By Mike McCormick.

All across California, cities are realizing substantial savings by making incremental changes to their infrastructure.

Consider the often-overlooked light bulb. A city courthouse with roughly 1,500 light bulbs would see an estimated $378,000 in savings ( by swapping incandescent bulbs for LED. The catch is that those LED bulbs require an upfront investment.

California’s city leaders are excited about potential cost savings associated with energy overhauls, not to mention the reduced pollution, but officials are daunted by the challenge of the upfront costs.

As a result, California is seeing more cities and agencies working with Joint Powers Authorities (JPAs) to overcome the hurdle of initial investment and reap the benefits of long-term savings.

As the process is fairly new, many municipal administrators are just beginning to engage JPAs as an excellent source of much needed funds. It works like this: the JPA facilitates financing to cover the expense of the planned retrofit activity. The city then hires an energy solutions company to install highly efficient equipment that immediately reduces the energy being used, and dramatically lowers utility bills. The money saved on the utility bill goes directly toward the loan payment. Once the loan is paid off, the city continues to see reduced energy costs, directing those savings into to their general fund.

Lancaster, California

The City of Lancaster is on a mission to be the first net-zero city in the world. In support of this goal, in 2012, Lancaster joined with the City of San Jacinto to form a Joint Powers Authority that has gone on to be a major supporter of solar energy projects in the region. Within the Lancaster city limits, 100% of schools and 97% of municipal buildings are run on solar power.

Las Virgenes Municipal Water District

Fifty miles southwest of Lancaster, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is installing a huge solar power system that will save the district $2 million over the next twenty years, without paying a penny for the set up. The Las Virgenes-Triunfo JPA is financing the project through an energy solutions company that will sell the electricity generated by the system to the district at rates lower than they were paying before.

The Independent Cities Finance Authority

The Independent Cities Finance Authority (ICFA) was formed in 1988 as a Joint Powers Authority. Cities pay no fees to join, and all costs associated with projects are budgeted into the financing. By working with ICFA, cities are able to finance important projects that would otherwise go unsupported.

As the benefits of energy retrofit programs have grown, so has ICFA. The organization now has 74 member cities and in the past year, ICFA has begun offering energy efficiency financing programs in support of both LED streetlight retrofit efforts and solar power installation projects.

The potential cost savings are too big for cities to ignore. Contact ICFA  today (at 877-906-0941 or to learn more about how your city can join the JPA (for free) and realize the benefits financing projects without allocating a penny of your city’s budget.