Connected lighting and the energy transition in cities


    21st March, 2024

    Leadership is needed to achieve net zero and climate action goals
    Dating back to the First Earth Summit in 1992, international and national policies accompanied by action statements have established frameworks for mitigating climate change. However, the activism needed for achieving energy efficiency and reducing global emissions occurs within cities. Certainly, international organizations and national leaders have a role to play, as do the scientific and industrial communities. With cohesive and collaborative leadership and support from all entities, cities are equipped to achieve true progress toward their 2030 goal of reducing global emissions by 45%, their 2050 goal of achieving net zero emissions, and the need for national energy security.

    Cities can engage and work together to reduce global emissions


    Commitments made through the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate Energy (GCoM) and the C40 Cities underline the key role of cities in transforming formal agreements into real action. Cities can institute and build on changes quickly, especially with the support of national and international entities, which can provide financial and logistical support to power innovation.

    The GCoM takes a multi-faceted, strategic approach to reducing energy consumption, addressing the impacts of climate change through data analysis, innovative financing solutions, research, and a common reporting framework. Partnerships within the GCoM allow cities to gain capabilities to identify climate and technology priorities. In addition, the GCoM connects city-level governance and initiatives with national and regional initiatives and aligns with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The covenant’s Urban Transitions Mission (UTM) is specifically intended “to demonstrate integrated pathways towards holistic, people-centred urban transitions built around clean energy and innovative net-zero carbon solutions.” The UTM has 250 city signatories to date and plans to add another 250 city signatories in 2024.

    Innovative urban planning, waste management, and energy efficiency in cities represent a tangible path towards helping cities achieve their net zero goals. According to the GCoM 2023 annual Impact Report, 7,183 cities and local governments reported more than 200,000 actions that:

    • Mitigate GHG emissions
    • Address climate hazards
    • Assess climate risk
    • Measure the ability of cities to adapt basic services and
    • Governance to climate change
    • Provide access to secure, affordable, and sustainable energy

    C40 is a global network of one hundred mayors of leading cities with the mission of using an inclusive, science-based, and collaborative approach to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and limit worldwide global warming to 1.5o C. The C40 Leadership Standards 2021-20-2024 require that member cities:

    • Adopt a climate action plan that aligns with the Paris agreement
    • Deliver on the adopted climate action plan and cut emissions in half by 2030
    • Use financial, regulatory, and other tools to address the climate crisis
    • Integrate innovative actions that address emissions beyond the direct control of the city
    • Demonstrate global climate leadership and encourage support for the Paris agreement


    According to the C40 2022 annual report, 75% of the C40 cities have decreased per capita emissions at a faster rate than the countries in which they’re located. Member cities have formed regional partnerships to develop low-carbon building standards and to create decarbonized shipping corridors. Major cities have established low emission zones and participated in climate budgeting programs.

    The NetZeroCities project, funded by the EU, offers a good example of the power of collaboration between cities and international organizations to address climate and energy challenges. The project is designed to help cities overcome the barriers to achieving climate neutrality, and it supports the EU’s mission of delivering 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030.

    LED lighting, green buildings, and connected technologies set the pace


    Examples of city initiatives highlight the significance of innovative technologies in mitigating climate change.


    Chicago’s efforts date back to the 2008 Chicago Climate Action Plan and the Sustainable Chicago 2015 plan. The city’s sustainability council helps fulfill the mission of making the city “healthier, more livable, and more prosperous.” To align with the development of the national sustainability plans, the council set the 2015 goal of “improving citywide energy efficiency by 5%.” With this goal in place, Chicago’s leadership and technology teams designed the Smart Lighting Project.


    The scope of the project involved replacing the majority of the city’s street lights with a smart LED street light system.  Project goals included saving energy, reducing costs, streamlining operations, enhancing public safety, and supporting economic growth.

    LED lights illuminate Chicago’s carbon reduction drive
    In partnership with the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and with assistance from federal agencies, Chicago replaced orange high-pressure sodium lights (HPS) in 280,000 street lights with smart LED lights.  Networked energy-saving LED-based technologies distribute and target illumination in a way that improves nighttime visibility on city streets and can automatically alert city employees about outages. Sensors combined with cloud-based software are able to monitor weather, noise, safety, traffic, and air quality throughout the city.

    City leaders of San Sebastian, Spain, relied on data analysis when considering the switch from traditional to intelligent street lighting systems. As a result, San Sebastian embarked on a mission to “reduce the city’s greenhouse emissions and improve the livability of the city’s public space,” and focused their efforts on:

    • Partnering with financial institutions, the European Commission, manufacturers, and experts
    • Evaluation, monitoring, risk management, operation, and maintenance
    • Infrastructure and resources
    • Improving energy efficiency and safety
    • Lowering energy costs, CO2 emissions, and maintenance costs
    • Stakeholder and political support


    The San Sebastian project included the replacement of older street lighting with a combination of LED luminaires, sensors, detection systems, audio systems for emergency warnings, and IoT-connected data management. Their street lights can dim or brighten according to presence detection, time of day, and period of the year. Weather sensors are designed to provide  road users with needed visibility during different weather conditions.

    Greater Irbid, Jordan, has implemented the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) and approved participation in the EU-funded Cleaner Energy Saving Mediterranean Cities (CES-MED) project. Both efforts center on reducing energy consumption in all sectors through conservation and efficiency while promoting energy production through renewable energy sources. Project leaders began with a baseline emission inventory (BEI) that quantified the amount of CO2 emitted during 2015 by municipal, tertiary, and residential buildings, public lighting, and private and commercial transportation.


    The BEI data showed that 49% and 38% of greenhouse gas emissions occurred in residential and tertiary buildings, respectively. During the baseline year 2015, annual electrical energy consumption for the tertiary sector reached 571,973 MWh, or 50% of the total electricity consumption for the city. Efforts to begin decarbonizing the residential and tertiary sectors involved setting mandatory standards for household appliance energy efficiency and retrofitting buildings with new lighting systems, solar water heaters, insulation, and energy-efficient appliances.

    Connected LED lighting provides the impetus for change


    For Chicago, San Sebastian, and Greater Irbid, connected LED lighting is a key to achieving energy efficiency and economic effectiveness. As the backbone of smart street lighting projects and green building initiatives, connected lighting can open a path to energy efficiency, tenant well-being, security, and reduction of carbon emissions. The addition of air quality sensors, motion detection, weather sensors produce data that cities can use for informed decision-making.


    Chicago’s street lighting modernization project has already yielded impressive results. During 2021, the project saved the city $8.7 million by cutting energy expenditures by more than half. Based on those early results, Chicago expects to save $100 million in electricity costs from 2022 through 2032. Estimates indicate that the city will save 181,679,358 kWh annually and offset more than 134,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

    During 2021, the project saved the city $8.7 million by cutting energy expenditures by more than half. Based on those early results, Chicago expects to save $100 million in electricity costs from 2022 through 2032.

    Estimates indicate that the city will save 181,679,358 kWh annually and offset more than 134,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
    In San Sebastian, performance analyses compared the energy efficiency of traditional street lights and connected LED street lights. Findings showed that energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and light pollution dropped. With reduced power consumption, power supply costs and the electrical stress on existing wiring decreased. San Sebastian expects to recover its invested capital within 4 to 7 years.
    When considering the energy consumption of the tertiary building sector, the Greater Irbid Municipality designated their main building as a model energy renovation project. Benchmark data from the 2015 BEI showed that the main building of the Greater Irbid Municipality consumed 36% of the energy used by all the municipal buildings in the city. Located in the center of the old city, the building houses the main departments of the municipality with 618 employees. Between 6,000 and 8,000 citizens visit the building each month.
    With the support of the ENI CBC Med GreenBuilding program, the municipality transformed the main building into an environmental landmark. Results of the energy renovation project show the switch to renewable energy saves 187,200 kilowatts per year. Installing connected LED lighting systems, replacing HVAC units, and installing an energy management system, solar heaters, window shading, and thermal insulation saves 186,268 tons of CO2 per year.
    Municipal leaders moved to reduce energy consumption in all 144 municipal buildings using similar techniques. The Greater Irbid climate action plan projects that the transition to LED lighting will result in energy mitigation of 80,733 MWh annually and total CO2 emissions mitigation of 52,396 tons annually.

    Cities understand that work remains


    Responding to the climate challenge requires consistent action. Even with progress, global GHG emissions continue to increase.  Carbon footprints remain highly concentrated in a small number of high-income cities with affluent suburbs—in fact, only 100 cities drive 18% of global emissions. In the United States, a large percentage of the 45 to 55 million street lights still use HPS lamps. While investments in green building renovations have increased, the total energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the building and construction sectors have hit peak levels. On a global scale, building operations consume 30% of energy and contribute to 26% of the planet’s energy-related emissions.

    Connected LED lighting can reduce lighting-related energy consumption by up to 80%. CAs a result, the technology can have a critical impact in helping cities and governments achieve their net zero goals. In turn, connected LED lighting can positively impact the decarbonization of residential, commercial, and tertiary buildings. Using connected technologies that include LED lighting systems, security, HVAC, and environmental controls contribute to energy efficiency.
    To learn more about how connected LED lighting can drive sustainability efforts, download our full whitepaper ‘Building truly sustainable cities’ here

    About the author:

    Jonathan Weinert

    Jonathan Weinert

    IoT and connected lighting, Signify



    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Media relations - Professional Lighting
    Claire Phillips

    Tel: +44 7956 489081


    For commercial enquiries:

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2023, we had sales of EUR 6.7 billion, approximately 32,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for seven consecutive years and have achieved the EcoVadis Platinum rating for four consecutive years, placing Signify in the top one percent of companies assessed. News from Signify can be found in the Newsroom, on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors is located on the Investor Relations page.

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