stimulus money

Cities, universities learn the cost-savings power of lighting upgrades

Replacing outdated light bulbs and fixtures with more energy-efficient types isn't exciting. In fact, when compared with solar arrays that track the sun and geothermal wells that bubble out power from the earth's center, it is downright boring.

However, lighting consumes lots of power. By some estimates, commercial buildings use about 60% of their energy for lighting, according to this report.

Thus, lighting retrofits are a crucial part of most energy-saving campaigns. Such retrofits are big at our non-profit, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization. We are working with several cash-strapped cities in the region to use stimulus money to retrofit interior and exterior lights in efforts to reduce their power bills.

Energy conservation, when compared with siting and development costs of new solar and other renewable-energy programs, is cost effective. There is a reason why the Federal Department of Energy calls energy-efficiency programs "low hanging fruit" of the clean-energy movement.

It appears to be catching on. Similar programs are under way or recently completed in other places. The city of Napa, for example, reported using federal grant funds to replace 148 energy-sapping street lights with more efficient LED models.

And my wife's Alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, is replacing all 75,000 lamps on campus in 13 phases over 18 months. The $1.5 million project will cut the annual power bill some $300,000 annually - for a payback of approximately five years, after rebates, according to campus officials.

Energy conservation makes sense socially and economically. Businesses, landlords and local governments that slash power costs end up with more money in their pockets. That money can be reinvested into operations or research, or can lead to the hiring - or preserving - of more personnel.

Who says energy efficiency doesn't create jobs?

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