Today, street lighting commonly uses high-intensity discharge lamps. Low-pressure sodium lamps became commonplace after World War II for their low power consumption and long life. Late in the 20th century HPS high pressure sodium lamps were preferred, taking further the same virtues. Such lamps provide the greatest amount of photopic illumination for the least consumption of electricity. However, white light sources have been shown to double driver peripheral vision and improve driver brake reaction time by at least 25%; to enable pedestrians to better detect pavement trip hazards and to facilitate visual appraisals of other people associated with interpersonal judgements. Studies comparing metal halide and high-pressure sodium lamps have shown that at equal photopic light levels, a street scene illuminated at night by a metal halide lighting system was reliably seen as brighter and safer than the same scene illuminated by a high pressure sodium system.
Two national standards now allow for variation in illuminance when using lamps of different spectra. In Australia, HPS lamp performance needs to be reduced by a minimum value of 75%. In the UK, illuminances are reduced with higher values S/P ratio
New street lighting technologies, such as LED or induction lights, emit a white light that provides high levels of scotopic lumens allowing street lights with lower wattages and lower photopic lumens to replace existing street lights. However, there have been no formal specifications written around Photopic/Scotopic adjustments for different types of light sources, causing many municipalities and street departments to hold back on implementation of these new technologies until the standards are updated. Eastbourne in East Sussex UK is currently undergoing a project to see 6000 of its street lights converted to LED and will be closely followed by Hastings in early 2014.
Milan, Italy, is the first major city to have entirely switched to LED lighting.
In North America, the city of Mississauga (Canada) was one of the first and biggest LED conversion projects with over 46,000 lights converted to LED technology between 2012 and 2014. It is also one of the first cities in North America to use Smart City technology to control the lights. DimOnOff, a company based in Quebec City, was chosen as a Smart City partner for this project.
Photovoltaic-powered LED luminaires are gaining wider acceptance. Preliminary field tests show that some LED luminaires are energy-efficient and perform well in testing environments.
In 2007, the Civil Twilight Collective created a variant of the conventional LED streetlight, namely the Lunar-resonant streetlight. These lights increase or decrease the intensity of the streetlight according to the lunar light. This streetlight design thus reduces energy consumption as well as light pollution.