When the long recession cratered city and state tax receipts, governments were forced to balance their budgets using several painful options: raise taxes and fees, cut staff and services, or slash expenses. Fortunately, some city managers realized they could control and reduce one expense - the electricity bill -while saving some jobs and services from the ax. Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, cities experimented with two smart solutions: light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and microgrids.
By replacing inefficient sodium street lights with LEDs, Seattle has saved nearly $900,000 a year. To help Alameda, California, economize, Chevron Energy Solutions built a cutting-edge microgrid for the local jail integrating on-site solar panels, wind turbines, and a fuel cell with batteries and software that store and manage the power (read article). Buying power at non-peak hours, the new microgrid lowered the jail's energy costs $100,000 a year, while allowing it to "island" itself off from the grid in case of a emergency.