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As a municipal manager, you’re responsible for providing essential services while using taxpayer dollars in the most efficient manner. Energy conservation offers a way to do so without sacrificing government services.

But when you save energy, it’s not just about economics. Today, citizens expect their local governments to act as environmental stewards. By lowering demand for energy, municipalities can do their part to help reduce emissions from energy generation—and preserve and improve local quality of life.1

Local governments also can take advantage of cutting-edge city management technologies and practices that are part of the current ‘Smart City’ movement. Many of these technologies promote energy conservation and can cut costs.2

Below are eight tips that can help your municipality save energy, save money and take a leading role as an environmental steward.


 Gather data to understand usage

Start by studying your municipality's energy usage patterns and bills, looking for broad trends. Has usage climbed within the past year for no discernable reason? For a more granular look, consider commissioning an energy audit, or seek guidance on installing software, sensors and monitors that show exactly how much energy your facilities and equipment use at any given time.

Collecting this information helps you set benchmarks and identify areas of waste, such as buildings in which lights and computers may be left on all night, or HVAC equipment in need of repair or maintenance. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, a free tool that helps you measure emissions and energy and water use at your buildings.


 Set goals and measure your progress

Municipalities can present a complex energy picture, especially those with multiple buildings and water treatment facilities, vast networks of street and traffic lighting, and on-site generation facilities. So it’s important to pursue energy conservation strategically. Identify where you’ll focus first, set goals and measure your progress against a baseline over time.


 Seal air leaks

Examine windows, doors, walls, roofs and the foundations of buildings—these serve as crucial thermal barriers. When leaks in the barriers exist, buildings need more energy for heating and cooling.

Windows are especially important, since they are common sources of air leaks and also help reduce the need for electric light. Window improvements can cut your lighting and HVAC costs by 10 percent to 40 percent, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences,so consider treating them to improve their efficiency. Add coatings, glazing and insulation to reduce the loss of heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. You might also consider window replacement, but have an energy efficiency expert help you determine if and where new, high-efficiency windows offer a return on investment.


 Improve water system performance

Water systems can account for up to one-third of a municipality's electricity bill, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).4 So it’s important that plant engineers maintain motors and systems for optimal performance. Improvements to pumping systems can reduce plant energy use by as much as 20 percent, the ACEEE says.5

Pay attention to the water delivery system, too. It takes more energy to get water to homes and businesses if pipes are leaking.


Replace light bulbs within government facilities

Lighting is often described as the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of energy conservation because installing high-efficiency lighting is a relatively simple, often cost-effective way to conserve energy.6 Swapping out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can cut lighting costs by as much has 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.7 Some light emitting diodes (LEDs) offer even greater energy savings—as much as 75 percent, according to ENERGY STAR.8

The City of Boston estimates that it cut its energy bill by $2.8 million annually after converting 25,000 of its mercury vapor streetlights to LEDs. The city says that the LEDs last longer, too, which spares city workers from having to replace darkened street lights as often.


Harness the power of human nature

Don’t forget to encourage municipal workers to embrace good, old-fashioned energy conservation efforts like shutting off unneeded lights and computers. Remind workers to save energy with simple signage. Even better, consider installing digital energy displays in high-traffic areas. These give passers-by a quick glimpse of the building's energy use in real time and drives home the importance of their efforts.

You also can send regular newsletters or emails offering reminders such as:

  • Are you using overhead lighting when a lamp focused on your desk will do?
  • If the hot sun is blazing down on your work space, take the time to adjust blinds to naturally cool the room.
  • Unplug equipment like printers, coffee makers and fans when they're not in use. They drain electricity even when they're not in operation.


Install sensors to avert waste

Trying to change human behavior only goes so far. Fortunately, technology can help take up the slack.

Include sensors and motion detectors as part of your automated building management system to detect and automatically shut down equipment and lights that aren't in use. Smart energy management systems even learn the flow of people in and out of a room and adjust lighting, heating and cooling pre-emptively.


Adopt Smart City practices

Smart City tools and practices use cutting-edge technology to run cities more efficiently and include many energy-saving measures. Forward-thinking municipalities are already installing some of these technologies.11

For example, about 3 percent12 of U.S. cities now use adaptive LED traffic lights that automatically adjust their timing based on traffic flow, cutting electricity use—not to mention driver frustration.13

Becoming an energy-saving municipality doesn't have to be a complex task, especially if you work with an experienced supplier that offers diverse, customized supply- and demand-side energy solutions. Direct Energy Business can help you buy less of what we sell, offering a Total Energy Management approach to lowering energy costs with data and analytics, energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions.



1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, State and Local Climate and Energy Program, "Benefits of Energy Efficiency," retrieved February 2016
2. Energy Manager Today, "Intelligence and Automation to Drive Growth of Smart Cities," December 1, 2015
3. National Institute of Building Sciences, Whole Building Design Guide, Windows and Glazing,” updated November 4, 2014
4. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy “Energy Efficiency Opportunities in Municipal Water and Wastewater Treatment Facilities,” retrieved February 2016
5. Ibid.
6., "How Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Compare with Traditional Incandescents," retrieved February 10, 2016
7. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Office Energy Checklist,” retrieved February 2016
8. ENERGY STAR, “Why Choose ENERGY STAR Qualified LED Lighting?” retrieved February 2016
9. “Let Street Lighting,” retrieved February 2016
10. Ibid.
11. Sarah Murray, World Economic Forum in collaboration with GE Lookahead, "Which cities are adopting smart technology?" November 3, 2015
12. ime, “How Smart Traffic Lights Could Transform Your Commute,” May 5, 2015
13. Ibid.