Cities plot funds usage

Stimulus money from Department of Energy could go to solar panels or upgrading lighting, city managers say.

March 30, 2009|By Alan Blank

Discussions are underway in the city halls of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to determine the most effective way to use about $2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 earmarked for energy-efficiency programs in the area.

The money was allocated to cities based largely on population and is required to be used for programs that reduce fossil fuel emissions or reduce energy usage, according to the Department of Energy. Costa Mesa is slated to receive $1.1 million, while Newport Beach will get about $850,000.

Each town’s City Council will have the final say on how the money is used but managers are already coming up with ways it could be allocated.


“We have a lot of ideas,” said Costa Mesa Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch. “We have already been working on it and exploring possibilities. Now the question is how we can maximize every dollar.”

Installing solar panels on the roofs of city-owned buildings is one example of an improvement that the city is considering, Hatch said.

Costa Mesa plans on having the California Energy Commission perform a free audit of its energy use to come up with ideas and help prioritize projects. The audit could also pave the way for the city to apply for funding from other agencies to finance more extensive projects, and the federal money could be used to leverage that extra funding, Hatch said.

An ongoing project to replace Newport Beach’s aging street lights with more energy efficient LED lights is a strong candidate to receive Newport Beach’s share of the funding, said Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff.

Unlike many other surrounding cities, Newport Beach owns most of its roughly 7,000 street and parking lot lights and it spends more than $700,000 a year on the energy they consume.

For the last few years Newport has been gradually chipping away at the project by upgrading about 1,000 lights per year.

“We’ve been paying about half-a-million dollars a year to convert them. This money could expedite it a year or more,” Kiff said.

The funding could also potentially save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in electricity costs if the updates are done sooner rather than later.

The Department of Energy wants to see the money spent quickly. It has set a goal of using at least half of the available funds for activities that can be initiated before June 17, and if cities can’t commit the funds within 18 months they risk losing the money.

Reporter ALAN BLANK may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles