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City calls $580,000 Riverwalk LED lights an investment

Defenders investigate city light bill

SAN ANTONIO – A city-issued press release boasted the Riverwalk would be aglow this past holiday season with new LED lights -- and it wasn't an overstatement.

It was also written that the new lights would use about half the amount of energy as the traditional incandescent lights.

With 1.7 million new LED lights wrapping bridges and trees, the new look did not go unnoticed.

Amid mixed reviews, the Defenders wanted to know if the city thought the up-front expense was worth it.

"We the city of San Antonio are leading the charge in this whole sustainable program," said City Downtown Operations Interim Director Jim Mery.

Reviewing CPS energy bills revealed the city used 290,408 thousand kilowatt hours in 2010, compared to only 268,441 kwh in 2011.

The energy savings of roughly 22,000 kwh and about the same amount of money.

When you consider the fact that the city spent $580,000 to buy and hang the new lights this year -- compared to the usual $75,000 -- the $22,000 saved on the energy bill is minimal.

"The issue here is not about the way we spend money. What are we doing to create a dynamic great product for our citizens," Mery said.

The bottom line for Mery is less energy consumption and a lot more wattage.

While the incandescent lights had to be replaced every year, the city touted the LED lights would last 10 years, but Mery could not confirm that.

As for all the additional money up front, Mery said it's an investment in the city and it was worth it.