Energy Savings Potential for Street Lighting in India

Publication Type


Date Published




In India, providing public lighting1 is one important function that urban league bodies (ULB), commonly known in the US as municipalities, fulfill. Street lighting provides an important function; keeping pedestrians, drivers, and other roadway users safe, while promoting use of public spaces. Studies have shown that proper street lighting can substantially reduce fatalities and crashes with pedestrians and lighted intersections and highways have fewer crashes than their unlit counterparts.

However, public lighting is costly for local governments. Street lights have high hours-of-use (they are on for over 4,000 hours per year) and thus are large consumers of energy. The Clinton Climate Initiative indicated that municipal street lighting can represent from 5% to over 60% of a municipal government’s electric bill, depending on the municipality’s size, the services it offers, and the efficiency of its public lighting. In fact, one ULB in India, the Surat Municipal Corporation, estimates that 17% of the total annual municipal bill is due to street lighting. Further, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) of India reports that 1% of all electricity consumption in India, equal to 6.7 TWh in FY2010-11, goes to providing public lighting, costing ULBs more than $500M annually.

Despite the considerable expense and electricity use of public lighting, underserved areas exist throughout India as street lighting in Indian towns and cities is sometimes ill-maintained. In some municipalities non-functioning street lights are rampant, up to 70% reported non functionality and areas still exist with no electricity or street lights, despite guidance from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in IS 1944 Parts I and II: Code of Practice for Lighting of Public Thoroughfares and the National Lighting Code, on proper levels of lighting for public streets. Thus, there is significant potential not only for energy-efficiency retrofits, but also for improved operation procedures in new or relocated street lighting installations. In a 2010 report, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency in India (BEE) published guidelines to increase awareness of the BIS standards, to provide practical guidance on energy-efficient street lighting best practices, and to inform future updates to the standards. They provided basic information on design, procurement, operations and maintenance, and measurement and verification options for street lighting projects in India. USAID commented that the most common reasons for inefficient street lighting in India are:

  • Selection of inefficient luminaires
  • Stocking problem (due to lack of storage space and poor storage conditions)
  • Poor design and installation
  • Poor power quality
  • Poor operation and maintenance practices

They determined that tremendous potential exists to improve lighting quality, reduce energy use, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficient retrofits for street lighting and improved operations and maintenance practices.

This report seeks to build on the USAID report by providing a quantitative estimate of the energy efficiency potential for public lighting in India and to provide some insight into the costs and benefits of a variety of public lighting technology options for the specific conditions in India.

Year of Publication



Research Areas

Related Files