Washington will make its streetlights smarter with LEDs and Wi-Fi
(Bloomberg) – Washington, DC will take to Wall Street next week to seek funding for a district-wide program to replace all of its streetlights with LED technology and install wireless hotspots to extend the reach of broadband.
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The US capital is expected to sell $154.5 million in green-labeled municipal bonds on April 12. It will lend the proceeds to Plenary Infrastructure DC, a subsidiary of Plenary Americas, a public infrastructure company, in what will be the district’s first public-private-partnership, according to underwriter Wells Fargo & Co.
“This is not a transaction you see every day in the municipal bond market,” Julie Burger, chief executive of Wells Fargo, said in an interview.
Public-private partnerships, or PPPs, are a small but growing segment of US public infrastructure financing that involves city governments partnering with private companies on projects such as highways, airports and parking lots. Private activity bonds like those sold by Washington are used to help private companies in the public interest by providing low-cost financing.
In Washington, the city aims to upgrade its entire street lighting network, replacing approximately 75,000 street and alley lights, those that shine on “Welcome to Washington, DC” entrance signs, and some underpass areas, cycle paths and tunnel lighting with energy-efficient LEDs.
Plenary will design and install a remote monitoring and control system for the network that will allow it to function much like a smart home, with the ability to monitor and turn lights on and off from miles away.
Dan Wurst, senior vice president of Plenary Americas, said the deal, which has been in the works for years, is the first urban P3 street lighting project in North America where all related infrastructure, including headers lighting and poles, are being upgraded. . He sees more cities following suit.
“There are a lot of cities in North America that haven’t modernized their networks,” he said. “It’s a good model for cities to adopt in the future.”
The project is expected to reduce energy consumption by more than 50% and eliminate 38,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year by switching to LED lamps from high-pressure sodium and incandescent bulbs, according to preliminary bond documents.
The green bond designation could help attract environmentally and socially conscious investors. “We believe the green designation will help the market,” Burger said. “We hope this will expand demand to a broader set of investors,” such as funds specifically focused on environmental investments.
The sale is the latest in a $4 trillion wave of green debt in the municipal bond market. The New York Power Authority, the largest public electric utility in the United States, sold $608.7 million of tax-exempt green bonds on Tuesday and Arizona State University sold two rounds of green debt the last week.
State and local governments sold about $25 billion in green bond sales last year, a 25% increase from 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
(Adds updated New York Power sale to 11th paragraph. Earlier version corrected company name to second and seventh paragraphs.)
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