MADISON, WI – Communities and the utility companies that distribute electricity are taking steps to conserve energy, in part by changing the way they get around.

In Dane County, a Toyota Prius used by Stoughton Utilities has been converted to a plug-in hybrid and is the first municipal utility in the state to do the transformation. The same conversion is anticipated in Columbus where the parking lot at City Hall has been equipped with electrical outlets to encourage residents to use electric cars, according to

Columbus, about 30 miles northeast of Madison, also could become the first city in Wisconsin to convert its street lighting to energy-saving LED lighting.

These energy-saving steps, including upcoming hybrid conversions in Sturgeon Bay, Plymouth, and Waupun, made possible through grants from Wisconsin Public Power Inc., are examples of utilities trying to conserve the power they’re putting out.

In addition to a plug-in vehicle for Columbus Water and Light that should be ready to use next month, the utility and city each plan to buy another electric vehicle.

WPPI, headquartered in Sun Prairie, provides power for 50 customer-owned electric utilities owned and operated by municipal governments in Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northeast Iowa.

The WPPI grants, which are usually around $15,000, include money for the conversion and installation of a vehicle graphic wrap to promote the plug-in feature. Next year, WPPI will expand its grant program to include funding for a utility to purchase a plug-in hybrid electric utility truck, something Plymouth Utilities plans to do. The utility will save nine gallons of diesel fuel on a typical work day. The truck will cost about $311,000.