Night Sky Santa Fe began with the goal of educating the public, the city council, and the mayor, about the importance of good city lighting design for resident and visitor safety & health, for the city’s historical and cultural ambience and tourist trade, and for the preservation of the area environment and the night sky we all share. 

In pursuing that goal we discovered a number of inexplicable failures of city government and instances of executive mismanagement. Some of these we documented in investigative reports along the way: those reports are collected here. Others we are still documenting, or have not yet written-up: these will be described in periodic “blog” posts and included here as they are completed. 

The fight for intelligent lighting continues! While the city has made a (we believe ill-informed) decision to go with 2700/3000 K lighting there are still many decisions yet to be made involving the implementation of that lighting. Making those decisions intelligently and thoughtfully can increase public safety, reduce the city’s carbon footprint and energy costs, and preserve the city’s nightscape. But, making intelligent and thoughtful decisions on any issue – be it city planning, the obelisk, the statue, the Bicentennial Pool, or street lighting – is not possible if city councilors are misled or misinformed.

The fight for intelligent lighting and the fight for good government are the same fight: stay tuned!


For reasons of public safety New Mexico state law requires that all city public works projects be under the responsible charge of a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) acting on behalf of the city. Santa Fe’s streetlight upgrade project is a public works project, but not under the responsible charge of a PE. Director Wheeler claims to be unaware of the law. Additionally, Director Wheeler and Dalkia Project Developer Ernst both informed a City Councilor, in writing, that there is no engineering discipline or licensure that addresses roadway lighting. This is patently false. It is unimaginable that a qualified public works director, or a firm that provides engineering services, could make such a claim out of ignorance: i.e., it is hard to credit the making of this claim as anything but a deliberate attempt to mislead a responsible city official. 




Dalkia Not A qualified Provider In New Mexico State

State law is emphatic that only “qualified providers” may offer guaranteed utility savings contracts to New Mexico cities. Qualified Providers are ones who have applied to and been certified as such by the New Mexico State Energy, Mineral and Natural Resources Department. Dalkia, who Santa Fe engaged to upgrade its streetlights, is not a qualified provider and has apparently never sought to become one. 




  • Santa Fe’s contract with Dalkia to upgrade the city’s streetlights to LED technology is a guaranteed utility savings contract.
  • State law recognizes that contracts like these can place taxpayers at great risk; so, the law governing these contracts includes numerous safeguards to protect taxpayers from being ripped-off.
  • One of these safeguards requires that these contracts be submitted for expert review and certification by the EMNRD before being signed.
  • Santa Fe ignored state law and did not seek or receive EMNRD certification of its Dalkia contract.
  • Beyond the appropriateness of ignoring state law, in ignoring safeguards like these Santa Fe City government shot the city’s taxpayers in the foot. 




To protect taxpayers, state law appears to require that Santa Fe’s streetlight upgrade contract with Dalkia include a guarantee that the project’s annual cost savings meet or exceed the cost of the streetlight upgrade. Thus, if the streetlight project failed to gain a certain amount of savings, Dalkia would be responsible for making up the difference and Santa Fe would not be on the hook for loan payments that depended on those savings. The guarantee is supposed to be secured by a bond or financial guarantee issued by a responsible concern.

In fact, the Dalkia contract does not guarantee annual cost savings sufficient to pay the costs of the loan financing the streetlights, nor can the “guarantee” be used to make payments on the loan financing the upgrade. The guarantee is itself incomplete and insufficient to pay-off the loan financing the improvements. Finally, Santa Fe never received the required bond backing the utility savings guarantee. 



Streetlight Financing : PART I and PART II

  • Director of Public Works Wheeler, City Attorney McSherry, and Finance Director McCoy grossly misrepresented the streetlight project cost savings to the Governing Body and its Oversight Committees. 
  • Instead of the promised 6-year pay-off on the loan financing the streetlight upgrade, pay-off will take a minimum of 17 years. 
  • Almost all of the cost savings associated with the streetlight project, over its entire duration, will go to Dalkia: Santa Fe will be lucky to break even.  
  • The Fiscal Impact Report submitted by McSherry and McCoy to the oversight committees and Governing Body, which promised a 6-year pay-off, was also inconsistent with the legislation it was supposed to represent. 



December 21, 2020 Albuquerque Sunport transformer fire shuts down the airport. Independent electrical contractor identifies “best guess” cause as Dalkia streetlight wiring and code violations. 

 Did Dalkia Shutdown The Albuquerque Airport?  

On the morning of December 21, 2020, a transformer explosion & fire at the Albuquerque Sunport shutdown the airport for a full day, grounding flights, stranding passengers, and causing air traffic to be diverted during the busy Christmas season. 

The explosion and fire took place while personnel from Dalkia Energy Solutions – the company that Santa Fe has contracted with to upgrade its city streetlights – were working in the transformer trying to address failed LED streetlamp along the airport roadways. 

An independent electrical contractor, asked to investigate and report on the potential cause of the explosion and fire, identified as their “best guess” for the cause of the explosion/fire the  streetlight circuity installed, operated, and maintained by Dalkia and its predecessor Citelum. 



 Nationwide Failure of AEL Streetlights 

  • Santa Fe’s Department of Public Works, together with their contractor, Dalkia Energy Solutions, has been urging the city to buy and install more than five thousand Autobahn series streetlights manufactured by American Electric Lighting (AEL).
  • For at least the past 8 months AEL Autobahn series streetlights – the same ones that being urged upon Santa Fe – have been failing in large numbers throughout the United States.  
  • Dalkia has a contract with Santa Fe, one purpose of which is to advise the city on its lighting needs and how best to fulfill them.
  • Dalkia has a commercial relationship with AEL, whose purpose is to promote AEL products, which it did not disclose to the city at the time it was making its lighting recommendation.
  • Public Works’Due Diligence failed to discover Dalkia’s hidden conflict of interest (or, as previously reported, that the city was being overcharged by Dalkia, or that Dalkia has no experience in urban streetlight design or installation)

  • Santa Fe needs to revisit its contract with Dalkia and use the RFP/Bid process to get the best possible street lighting designer, installer, operator, and maintenance for the best possible price!


Following a reassuring lie never ends well. 

The Truth About Falling Streetlights 

For the past 15 months Albuquerque has been plagued by falling streetlights. On June 8, 2021, Albuquerque filed a lawsuit alleging negligence against several companies involved with these particular lights. Defendants include Dalkia, whom Santa Fe has contracted to upgrade its own streetlights. News reporting at the time was confused, left uncorrected a number of misstatements regarding the lawsuit, and missed entirely Dalkia’s modification of the streetlights against the recommendation of the vendor, which took place shortly before the lights began to fall. Mayor Webber is among those who are still confused. This post summarizes the relevant history of the falling streetlights, the Albuquerque streetlight replacement project, the failures that gave rise to the lawsuit, and the allegations made in the lawsuit. 



Caveat Emptor

  • The  Request for Proposals/Bid process  is how well-run cities and businesses get the best possible price for what they need or want;
  • Santa Fe’s Department of Public Works shortcut the RFP/Bid process to contract with the unqualified vendor Dalkia for its LED streetlight upgrade; 
  • The Dalkia contract charged Santa Fe greater than 20% – and possibly greater than 60% – more than it is charging other cities who insisted on competing the work through the RFP/Bid process;
  • Santa Fe’s Due Diligence failed to discover that the city was being substantially over-charged by Dalkia, even compared to what Dalkia was offering other cities where it had to bid for the same work.
  • Santa Fe needs to revisit its contract with Dalkia and use the RFP/Bid process to get the best possible street lighting designer, installer, operator, and maintenance for the best possible price!



  • City lighting design is complicated: it’s a job that needs an experienced expert.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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.

Do it wrong and you place all these things at risk. 

Urban lighting design is a job for experienced experts. 

Santa Fe has engaged Dalkia Energy Solutions to design, install, operate and maintain its new city street lighting. 

But, Dalkia has never done a city lighting design in its entire history of existence. Never, ever. Not even once. And, Dalkia has misrepresented its urban lighting experience to the Governing Body in at least two separate Governing Body meetings, fooling Mayor Webber, Councilor Romero-Wirth, and Public Works Director Wheeler.  

Read more about who Dalkia is why Santa Fe needs to hire an experienced, expert lighting consultant, and re-evaluate its contract with Dalkia. 





On February 15 the Council’s Finance Committee reviewed the financing agreement for the solarization, utility savings, and streetlight replacement projects. They approved the financing agreement for consideration by the Governing Body. 

On February 24 the Governing Body approved the agreement. 

Except, the financing agreement presented to the Governing Body was not the one reviewed and approved by the Finance Committee or the Public Works and Utilities Committee. No one told the Council Members of that substitution. What happened, and what does it mean?

Pinocchio & Jiminy




Requirements Gathering Cascade

  • Requirements are your projects goals: e.g., energy savings, night sky protection
  • Specifications describe what is needed to meet your goals: e.g., the properties of the luminaires you need to install
  • Without requirements you can’t write specifications; without specifications you don’t know what to buy


What is “success” for the city streetlamp replacement project? How does “success” inform the choice of luminaires for the project? In early March we began a search for documents describing both of these. In April, Director Wheeler repeatedly said these documents exist and promised to provide them, but never did. Finally, in response to a public records (IPRA) request, the city reported there were, in fact, no project requirements, no luminaire specifications, and no evaluation of luminaires against specifications. This report describes the significance of that finding and the search leading up to it.