Innovation is making NI's road networks more sustainable

  • Improvements in technology used in the deployment of signs and traffic signalling is improving energy efficiency across Northern Ireland's road networks, says Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

    The minister has noted that her department is also using more energy efficient street lighting systems.   

    “From day one I have emphasised the need for environmental sustainability by using an electric vehicle as my Ministerial car and I have continued to move forward with my green agenda," said Minister Mallon.

    “Tackling the climate emergency should be a priority for all of us so I am delighted that my Department is continuing to take steps to be more sustainable in how it operates in order to lessen the impact on the environment. 

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    “We are increasingly using sign and traffic signal materials made from non-metal composites often manufactured from recycled materials and have changed 112,000 sodium street-lights to more energy efficient LED units. 

    "This has resulted in a reduction of approximately 24% in energy usage in addition to reduced ongoing maintenance costs.  Furthermore all of the electricity used to power the Department’s street lights and traffic signal equipment is now generated from 100% renewable sources.”

    When new traffic signals are required or when upgrading existing signal installations, the Department for Infrastructure has now transitioned to using LED traffic signals.

    This use of LEDs produces more than 75% power and carbon savings compared to traditional lamps and also brings reduced maintenance costs resulting in net carbon benefits for the environment.

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    “All of the department’s modern traffic controllers also now use Extra Low Voltage, resulting in power savings of 60% as well as significant safety benefits," continued the minister. 

    "We are also trialling a new ‘intelligent’ traffic signal system to greatly reduce the amount of cabling required. This could result in an overall 85% reduction in the use of copper cables saving on the use of raw materials."

    This 'green' news follows a promising report from the Department for the Economy last month, which found that almost half of Northern Ireland's overall electricity consumption has been generated from local renewable sources in the last year.

    In 2020, then Economy Minister Diane Doods also outlined the case for a target of 70% renewable energy generation for Northern Ireland by 2030.

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    Renewable electricity in Northern Ireland is primarily generated through onshore wind turbines and the industry supports an estimated 5,400 jobs.

    Elsewhere on the roads, the UK government has a target to sell only battery electric vehicles by 2035, with the plan to achieve an “almost entirely zero emission fleet by 2050.”

    Electric vehicles are viewed as a key technology to curb oil use and fight climate change.

    However, in 2020 Northern Ireland had around 4,700 electric vehicles, which fell short of the 15,000 it should have had to meet government targets.

    Caroline Willis, finance director of Shelbourne Motors said that "more charging points could encourage the move to fully electric.”

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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