Street lights provide visibility and improve safety, but too many neighborhoods have too few fixtures or older, less efficient lighting. New LED technologies provide more light using less energy and many municipalities install them in new real estate developments. Utility companies frequently join municipalities in applying for grants through state or federal governments to upgrade or replace existing street lights. Start looking for grants at your local utility or state energy program.
The big funding source for public works grants, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The EECBG provided $3.1 billion, including grants for installation of 197,000 street lights. Federal money for street light projects is typically administered by the Department of Energy and Department of Commerce, and is awarded by state energy programs through state commerce, energy or environment departments. Your state might also depend on an association or board established to award and administer grants.
You can apply for street lighting grants during the planning phase, but you should have a plan that includes layouts, technical specifications and lighting objectives such as areas where safety or accessibility require special treatment. Be prepared to present matching funds unless you're applying to a program such as EECBG. Check grant language carefully for limitations. For example, you might only be able to spend grant money on lighting fixtures instead of poles, also called standards. You might also need to work with your local utility company, either as a project partner or to cooperate in developing a plan to measure energy usage before and after project completion.