Interview with Jan Waanders, Team leader of the EU Sustainable Urban Demonstration Program (SUDEP) within the project "Efficient public lighting in Calarasi-Firefly in the heart of forests", implemented by the Calarasi Town Hall in partnership with IDIS "Viitorul". The project is funded by the European Union through the European programme “Covenant of Mayors – Demonstration Projects (CoM-DeP)”, part of the EU4Energy initiative.
Ana-Maria Veverita: In European countries, public street lighting accounts for about 19% of total electricity consumption, with a significant environmental impact and energy costs. In the Republic of Moldova, however, this figure is about 9%, which shows that our country still has a lot to do with this. In this context, how do you appreciate the current situation of street public lighting in Moldovan localities and what note would you give our country to this chapter?
Jan Waanders: I think that by saying that because electricity consumption for street lighting is lower in Moldova than in European countries you give a wrong signal. You want to reduce the electricity consumption because that lowers the energy bill (and it reduces CO2 emissions). So in Moldova, it is important to reduce the energy consumption by street lighting systems even further. This is possible, and at the same time, you can still increase the number of luminaries in your municipality. Giving a mark is difficult, and not correct I think. Yes, in most of Moldova public lighting can be improved, but I think it is more important to take concrete measures to improve public lighting, rather than comparing scores/notes/marks. I rather would give a mark on the willingness of municipalities and government to make positive changes to public lighting systems, rather than compare scores/notes/indicators.
- Currently, taking into account the commitments made by the Republic of Moldova under the Association Agreement with the European Union, the management of the public lighting system must be carried out in accordance with the European standards. And this is a complex challenge for our public authorities. What, in your opinion, among the provisions of the public lighting standards are the least respected in the Moldovan municipalities?
- Answer: I think that the biggest obstacle is that municipalities often do not know what technologies are available. Only replacing old-style lamps with LEDs brings savings, sure. But, by using smart technology, you can even achieve more savings, as you can dim the lamps during the moments when you don’t need the maps to burn at full capacity. Often the municipalities lack the knowledge of what technologies are on the market, and they buy second (or third) best solutions. Also, of course, there are norms concerning public lighting, but these are not necessarily always followed. How many lamps are not working? How many streets have less lighting then officially is required in terms of lumen?
- Why do you think these violations happen?
- Answer: This happens because there is often a lack of awareness of citizens of what are the norms and available technical solutions. If you don’t know what can be done in terms of public lighting and what you are entitled to according to the norms, you as citizens will not even ask for it to be improved. That is why it is important to have example/demonstration projects. Some citizens of Calarasi, for example, will visit Cantemir, and see what is possible there, and will start pressuring the municipality in Calarasi to also improve the public lighting system. Also, of course, violations happen because nobody is controlling whether the public lighting system is in line with norms. If there would be a control body that checks all through the country whether norms are being adhered to, and these findings are made public, there would be more pressure on municipalities to have quality public lighting.
- What does it mean, in your opinion, efficient solutions for the street lighting system?
- Answer: Efficient solutions, in my opinion, means street lighting systems where you can manage lighting in line with what is needed (and doing so reducing the energy bill). Through smart public lighting, it is possible to reduce lighting in a specific street during a specific moment, based on the use. It makes no sense to have all lamps burning on full capacity all night long. Through smart public lighting, including the possibility to dim specific lamps or streets, lamps can, for example, burn on 30% during the night when people are sleeping.
- What do citizens need to know about the benefits of modern street lighting?
- Answer: I think the most important is for citizens to know that using the latest technologies, although it will cost some money, in the long run, saves you money. This is valid for public lighting, but also for lighting in their own house/apartment. Simply by replacing old-fashioned lamps with LEDs, huge savings can be achieved (up to 60-70%).
- How does the public street lighting system contribute to the security of the municipalities, beyond simple illumination?
- Answer: To have good illumination in itself is already a big plus. But good illumination also gives people a sense that the municipality is willing to invest in what they consider to be important. Good illumination also makes people feel safer, can reduce the number of traffic accidents, and can result in a lower energy bill for the municipality: these funds can then be used to finance other things that are important for the citizens.
- Do our public authorities seem to be sufficiently aware of the importance of developing/having efficient and quality public lighting?
- Answer: I think that in the towns where there is a plan for dealing with energy efficiency, such as towns that are signatory to the Covenant of Mayors (like Calarasi), there is an accute awareness of the importance of efficient and quality public lighting.
- What should public authorities, especially local ones, do to raise awareness?
- Answer: Raising awareness is important. Not only to inform the citizens of what is going on in a project but also to make them aware of why energy savings are important and how they can save energy themselves in their houses. Unfortunately, prices of energy and electricity seem to only be going up, and by replacing, for example, old-fashioned lamps with LEDs, they can reduce their electricity bill. Therefore, in my opinion, each project such as modernizing the public lighting system should be accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign for citizens.
- Do citizens feel, in your opinion, the quality of public lighting in Moldovan municipalities? So is the quality lighting appreciated?
- Answer: public lighting, in my opinion, should be a priority for each municipality, simply because it positively affects a very large group of the population, so almost everybody will benefit from it. Of course, there always will be people that will say that they do not appreciate the outcome, but the majority of people will see that a positive change is happening in the town, and will appreciate it.
- By 2021, LED lighting will reach Călărași. This town will become the first in Moldova to replace street lighting altogether. The 500 LED bulbs will be installed on 23 streets with a total length of 21 km and the annual energy consumption will be reduced to 35%. How do you think the life of 16 500 inhabitants will change with the implementation of the project?
- Answer: In general, the quality of lighting will be improved, and the citizens of the town will see a clear difference. Some poles will also be replaced or straightened, and this will also make it look more appealing. The project will have an influence on the energy consumption by the lighting system (it will be lower), and funds saved in that way should be used for further improvement of the lighting system (bringing LEDs to streets not covered by the project, etc.)
- But the activity of the Museum of History and Ethnography in Călărași, where will the architectural lighting be installed?
- Answer: Architectural lighting increases the attractiveness of special buildings such as the Museum of History and Ethnography in Călăraşi. As such they become more appealing to visitors (be they local or from other cities/abroad). Architectural lighting means that the building will receive more attention, simply because it will stand out during evening/night. In itself, this is not necessarily enough to increase the number of visitors, it is recommended to also increase the impact through an additional information campaign for (potential) visitors, special actions by the museum, by adding to its collection or by making information about items in the museum more easily available (for example through mobile phone).
- What advice do you offer to the authorities in Călăraşi to face up the sustainable management and maintenance of the efficient public street lighting system?
- Answer: Smart public lighting offers the possibility to instantly see what lamps are working and which ones not, and therefore have to be replaced. During procurement, it is important to make sure that such a smart system will be included and that luminaries of high quality are procured which can last at least 10 years. It is crucial to ensure that the company which installs the luminaries provides a sufficient long warranty period, so the burden of replacement in the first 5-10 years does not fall on the municipality, but any defect luminaries are replaced at the expenses of the company which installed the luminaries. If this is not specified is included in the tender documentation, the burden will fall on the municipality, and unfortunately, municipal budgets in Moldova are very low, meaning that they will not be able to afford to replace LED luminaries. In addition, the municipality should include in its annual budget funds for proper maintenance of the installed LEDs.
- How do you see the situation of public lighting in Moldova in 10 years?
- Answer: One can see that street lighting projects are popular in Moldova, and there is a trend towards smart public lighting, including dimming and distant management system. I am expecting that this trend will not reverse and that within the next 10 years smart public lighting will be introduced at least in all municipalities which are signatory to the Covenant of Mayors.
- How many years do you think the Republic of Moldova needs in order to reach the situation of smart public lighting in Europe?
- Answer: For the whole country this question is difficult to answer. In most municipalities in Moldova smart public lighting does not exist, and therefore should be introduced. How long this will take depends on the available financing for introducing smart public lighting municipality-wide (funds from the national budget, municipal budget, donors, international finance institutions (IFIs), as well whether municipalities do have ready projects to be implemented (which in most municipalities is not the case). For that reason, I am expecting that it would take at least another 10 years to have smart public lighting everywhere in Moldova. In an individual municipality, however, this could be within 3-5 years, taking into account that a street lighting project normally would take 3 years to be implemented.
- Thank you for the interview!
Ana – Maria Veverita
The project "Efficient public lighting in Calarasi-Firefly in the heart of forests", implemented by the Calarasi Town Hall in partnership with IDIS "Viitorul". The project is funded by the European Union through the European programme “Covenant of Mayors – Demonstration Projects (CoM-DeP)”, part of the EU4Energy initiative.
The EU4Energy Initiative covers all EU support to improve energy supply, security and connectivity, as well as to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewables in the Eastern Partner countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. It does this by financing projects and programmes that help to reform energy markets and to reduce national energy dependence and consumption. Over the longer term, this makes energy supply more reliable, transparent and affordable, thus reducing energy poverty and energy bills for both citizens and the private sector. More information: www.EU4Energy.eu