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.
Where to Look
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.
How to Start
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.
- Leotek: A Municipal Guide for Converting to LED Street Lighting
- Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency: Mid-America Energy (Electric) -- Municipal Solid State Lighting Grant Program
- U.S. Department of Energy: About the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program
- U.S. Department of Energy: About the State Energy Program
- Illinois Clean Energy Foundation: Street and Roadway Lighting Program
An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.