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Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

How much does it cost to operate a street light?

The Magazine answers...

Street lamp
Yours... for 15p a night
A man is paying 295 for the street lights in his village to be put back on for a few months. So how much does a street light cost to operate?

While many towns are twinkling happily in the glow of Christmas lights, one village in mid-Wales is simply grateful to have its street lights back on.

Powys council has accepted an offer from a resident of Llangynog to pay 295 for the lights in his village to be lit until the end of March. They were turned off in September as part of a county-wide drive to save money.

Mike Atherton paid just under 300 for 16 street lights - about 18.44 per light for December, January, February and March. That works out at about 4.61 per month or 15p a night.

The energy cost in winter is about 15 pence a night
If you include maintenance and replacement costs, it is about 27 pence a night
But costs vary according to the type of street light and the kind of deal struck with suppliers

A spokesman for Powys Council says the charges, which were for the energy alone and not the maintenance, operate on a sliding scale and as the nights get shorter after Christmas, the charges fall.

"The lights come on automatically when the light intensity drops and switch off when the morning light reaches a certain point. The cost allows for the shorter nights," he says.

So if Mr Atherton was paying for only February and March, he would pay only 4.21 per month, or 14 pence a night, and in the summer even less.

The 15p a night figure is correct for Powys Council and 12 other authorities in South Wales, which buy their electricity as a consortium. The cost per street lamp will vary for other councils. But Powys' energy costs have risen 36% in the last year and are set to increase a further 40% in the coming year.

A spokeswoman for Surrey County Council says it pays on average about 15 pence a night, although that figure excludes the maintenance costs such as replacing the bulbs. So what if these are taken into account too?

Regent Street
Some streets cost more to light than others

Conwy County Borough Council in North Wales puts the running costs into its sums and in 2007 it paid 1.15 per week (16p a night) per street light.

But Peter Adderley, one of its street lighting engineers, says the 2008 figure, which has yet to be calculated, is likely to be much higher, given that energy costs have risen by 60% in the last year.

Maintenance, which includes replacing lamps, has risen by about 3%, so it would be reasonable to estimate the real cost of operating a street light for one night is currently about 27p a night.

A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

The lamps used in streetlights vary in both size and consumption, but are typically between 35 and 400 watts, says Mr Adderley.

Many of the street lights in Conwy are in residential areas and use energy-efficient, low-pressure sodium bulbs, which are between 35 and 55 watts, he says.

Traffic routes have lamps with 150-watt bulbs and town centres have the strongest bulbs of between 250 and 400 watts.

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