Adopt-A-Watt Program Funds ‘Green’ Initiatives for Public Agencies
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
Universities and municipalities looking to upgrade their garage lighting systems now have an additional source of capital for such projects. Adopt-A-Watt is a national program designed to provide a business-based funding methodology to help public agencies replace energy-hungry systems and lower electricity costs.
Adopt-A-Watt (AAW) executes agreements with “hosts” – primarily public agencies – that want to install energy efficient equipment, such as energy-efficient lights and electric vehicle (EV) chargers, in off-street parking venues.
AAW then finds “sponsors” to fund the purchase and installation of this new equipment. The host gets much-needed “green” technology, and the sponsor receives publicity markers at the site. Any business or organization interested in becoming a sponsor can participate, from big and little restaurants and retail stores to civic and social groups.
AAW is a “for-profit social enterprise” born out of the conviction that government aid alone is not a successful business model. Started in 2007, the company was incorporated in 2011. Its Founder and Principal, Thomas Wither, patterned AAW after the Adopt-A-Highway program. He says it’s currently serving a long list of public agencies, including airports, schools and hospitals.
“It’s our initiative to help cash-strapped public agencies go to more energy efficient lighting solutions and EV infrastructure at no cost to taxpayers,” Wither says. “We believe in utilizing the power of business to solve social, economic and environmental problems. We take a business-based approach, rather than waiting for government subsidies.”
Wither notes that businesses are in search of new ways to advertise, as well as to display their social responsibility. Many media offer many types of exposure, but he says Adopt-A-Watt sponsorships are a guaranteed high-profile option.
“You can see your money at work,” he says, “and for our businesses, it’s a way of advertising on city property that is unique.”
Sponsors are recognized for their support in the form of signage and, often, invitations to attend high-profile events with local dignitaries and media coverage. Many receive letters of commendation, and all have access to Internet marketing opportunities on AAW’s digital media platform.
“The thing that makes this all work is that we have found a way to effect a return on investment,” Wither says. “Sponsors get recognition for serving communities and helping the environment. It appeals to them because this is a way of showing 365 days a year that they support clean technology initiatives.
“It’s [also] a high profile way of demonstrating philanthropy,” he says.
The city of Dearborn, MI, and its many AWA sponsors replaced 102 175W metal-halide lights with high-efficiency 80W induction fluorescent bulbs in two downtown city parking decks. The city paid no upfront costs and was able to claim all related rebates, and will keep every penny saved in energy costs.
Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. said the program is a win for the city and its sponsors. “Dearborn is committed to green initiatives, but we must be conscious of our financial challenges,” he said in a press release. “The Adopt-A-Watt program is a way for Dearborn to boost its energy efficiency measures and install green technology without impacting the general fund.
“It’s also a great example of how important [private-public] partnerships are to the success of green initiatives,” O’Reilly said.
Wither says his business is now offering virtual advertising. Sponsors can digitally publish their AAW “CouPons” on its website (www.adopt-a-watt.com). He says AAW will soon be operating coast-to-coast with host/sponsor arrangements in the works in Washington state and one already in place in New Jersey.
“The big winners are the cities that want to be more energy efficient but do not have the financial wherewithal,” Wither says.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is a Parking Today staff writer and
its “Amateur Parker” columnist. Contact her at
Article Abstract from May, 2013