Swapping St. Petersburg's streetlight bulbs to more efficient LED lights would conserve energy and could save taxpayers millions. It is also a good way for the new owner of Progress Energy Florida to show that its community engagement isn't limited to its home state of North Carolina. Duke Energy said Monday that it anticipates offering just such a savings plan, days after City Hall said it has been getting mixed signals. That's a positive sign.
St. Petersburg pays its streetlight bills based on a Tallahassee-approved utility tariff, spending about $4.7 million a year. Changing the city's 30,000 bulbs to LEDs could reduce energy costs by as much as 40 percent, or $1.8 million, City Council chairman Karl Nurse said. But he said last week Duke had been less than receptive to cutting the city's costs.
Duke has allowed the cost-saving switch before, in the Raleigh-Durham area. But the incentive in Florida could be different. The switch to LED lights in St. Petersburg could end up spreading to all of Duke Energy's Florida service area, reducing a reliable stream of income.
The company told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Monday that it is planning to file a rate reduction with the Florida Public Service Commission this summer regarding LED usage for streetlights. The best news will be when the rate filing passes all savings back to local governments.