Thanks to the Energy Department's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, the city of Dallas has improved the efficiency of more than 200 city-owned buildings, saving $1 million a year in energy costs. | Photo courtesy of the City of Dallas.

During the past five decades, Dallas’ population has nearly doubled -- growing from 679,000 in 1960 to more than 1.2 million people today. To support this rapid growth, develop a sustainable community and reduce Dallas’ impact on the electrical grid, the city created the Green Dallas Initiative with support from the Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

Using some of its EECBG funds, Dallas focused on improving the energy efficiency of 248 city-owned buildings, totaling 3.3 million square feet. Following energy audits, the city made energy efficiency improvements that included upgrading to energy-efficient indoor lighting at more than 150 buildings and installing digital HVAC controls -- technology that allows the city to monitor energy use and continuously adjust the systems to increase efficiencies and reduce energy consumption -- in 100 city-owned facilities. At four of the largest city buildings -- City Hall, Jack Evans Police Headquarters, Thanksgiving Tower and the Central Library -- the city installed LED lighting in the parking garages, an improvement that not only saves on energy costs but also reduces maintenance costs because of LED’s long lifespan.

Prior to these retrofits, the city spent approximately $2.6 million a year on electricity. The energy upgrades reduced the city’s energy use by 900,000 kilowatt hours per month -- that's a savings of $1 million annually. These savings have made it possible to pursue other infrastructure projects, such as working with a local utility to conduct additional energy audits in high-traffic buildings like fire stations, libraries, parks, police substations and recreation centers to determine where to focus future retrofit activities.

Besides creating an environment for low-energy buildings, Dallas is also committed to using renewable energy. Approximately 40 percent of the city’s annual energy use is purchased from green energy providers, making it the country’s top purchaser of renewable power. It also boasts the largest city fleet of clean vehicles in Texas with approximately 40 percent of the city’s fleet running on compressed natural gas, biodiesel or hybrid electric vehicles.

Sustained efforts by city officials continue to drive energy reduction. The city’s strategic energy goals are keeping Dallas on pace to reduce energy use by 5 percent per year over 2007 levels, maintain a 40 percent level of renewable energy purchase and help it become one of the greenest cities in the nation.