Pledging that Alaska's largest city will do more to reduce energy consumption, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced Monday that his administration is renewing efforts to swap thousands of old city streetlights for energy-saving LED lights.
"Here in Anchorage, our ambition is to be one of the world's most efficient cities," Berkowitz said in opening remarks Monday morning at the GLACIER conference, a high-level international conference that included President Barack Obama as a featured speaker on climate change.
Berkowitz said his administration is prepared to spend between $4 million and $6 million to replace high-pressure, orange-light sodium bulbs with white LED lights along Anchorage's roads, trails, parking lots and other outdoor areas.
Anchorage has billed itself as one of the first cities to embrace LED lighting technology on a large scale. In 2008, with much fanfare, former Mayor Mark Begich launched a project to retrofit all 16,000 of the city's streetlamps with LED lights. The Anchorage Assembly approved $2.2. million to phase out about a fourth of the old lights.
While they are more expensive than traditional bulbs, Berkowitz said the installation of about 4,000 LED fixtures through the earlier project "paid for itself faster than anticipated" and cut energy consumption by 60 percent. He said the new investment would do the same.
"Here in Alaska, we live with the effects of climate change created in faraway places," Berkowitz said at the GLACIER conference. "And we're rising to do our part."
City spokesman Myer Hutchinson said the Berkowitz administration is estimating energy savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, depending on the number of bulbs replaced.
The exact number isn't yet clear. City maintenance crews are out working on an inventory of which bulbs still need to be retrofitted, Hutchinson said.
For Berkowitz, the announcement marks a step toward fulfilling a campaign promise. While on the campaign trail, Berkowitz frequently mentioned the installation of LED lights as an idea for cutting city spending.