According to the Wall Street Journal, city governments around the globe are leading the way in introducing alternative energy programs. Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council lists nine cities—Chicago, Ill.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Palm Desert, Calif.; Amsterdam; Beijing; London; Aspen, Colo.; New York; and Thane, India—at the forefront of new energy-saving technology.

In Ann Arbor, power-saving light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are being used in street lamps to reduce power costs by $100,000 and reduce carbon emissions by 294 tons. Chicago officials plan to install rooftop gardens on 15 million square feet of city buildings to save up to 11 percent in power costs and reduce air conditioning needs, while Palm Desert, Calif., launched an incentive program to replace old air conditioners. The program already resulted in a 12 percent energy decline, and the city hopes to reduce energy costs by 30 percent in 2011 through the program. Other initiatives range from pumping cold water from a man-made lake to reduce air-conditioning use to the use of more efficient energy plants.

Meanwhile, London will move the city’s power supply to smaller local sources to reduce the amount of energy lost in transit, which officials say could reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent from their 1990 levels. New York built an experimental tidal plant to harness power from the waves of the East River via underwater turbines, and the pilot project has been so successful the city says it may install as many as 300 turbines to produce 10 megawatts of energy, which would power 8,000 homes and replace 68 barrels of oil a year.

In Thane, India, builders are required to install solar water heaters in all new buildings. The government also uses solar power extensively in its own municipal buildings, with the main hospital saving $23,000 annually.

Overall, city governments use only a small portion of a city’s total energy, but experts say that if they take the lead, others will follow.

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