The village has trialled the so-called Dial4Light scheme on several of its streets for a year and because of its success now plans to roll it out to the entire settlement, as well as further afield.
All 9,000 residents of Dörentrup can register their details for the free system. They can then make a phone call, entering the code number displayed on a lamp post, which triggers the lights to go on within seconds. They stay on for up to 15 minutes before automatically switching off.
Dörentrup’s mayor said the scheme aimed first and foremost to save money but was also a useful way of raising the community’s awareness of how they used energy.
“We’re doing this for the sake of saving costs,” mayor Friedrich Ehlert told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “But we also want to do our bit to protect the environment and take care of the climate. In this, the community should be held accountable just like every private individual.”
The project came into being after the village council made the unpopular decision several years ago to turn out the lights at night because it could no longer afford the electricity bill. A frustrated local resident came up with the idea to allow the lights to be available on demand.
“We took his idea very seriously,” said Bernd Klemme from the county council in Lemgo, which developed the system with the help of experts and secured a patent for it.
“We developed a special modem and a software allowing every registered user the ability to control the lights,” he said.
Data collected by the council shows that the Dial4Light will lead to an annual reduction in the community’s carbon dioxide emissions of almost 20 tonnes – the equivalent of the emissions of 11 four-person households.
Publicity generated during the pilot stage of the project prompted inquiries to the Lemgo authorities from numerous European countries as well as Saudi Arabia, Japan, India and the US. Later this month Lemgo will launch the Dial4Light system internationally.