fund money for streetlight repairs and maintenance, the mayor’s office said.
The administration is working to find long-term financing for streetlights, Granderson said. “We’re well aware that this is not the answer to anything,” he said.
The number of nonworking streetlights has been among residents’ and council members’ chief complaints ever since Hurricane Katrina.
Landrieu in 2012 proposed a long-term plan for funding streetlight repairs that involved what amounted to a tax increase. The council refused to approve it, and the administration used one-time money to pay for the repairs in 2013.
Follow Jaquetta White on Twitter @jaquettawhite.