The challenges of intelligent public lighting

Public lighting accounts for 37% of the electricity bill of local authorities in France, and the weight of this expenditure is likely to increase in view of the ageing of equipment. Faced with this budgetary challenge, but also with the energy transition challenge, local authorities can now invest in Smart Public Lighting, which will optimise their energy consumption and position them as Smart Territories.

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The challenges of public lighting in France

Essential at the security level (e.g.: public lighting would reduce the number of road accidents by 30 to 40%, and acts of burglary or vandalism by 50%) as well as at the level of our perception of public space (e.g. by enhancing heritage), public lighting is now at the heart of various issues surrounding spatial planning policies, for several reasons.

Public lighting: an energy and financial abyss

According to the Commission de la Régulation de l'Energie (CRE), street lighting has now become an "energy abyss": it represents the first source of electricity consumption in a municipality.

According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), this over-representation is mainly due to the obsolescence of the network, which leads to over-consumption and additional maintenance costs. Composed of more than 10 million light points that operate between 3,100 and 4,100 hours per year, 45% of the French lighting fixtures in the fleet are more than 25 years old!

Communities must therefore choose between:

  • Maintain this increasingly obsolete and energy-intensive fleet,


  • Renovate it with new and smarter technologies.


Economic, societal, and environmental constraints

The players in the Smart Territories of tomorrow must,as of today, face various economic, societal and environmental constraints regarding the installation and maintenance of their public lighting network:

  • Communities are generally in a context of budget cuts, and must therefore optimize their spending,


  • Today, citizens are increasingly demanding in terms of comfort and safety in public spaces,


  • As part of the energy transition, and in accordance with the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act (LTECV), communities must make significant savings in terms of energy consumption. By 2030, France's objectives are to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% compared to 2012, and to increase the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption to 32%.


Intelligent street lighting: an economical and ecological solution!

Infographie: Place à l'éclairage public intelligent | Statista

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Rather than maintaining increasingly outdated and energy-intensive infrastructure, it is recommended that communities upgrade their urban lighting systems. Indeed, depending on the context and the technology used, the saving in energy consumption and therefore in expenditure for local authorities, thanks to the implementation of intelligent public lighting, would be in the order of 50 to 75%!

First step: the switch to LEDs

The adoption of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, is currently the preferred change for communities to reduce their energy consumption and bill.

On the one hand, LEDs are much less energy consuming than sodium lamps, and on the other hand their life span is ten times longer.

In addition, LED technology makes it easy to modulate the light intensity by means of a dimmer (dimming principle) that can be configured remotely. Combined with a presence sensor or urban lighting management programme, lighting can therefore be reduced during late night hours or if there is no movement near the lighting column. The decrease in light intensity results in de facto energy savings.

Finally, reflectors on the market today minimize light pollution.

The advent of LEDs in public lighting therefore enables local authorities to renovate their fleets by generating substantial energy and financial savings and reducing nuisances for citizens. In addition, such a project is a real opportunity to take a first step on the Smart City path, by implementing intelligent control solutions for public lighting, and by associating the deployment of new services in the city.

Second step: the introduction of intelligence

Like Smart Grids, local authorities can count on the increased use of new information and communication technologies (NICTs) to make their public lighting more intelligent, for example:

  • Remote management: it is a global management system for public lighting, from a control centre from which instructions are transferred to the light points in order to control their switching on, switching off or "dimming", individually or by area,


  • Remote maintenance: in addition to remote management, it allows information to be transferred from each light point to the control centre, for example to find out about malfunctions, or to plan and control the replacement of equipment. The efficiency of a lamp decreases towards the end of its life, and replacing it in time makes it more economical, and also extends the life of those on the same lighting network.


Third and final step: intelligent automation of public lighting

The communities and Smart Territories of tomorrow will be able to develop autonomous intelligent public lighting networks, relying on technologies such as:

  • Motion sensors: lighting columns equipped with motion detectors will only deliver the maximum intensity of illumination when a pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle passes by, generating considerable de facto energy savings,


  • Self-powered lighting masts: streetlights can be equipped with photovoltaic panels to guarantee their own power supply by restoring the energy accumulated during the day in night lighting via an energy storage device. Otherwise, in a decentralized power supply logic, the lighting columns in an area can be connected to a nearby solar or wind power plant to ensure their autonomy from the public electricity grid. These solutions make sense in situations where the local distribution network is unreliable, or in remote rural areas not connected to the national electricity grid (typically in developing countries).


New services made possible by intelligent public lighting

Public lighting networks constitute a dense network of public infrastructures that are intended to support new services to users such as:

  • Internet connectivity in Li-Fi (transmission of information through light waves), or very high speed (THD) in 5G using candelabras as a support for « Small Cells »,
  • Better monitoring of air quality by positioning sensors on the lighting masts,
  • The possibility of recharging electric vehicles on bollards using the power supply of the lighting columns,
  • Improved safety in the city by deploying network of cameras and more efficient alert systems.


Better management of traffic and parking in the city, pedestrian flows, etc., thanks to sensors installed on the masts.
Thus, reducing costs, preserving the environment, and increasing the attractiveness of the city are objectives whose intelligent public lighting can become a vector by opening the door to the creation of the Smart Territories of tomorrow.


With Li-Fi, the latest generations of LEDs are now able to transmit digital data. This innovation would therefore allow users to connect to the Internet under a luminaire. Its main advantages are:

  • Economical: thanks to a possible sharing of costs and a reduction in the number of Wi-Fi relays required, Li-Fi would be cheaper than Wi-Fi,


  • Safe: Li-Fi does not use radio waves, so there are no health risks for users; moreover, the risk of hacking is much more limited due to the spatial partitioning of data (Li-Fi does not cross walls),


  • Service-based: the speed of Li-Fi would be 10 times faster than that of current Wi-Fi; since it does not emit electromagnetic waves, it would be perfectly suited for use in hospitals or aircraft; and finally, it allows for better geo-contextualization of services.
Tactis - Directeur associé - Benjamin Fradelle- Aménagement numérique des territoires

Benjamin Fradelle

Associate Director
Since 2002, Benjamin Fradelle has been developing expertise in digital spatial planning, both in terms of defining the strategy of local authorities and in the technical and economic approaches associated with public initiative networks.

Contact Benjamin Fradelle

Hello, a question about the challenges of intelligent public lighting? Need to remove doubts in view of a future project? Send an email to Benjamin Fradelle, Tactis Associate Director.

Tactis - Directeur associé - Benjamin Fradelle- Aménagement numérique des territoires

Benjamin Fradelle

Associate Director Tactis
Since 2002, Benjamin Fradelle has been developing expertise in digital spatial planning, both in terms of defining the strategy of local authorities and in the technical and economic approaches associated with public initiative networks.
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