Orrick’s Public Finance lawyers served as bond counsel to the District of Columbia on its first public-private partnership issue, a $159.8 million tax-exempt bond financing to upgrade city streetlights as part of a DC Smart Street Lighting project involving smart cities technologies.
The DC Smart Street Lighting project is the first urban P3 street lighting project in North America. The District is upgrading all of the related infrastructure including the light heads and poles, converting the District’s network of more than 75,000 streetlights into energy-efficient LED bulbs and also upgrading and expanding its Wi-Fi infrastructure and network. The Wi-Fi component of the project will add 239 wireless access points across the District, expanding broadband availability into areas of need within the District. The District will also install a remote monitoring and control system for the network that will allow the city to operate its streetlights much like a smart-home, with the ability to monitor and turn on and off lights from miles away.
The tax-exempt, private activity bonds included a green bond designation and received a private activity bond allocation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, thereby reducing the costs of the financing for the project. The proceeds of the bonds were loaned by the District of Columbia to Plenary Infrastructure DC LLC, which will use the proceeds to complete the streetlight project, pursuant to a long-term P3 project agreement that Plenary entered into with the District.
In addition to being an innovative public infrastructure tax-exempt bond financing, the bonds were designated as Green Bonds, since the project is expected to reduce energy consumption by more than 50% and eliminate 38,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year by switching to energy efficient LED lights.