Littleton has what it thinks is a bright idea.
The city has begun talks with Xcel Energy about taking over ownership of the 66 streetlights downtown.
Currently the city’s 3,200 or so streetlights are owned and maintained by Xcel, and Littleton pays the utility a flat yearly fee for the lights’ energy use.
Any changes the city wishes to make to the lights — whether it be to replace a light with a different design, use a different bulb or repair a broken pole — are limited to the services Xcel provides.
Xcel also forbids hanging banners from streetlights, a prohibition that started the conversation about the city taking over ownership, said City Manager Michael Penny.
Several municipalities, including Golden, have been in talks for several years about taking over streetlights, without much progress. Littleton City Attorney Ken Fellman said during a recent City Council study session that, after 16 months, Xcel still had not come up with a formula for assessing the value of Golden’s streetlights.
But Rob Osborn, director of community relations for Xcel in Colorado, said coming up with a figure isn’t as easy as it might seem.
“We’re having to figure out: How do we break up that system, make it separate for the city and value that system in a way that’s fair and equitable?” Osborn said. “And we have to do it in a way that does not have any impact on other communities in the socialized rate that they’re paying for.”
Osborn said Xcel is very close to formulating a formula for valuing streetlights.
Meanwhile, Penny said that in new developments — like the upcoming Littleton Villages project at the old Marathon Oil site on Broadway — the city would prefer the installation of LED lights that the developer would then deed over to the city.
Xcel is currently in the final stages of testing LED lights in several markets, Osborn said. The process for replacing current lights with more energy-efficient ones isn’t as simple as replacing a light bulb at home, though.
“With utility-grade fixtures, we cannot just replace the bulb,” Osborn said. “With LEDs, you have to physically replace the entire head of the streetlight, which includes a light and a microprocessor.”