Key Points:

  • Santa Fe has engaged Dalkia Energy Solutions to design, install, operate and maintain its new city street lighting.
  • Dalkia has never done a city lighting design in its entire history of existence. 
  • Dalkia misrepresented its urban lighting experience to the Governing Body in at least two separate Governing Body meetings. 
  • Santa Fe’s due diligence failed to discover Dalkia’s misrepresentations of its background and experience in city streetlight design.
  • Santa Fe needs to hire an experienced and expert city lighting designer to ensure that it meets its goals of reducing the city’s carbon footprint and energy costs, and preserving the city’s precious nightscape.

 

Professional Lighting For Santa Fe


The importance of a lighting plan

Changing city street lighting is not as simple as changing a living room light bulb. Intersections, streets, and neighborhoods all have different needs. What’s right at one place – the right luminaire, the right brightness, the right shielding, the right light distribution pattern – is not necessarily right at another. And, it all has to fit together. 

Do it right and you increase public safety, reduce the city’s carbon footprint and energy costs, and preserve the city’s precious nightscape. Ask Tucson. Ask Flagstaff. 

Do it wrong and you risk all these benefits. Ask Phoenix. Ask Albuquerque.

Urban lighting design is a task for experts. 

“Dalkia is a firm of lighting engineers” – Alan Webber, May 25, 2021

“Dalkia [is an] accredited lighting engineer and lighting consultant” – Carol Romero-Wirth May 25, 2021

“[Dalkia] is a design consultant, who is not associated with any lighting vendor” – Regina Wheeler, May 11, 2021

Every one of these Claims is False!

Is Dalkia an Urban lighting Design Expert?

Mayor Webber says yes, going so far as to characterize Dalkia as the “IBM” of urban lighting.

Councilor Romero-Wirth says yes, describing Dalkia as “accredited and independent”. 

Director Wheeler has promoted Dalkia as the lighting company that in 2015 successfully bid for the upgrade of the Albuquerque streetlight upgrade, installed the Albuquerque lighting from 2016–2018, and has operated and maintained the lighting since then. 

Every one of these claims is false: 

  • Dalkia is not a firm of light engineers, nor are they “accredited”, whatever that means. 
  • Dalkia didn’t bid for the Albuquerque project. 
  • Dalkia didn’t do the Albuquerque lighting design.
  • Dalkia did not install the Albuquerque lighting.  
  • From 2018 through August 2020 Dalkia did not maintain the Albuquerque lighting.
  • Dalkia is not independent: it has two “brand partners” whose lighting solutions it promotes.
  • Dalkia has never done a city street lighting plan before.

Here are the Facts:

In 2016 Albuquerque put its streetlight replacement project out for bid. From the bids it selected Citelum – a European urban lighting designer just getting its start in the North American Market – to do the design, installation, operations and maintenance of its street lighting. Citelum and Albuquerque signed a contract in 2017 and Citelum completed the upgrade of ~20,000 Albuquerque streetlights in 2018, at which point it transitioned to operations and maintenance. 

Albuquerque funded its lighting project differently than Santa Fe. To fund its project, Albuquerque sold its street lights to Citelum. In exchange, Citelum upgraded those lights and sold the night-to-night light back to Albuquerque. Albuquerque gets the illumination, but Citelum owns the lights themselves. 

Think of it like selling your home’s kitchen and agreeing to pay the new owner for every meal. In return the new owner modernizes your kitchen so that you can get your meals cheaper than before, but you don’t own the kitchen and you can’t use it yourself: all you can do is buy each meal from the new owner. 

This business model is called Light as a Service. Santa Fe has the same type of arrangement with PNM for about half of its city street lights.  

Why is this “Light as a Service” financing model important? Read on!

Where does Dalkia fit in?

Citelum didn’t find the North American market sufficiently profitable for its tastes; so, it decided to leave and refocus its efforts elsewhere. 

But, Citelum had all these lights in Albuquerque (and Mexico City). So, in August 2020 they sold them. They didn’t sell them to Albuquerque; instead, Citelum sold the streetlights to Dalkia (see Sec. 1.4.5.3.4.2 of the 2020 Annual Financial Report of the holding company that owns Citelum). To paint it with a broad brush, if Albuquerque wanted to light its streets at night it had to engage with Dalkia for maintenance and operations. 

You might think that Dalkia is a lighting company.

If so, you’d be wrong. 

Who’s Dalkia And What do they do?

Dalkia is a French energy services company. It is a wholly owned by the EDF Group, a French holding company. Dalkia entered the United States in 2019 when it acquired Groom Energy, a U.S. energy services business. 

Energy service companies (ESCOs) develop, design, build, and arrange financing for projects that save energy, reduce energy costs, and decrease operations and maintancne costs at their customers’ facilities.  

Different ESCOs specialize in different things. What does Dalkia, formerly Groom, specialize in? Who better to ask than Dalkia itself? Announcing the launch of its United States operations (in 2019), Dalkia described itself to Berkshire-Hathaway’s businesswire newsletter thusly: “Dalkia’s expertise includes HVAC, [industrial plant] LED lighting, cogeneration, building management systems and remote control. These solutions enable customers in the distribution, health, hotel, housing and logistics sectors to reduce their energy costs and CO2 emissions.”

Or, ask Dalkia’s parent holding group, EDF: “Dalkia Energy Solutions provides companies and industrial customers with a comprehensive approach to consultancy, project management and the performance of energy efficiency work.” (See top of second column, pg. 87 of the EDF 2020 Financial Report.)

Or, look at the “Case Studies” that Dalkia uses to pitch its business. Not a one of them involves city street lighting design, maintenance, or operations. 

In fact, neither Dalkia nor its predecessor Groom has ever done even a single urban lighting design in the United States or anywhere else in the world. Dalkia’s sole claim to lighting expertise is that they bought a set of operating street lights in Albuquerque, which were selected, installed, and operated for two years by another company entirely. 

But, buying a set of streetlights does not make one a city lighting expert any more than buying a set of pots and pans makes one a Cordon Bleu chef. 

So much for Mayor Webber’s claim, or Councilor Romero-Wirth’s claim, that Dalkia is a firm of lighting engineers or lighting consultants.   

Now, to be fair, Dalkia does advertise interior industrial plant lighting. For that purpose Dalkia partners with Acuity – who just happens to be the vendor of the luminaire that Dalkia says is the only one that meets all Santa Fe’s requirements – and Eaton – who just happens to be the provider of the lighting control system that Dalkia advises is the only one that meets all of Santa Fe’s requirements. 

So much for Director Wheeler’s claim that Dalkia “is not associated with any lighting vendor.”

Summing Up

Santa Fe needs to hire an experienced and expert lighting engineer to design its lighting plan.

The bottom line is that Dalkia has never, ever, not once, done a city lighting design or consulted on one. Prior to October 2019 Dalkia didn’t operate in the United States. Prior to August 2020 Dalkia had nothing to do with urban lighting. In August 2020 they bought from Citelum the streetlights in Albuquerque, which Albuquerque had previously sold to Citelum, and are now trying pass themselves off as urban lighting experts. 

In Texas they would say of Dalkia “all hat, no cattle.”

None of this has stopped Dalkia from misrepresenting itself to the Santa Fe City Council: for example, listen to this exchange from the February 24 Governing Body meeting, where Dalkia VP for Development Florenson claims that Dalkia “is a lighting company that partners with many cities.” Or, this exchange, where VP Florenson claims that Dalkia “has no temptation to push one product over another”, hiding from the Governing Body Dalkia’s partnership with Acuity and Eaton. Or, this exchange, from the May 26, 2021 Council Meeting, where VP Florenson was caught-out, leading to much consternation among the Dalkia team, and ending with Councilor Vigil-Coppler admonishing Dalkia for hiding and denying those relationships. 

Dalkia Energy Solutions has no experience in urban lighting design: Santa Fe will be its first project. Santa Fe failed to exercise effective due diligence before contracting with Dalkia for its city streetlight design, allowing Dalkia to mislead the City Councilors and the Mayor on Dalkia’s experience and expertise. 

And they certainly appeared to have fooled Mayor Webber, Councilor Romero-Wirth, and Public Works Director Wheeler. 

 

Changing city street lighting is not as simple as changing a living room light bulb. Do it right and you increase public safety, reduce the city’s carbon footprint and energy costs, and preserve the city’s precious nightscape. Do it wrong and you make the city less safe, risk the energy savings and reduction of the city’s carbon footprint, and sacrifice the night sky we all cherish. 

City lighting design is a job for experienced experts. 

Dalkia has misrepresented and misled Santa Fe regarding its experience and expertise.  Santa Fe needs to hire an experienced and expert city lighting designer to ensure a lighting design that is safe for residents and visitors, reduces the city’s carbon footprint and energy costs, and preserves the city’s nightscape. And, Santa Fe needs to re-evaluate its contract with Dalkia Energy Solutions, which was inadequately vetted by city government.  

And, Santa Fe needs better executive stewardship to ensure that fiascos like this never happen again. 

What can You do?

Write to the councilors and the mayor to let them know how you feel about Santa Fe contracting with an inexperienced company to take charge of city streetlights, a critical piece of traffic and neighborhood safety infrastructure. 

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