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Lessons from Ontario

In 2013, fewer than five municipalities in Ontario, Canada, had upgraded their street lights to LED. Today there are more than 100. Scott Vokey, energy services manager for non-profit group LAS (Local Authorities Services), says many of the province’s municipalities are so small and remote that many organisations refuse to provide services to them. Sixty-one percent of the province’s population lives in communities of fewer than 10,000 people.

LAS – the service entity of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) which plays a very similar role in Canada to that of LGNZ in this country – aggregates demand from groups of municipalities and goes to market to get better prices for them. LAS (www.las.on.ca/) helps provide a range of competitively-priced and sustainable business services, including street lighting, fuel, natural gas and risk management, to Ontario municipalities.

Scott says it has learnt the following lessons on smart ways to help procure street lighting services.

1. Procurement can be painful

We spent several months last year going through a procurement exercise. We entertain [the idea] of going to market every two years to make sure we can offer the best quality products at the best price to the municipal sector. No matter how you do this there will always be critics of your process.

2. Choose good partners

Through the procurement process I have found five different manufacturers that I would recommend to any community. They offer quality product, have a robust balance sheet and can back up their warranties. Select a service provider that can quickly adopt new ideas, roll with the punches and continuously improve.

3. Look for full service – not just a product

We’ve worked with some municipalities in Ontario who have put out a request for purchase for a product then have to go back to the market to select for project management and installation. Often it’s above their skill set to be able to do this so they hire consultants and the cost starts to balloon quickly.

4. Small is beautiful

Start working with a small community at first so you can quickly improve your processes, work out the kinks and roll out to larger communities later.

5. Trust is paramount

You start off with trust but it takes just a moment to break it and forever to get it back. Work with partners you trust completely.

6. Word of mouth and peer pressure count

They can be very effective in getting people to change their minds and act differently.

7. Election cycles matter

A four-year payback on lighting projects is very convenient for us because we have a four-year.

Scott Vokey was speaking at the recent Road Lighting 2015 conference in Auckland organised by Strategic Lighting Partners.

This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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