Future thinking

Smart Light Concepts, a new UK/EU project that is working to aid the development of sustainable, socially beneficial ‘smart’ public lighting was the focus of a workshop organised with the support of the ILP at the University of Portsmouth in March 2020. Here is an overview of what was discussed and some of the day’s key learning points

Future thinking for smart lighting

The Interreg 2-seas Smart Lights Concept (SLIC) is a European Union-funded project that is aiming to develop and test innovative techniques, methods, tools and concepts for energy savings, energy efficiency and renewable energy use in public lighting. These include a decision-support tool, funding models, business cases, public engagement, and a cross-border knowledge platform.

A workshop on the project was recently held at Portsmouth University to aid decision-makers – policymakers, public lighting authorities and technical experts – in the implementation of smart public lighting technologies. In particular, we were keen to discuss the selection of optimal actions to take in order to improve the performance of a given public lighting system in different environments. These included addressing a set of multiple conflicting criteria and constraints, such as operating costs, investment costs, CO2 emissions and health and safety.

The SLIC UK workshop was organised by the university of Portsmouth and held on 12 March (so just ahead of the coronavirus lockdown) at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Southampton. It attracted 29 delegates from industry and academia within the UK and Europe. The aim of the workshop was to bring together academics, stakeholders, technology decision-makers, and policymakers from across Europe to discuss the potential and relevance of the use of decision-support tools for smart and sustainable public lighting.

The agenda for the day included keynote speakers with expertise in smart and sustainable lighting solutions, a panel and roundtable discussions. The aim of the roundtable discussions was to exchange knowledge between the different participants and to gather insights and inputs for the decision-support tool and to discuss the economic, environmental, and social key performance indicators for the decision-support tool.

Our keynote speakers were:

  • Professor Djamila Ouelhadj, Professor of Operational Research and Analytics at the School of Mathematics and Physics at Portsmouth University and the academic lead of the SLIC project. Professor Ouelhadj also chaired the workshop and welcomed the delegates.
  • Dr Karen Janssen, SLIC project lead/manager and a senior researcher at the Centre of Expertise for Sustainable Business at Avans University of Applied Science, the Netherlands.
  • David Hollingsworth, senior exterior lighting engineer at Ramboll UK in Southampton.
  • Peter Harrison, the ILP’s technical director and prior to that director of Harrison Lighting and independent consultant in the exterior lighting industry.
  • Richard Webster, street lighting manager for Suffolk Highways.
  • Professor Marleen Janssen Groesbeek, Professor of Sustainable Finance and Accounting at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda, the Netherlands.
  • Dr Hassana Abdullahi, Research Fellow in Applied Operational Research for the SLIC project at the School of Mathematics and Physics at Portsmouth University.
  • Ramazan Esmeli, Research Associate, in Applied Operational Research for the SLIC project at the School of Mathematics and Physics at Portsmouth University.

Key note presentations

Dr Janssen gave an introduction to the SLIC project, its aims and the partners involved.She explained that the project involves 9 partners:

  • The University of Portsmouth, UK
  • Avans University of applied sciences, the Netherlands
  • The municipality of Mechelen, Belgium
  • The city of Bruges, Belgium
  • The municipality of Amiens, France
  • The municipality of Etten‐Leur, the Netherlands
  • The municipality of Veurne, Belgium
  • Suffolk County Council, UK.

Dr Janssen also outlined how the research themes of the project focus on four primary areas: funding models and business cases, proven lighting technologies, stakeholder involvement, safety and crime evaluation. 

David Hollingsworth explained the concept of a ‘smart city’ to the workshop attendees and what smart lighting can offer in the context of smart cities.

He highlighted some benefits of smart lighting when integrated with sensors. These include (but are not limited to): air quality monitoring, noise (car crash or social disturbances) monitoring, and traffic/pedestrian counting.

David also explained how smart cities can benefit from smart lighting using car charging points on lighting columns as well as the potential for using solar power in energy generation.

David advised that before adding an equipment to an existing column, lighting guidance needs to be consulted. He cited, for example, that this needs to include the ILP’s PLG06 (2014) Guidance on Installation and Maintenance of Seasonal Decorations and Lighting Column Attachments.

Peter Harrison in his talk emphasised the benefits and savings obtainable from the implementation of ‘dimming and trimming’ in terms of street lighting.

However, he emphasised that, although lighting standards can be used to apply variable lighting, this requires an engineering approach.

One important note to take away from Peter’s talk was that current lighting standards do not directly take into account the social effects of lighting.

As highlighted above, Suffolk County Council is a pilot partner on the SLIC project. Richard Webster in his presentation therefore provided an update on some of the council’s street lighting innovations.

The council’s aim has been to investigate the potential of additional energy savings that can be achieved by correlating traffic in residential roads to changes on main roads.

Accordingly, the pilot has installed 25 radars to cover 500 lights and one road surface temperature sensor. A further element of the pilot has been the county-wide transition to LED, which in turn has realised energy savings, smart lighting adaptations and the widespread use of data analytics. The project had successfully obtained a 100% Salix funding, Richard explained.

Professor Janssen Groesbeek is responsible for the development of sustainable finance and business models for the SLIC project. In her presentation she stressed the need to consider smart public lighting as a concept that is not only limited to ‘changing a light bulb’.

Rather, smart public lighting needed to be seen as an all-in-one system that considers the safety and reliability of any chosen technology, money-saving, the involvement of stakeholders, safety and well-being of citizens, and impact of the technology on biodiversity, she argued.

Dr Abdullahi and Ramazan Emeli presented an overview of the SLIC decision-support tool that has been developed by the University of Portsmouth.

The tool, she explained, had been developed following a series of steps, including the design of the conceptual framework, the design of the user interface, definition of inputs and outputs, and the development of a multi-criteria decision-making model.

The tool is designed to take into account policy and technology decision-makers and the impact and evaluation of different locations, of economic and environmental considerations, and of social sustainability.