Street lights burn all day

Roman Pietrasik, Sunningdale

Driving around Cape Town one cannot help not to notice street lights on many road sections lit during the day.

This is without a doubt a wasteful practice, especially considering the tenuous state of the South African power system. Engaging the City’s administration on this, from my experience, is frustrating and fruitless.

They argue the cost of replacing vandalised infrastructure dwarfs the cost of energy wastage. This is probably the case, but two wrongs do not make something right. They also point out that the wastage is not all that severe, as the new street lights are of the LED-type that do not consume much electricity.

The problem is that many of the street lights are still of the old electricity-guzzling type.

The most probable cause of the problem is a failure of a day and night sensor and/or associated switch. This may legitimately happen and needs to be attended to, as any maintenance issue. Another way around the problem could be manual switching of the impacted sections, but this may not be practical. The described problems persist for months on end and are potentially a public relations disaster, especially for the foreign visitors who may wonder at what is happening in the context of the very real energy shortages.

One may only wonder at the culture of wastage acceptance at the City when this type of wastage is allowed to take hold for all to see. One also hears about initiatives to end load shedding for Cape Town residents, yet the energy wastage, which is relatively easy to address and fully under the control of the City administration, is allowed to persist.

Mayoral committee member for energy Beverly van Reenen responds:

There are several reasons why the City justifiably keeps some street lights on during the day. Public lights of certain City-managed roads may be kept on to deter theft of electricity and vandalism of street lights and electricity infrastructure.

Street lights may also be switched on manually for maintenance purposes and to protect street light cables against physical damage by civil contractors. The control mechanism that automatically switches the lights on and off can also become faulty.

It is important for residents to remember that street lights are very efficient and of low energy consumption.

When it comes to theft and vandalism, in particular, residents should please keep in mind that the cost of keeping relatively small stretches of lights burning pales in comparison to the large amounts associated with the replacement of the same length of stolen cable and vandalised equipment.

The City is spending a considerable amount of money each year to repair and replace vital electricity infrastructure as a result of theft and vandalism. Keeping street lights on has repeatedly proved to be an effective deterrent as thieves rarely risk their lives by hacking into live wires.