Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Tuesday signed legislation letting Rhode Island cities and towns own their streetlights as a cost-controlling measure.

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown, and  Sen. James C. Sheehan, D-Narragansett, sponsored the measure.

The electric utility now serving most of the state is National Grid, which owns and maintains the streetlights. The new law will enable cities and towns to buy them from the utilities and maintain them locally.

According to a General Assembly spokesman, Rhode Island’s Public Utilities Commission, which approves the tariff that includes the price of lighting services and power costs, would have to approve an alternative tariff without the fixture service and with different rates for different types of street lighting, including newer, more efficient lights.

The tariff now includes only one rate designed for traditional lighting, so there is no incentive for the use of more efficient lighting, the spokesman said.

Massachusetts and Connecticut have passed similar laws. In Massachusetts, at least 70 cities and towns that have purchased their streetlights have saved between 15% and 70% percent of their streetlight expenses, according to research conducted by the Washington County Regional Planning Council and funded by the Rhode Island Foundation.

Moody’s Investors Service rates Rhode Island’s general obligation bonds Aa2, while Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s rate them AA.

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