Fairfax County reports progress on push to convert streetlights to LED lights

A streetlight in front of the District Taco at Tysons West (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A plan to convert Fairfax County’s streetlights into LED lights is well underway.

At a Board of Supervisors’ safety and security committee meeting on March 22, Aileen Santiago of the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) said the program is expected to generate roughly $1.4 million in yearly savings when completed.

Board Chairman Jeff McKay lauded the conversion program’s work, which he called an investment with a significant return.

“It’s a really good news story in term of the environmental savings standpoint, and it shows the investment we made on the environmental front is paying itself back in a massive way,” McKay said.

The program kicked off in 2018 after the county reached a regional agreement with Dominion Energy to transition into more energy-efficient bulbs.

In Dominion Energy‘s service area — which accounts for 96% of the county’s 60,000 existing streetlights — the conversion process will be completed in fiscal year 2024 using roughly $9 million allocated for five years.

But Northern Virginia Electrical Cooperative (NOVEC) — which is responsible for the remaining 4% of the county’s lights — is largely not accelerating the conversion process for customers in its area, Santiago said.

“Currently, they’re not invested in accelerating and providing reduced rates similar to Dominion,” Santiago told the committee. So far, NOVEC has largely been converting street-facing lights into LEDs, and that inventory is overall limited.

Supervisors expressed disappointment on NOVEC’s progress thus far. Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith noted that the organization’s service area impacts her constituents significantly.

“It’s not right that NOVEC is not doing the conversions there,” she said.

The conversion program went into effect after the board made amendments to require new and existing streetlights be converted into LEDs with specific color temperatures.

Other board members focused on the need to conduct a more holistic study of lighting needs throughout the county. Currently, the supervisors push streetlight petition requests to county staff.

Referencing a similar board matter passed years ago, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk stated that the county needs to develop long-term strategies to fund streetlights that are being requested by individuals.

“My concern is that we really don’t have enough focus on what we’re gonna do with regard to the new streetlight requests,” Lusk said.

A programmatic process would require additional funding beyond the county’s current petition program, DPWES Director Chris Herrington said.