A new dawn for urban street lighting?

A street with hights. Nadege Imbabazi.

The fast growing urbanisation in Rwanda is often characterised by an increase of street lighting across different city roads which often puts pressure on city authorities as it drives up energy consumption. 

A synergy of three firms has come together in an attempt to reduce energy consumption by street lighting by introducing an intelligent system which is aiming at reducing energy consumption.

The three firms, Inmarsat, a satellite telecommunications company; Sahasra, a Kigali based firm in the production of LED lights; and Cimcon, an American firm that specialises in the production of sensors, have set up proof of concept in Kanogo Roundabout in Gasabo District.

The partnership has set out to install smart lighting system which, among other goals, aims at reducing wastage of energy and improving efficiency.

 The system is based on the Internet of Things based-solutions on a digital network of connected sensors gathering data and relaying it to the control centres.

With that, the smart lighting system can determine the hours of the night when there is a need for bright street lights and hours when there is little-to-no traffic and little need for lighting thus saving power.

According to Suresh Negi, the Managing Director of Sahasra, the new system has been found to have a number of benefits including reducing the wastage of electric energy significantly.

“Using data collected and transmitted by the connected sensors the initiative has successfully determined patterns of energy demand in street lighting. With that, the lights are brightest at the busiest hours of the evening and gradually as traffic eases, they are dimmer for energy conservation,” he said.

He added that the proof of concept phase has proved that it is possible to save the much-needed resource by up to 50 per cent which ensures that authorities can consequently increase electricity penetration rates across the country.

The intelligent street lighting, smart grid applications can also monitor entire grid systems across the city to ensure maximum performance as well as highlight the existence of errors such as short circuits.

“This among other things improves management and maintenance of the street lighting systems without overwhelming the labour force,” he said.

The initiative is part of the Smart Africa under which Rwanda is championing Smart Cities initiative. Under the initiative Rwanda has also rolled out smart transport using developments such as the Tap & Go cards making public transport cashless.

Following the success of the proof of concept phase, the initiative could be rolled out across other across other cities in the world.

With African cities growing rapidly and registering unprecedented urbanization rates, there is reported pressure on minimal resources such as energy utilities which can be addressed through smart city technologies.

Emmanuel Dusenge from Inmarsat told The New Times said that the technology can be scaled to other cities as it has proven that it can serve as a solution to a long persistent challenge.

“It’s important for a country to integrate smart technology to efficiently manage the infrastructure, reduce energy consumption, maintenance which helps cities better manage and maintain rather a burden,” he said.