Street Lighting

Before switching fully to electricity in 1956, Singapore’s street lights were powered by gas from the Kallang Gas Works.1

Gas Lighting
The Kallang Gas Works was built in 1862 to provide gas for street lighting, initiating the first piped gas supply in Singapore.2 Gas lamps were first used to light the streets on 24 May 1864. Gas generated by the Kallang Gas Works was used mainly for street lighting until 1930.3

Electric Lighting
The first electric lamp was lit in Singapore in 1906.4 High pressure mercury vapour lamps were used in street lighting in Singapore until they were replaced by sodium vapour lamps. Sodium vapour lamps were more efficient (they used less electricity and were brighter) but expensive. Sodium lamps were introduced in Singapore in 1969, but these were low pressure ones. By 1974, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) had plans to light all major roads with high pressure sodium vapour lamps as they were expected to reduce electricity consumption by a third. By then, more than 500 sodium lamps had been installed along streets such as Nicoll Highway, Maxwell Road, Orchard Boulevard Road, Stamford Road and Connaught Drive.5

Brighter Streetlighting Scheme
In 1975, under the Brighter Streetlighting Scheme, the Public Works Department (PWD) started a project to upgrade street lights when the need arose and according to technological advances. This exercise involved increasing the number of lights or shifting them when roads were widened or changed to expressways. The replacement of mercury vapour lamps with high pressure sodium ones continued under this project. To conserve energy, the PUB also replaced tall lamp posts with shorter ones. These shorter posts had the additional advantage of providing better lighting as they were not shaded by trees.6

Modern Street Lighting System
In 1987, the PUB continued its cost-saving efforts when it announced that it was implementing a new street lighting system that would enable all street lights in Singapore to be turned on or off within one minute. Called the Centralised Ripple Control Scheme, the new electrical remote system eliminated the need to install additional cables between transmitters and receivers, the latter having the function of receiving coded signals that would switch street lights on or off. The implementation of this system was anticipated save up to S$200,000 annually for the PUB.7

Singapore Power
In 1995, Singapore Power (SP) was incorporated as a commercial entity and took over electricity and gas undertakings from the PUB.8


Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman

1. Lee, J. (1998, March 24). Farewell to Kallangs blue tin can. The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lee, J. (1998, March 24). Farewell to Kallangs blue tin can. The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmarks Books, p. 202. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
4. Energy in Singapore. (2015). Energy Portal. Retrieved October 4, 2016, from
5. Ismail Kassim. (1974, January 21). Now new lighting to save fuel. New Nation, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Shorter street lamps to lighten energy load. (1989, May 15). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. PUB to save with new street lights system. (1987, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. (2015). Timeline. Retrieved from website:; Singapower Power. (2016). Retrieved from; S’pore Power & Gas Change. (1995, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The information in this article is valid as at 1998 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Public utilities
Public Utilities--Singapore
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