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Palo Alto goes 'carbon neutral' with electricity

Original post made on Mar 4, 2013

Palo Alto's green community buzzed with excitement Monday night as the city joined an elite club of municipalities that draw all their electricity from carbon-free sources.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 4, 2013, 9:18 PM

Comments (33)

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Posted by Debra Katz
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:37 pm

For readers who want more details:

City website page about the Carbon Neutral Plan:
www.cityofpaloalto.org/UTLCarbonFree

Youth-produced rap video commemorating this milestone development:
Web Link

As the City Utilities Communications Manager, I'm very proud of my workplace tonight!


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Posted by Paying-More-And-Getting-Less
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Oh .. whoopee ..

This whole man-made climate change is a hoax!

And the City of Palo Alto has bought into it hook, line and sinker!


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:44 pm

"As a City, we've had cheaper, greener power for our citizens for decades, and being able to make this recent move to 100 percent carbon-free electricity is just another example of how owning our own utilities pays off," Keene said

Not to mention that the city's general fund gets 25% of it's budget from milking the utility rate payers for things like charging outrageous rents, collects a "return a on investment" for owning the utilities, collects a tax on use of utilities, ... And the city doesn't need to go to the ballot box to get this money.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 5, 2013 at 7:47 am

>To get to 100 percent carbon neutrality, the city is relying on its existing renewable-energy sources, including wind farms, solar energy, renewable gas captured from landfills and hydro-electric generation, which provides about half of the city's entire

Large hydro projects provide over 60% of Palo Alto's electricity. The State of California does not consider large hydro prjects as a renewable source, because of the damage done to our environment. Therefore, Palo Alto should not be congratulating itself, because it has contributed to so much environmental degradation.


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Posted by Accurate info
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

@Craig
Palo Alto gets just under half of its electricity from large hydro. This means that under this program they will provide over half from "renewable energy", as defined by CA and the balance from non carbon emitting hydro. No other city in the US has made a comparable achievement and our electricity rates wil remain well below PG&E. This is a very big accomplishment that most residents and businesses will be prowd of.


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Posted by No-More-Environmentalism
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:43 am

> The State of California does not consider large hydro
> prjects as a renewable source, because of the damage
> done to our environment.

How does a large hydro project do any more damage to the environment than a large lake--most of which are completely natural?

Does the hydro-project generate the awful green house gas--like CO2? Well, virtualy everything in nature is interlinked with CO2--both consuming this gas, and releasing it. Volcanos, for instance, are large producers of this gas. Any idea how much CO2 a hydro-project produces compared to an active volcano?

When will the public wake up, and do a little critical thinkig on its own? We've been fed three decades of "environmentalism"--and the silliness just gets worse, year after year.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:47 am

Web Link

The City of Palo Utilities dept. shows that 64% of our electrcity comes from large hydro. If this is outdated, then perhaps it should not be on its website.


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Posted by nokidding
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

Is the rate coming down or not?


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Posted by Bike Communter
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

Congratulations to Palo Alto for moving to carbon-free electricity while keeping electric rates BELOW PG&E!

We are very fortunate to have a publicly-owned utility with access to low cost hydro power and a progressive City Council to lead the way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MT
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:16 am

The summary is that we are getting $3 a year rate hike with only bragging rights to show for it. Don't see any achievements here...


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Posted by Paying-More-And-Getting-Less
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:19 am

> while keeping electric rates BELOW PG&E!

But typically not the gas rates.

And over time .. there is no reason not to believe that PAU electricity will necessarily stay lower than PG&E!


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm

>How does a large hydro project do any more damage to the environment than a large lake--most of which are completely natural?

Are you serious? Natural lakes usually have natural outlets that allow fish to come and go. John Muir saw a huge difference between natural lakes and the dammed Hetch Hetchy valley.

The bottom line is that large hydro projects are NOT consideredd as renewable energy.

Wind turbine farms often industrialize our wild ridges, and kill many birds of prey, especially the golden eagle. Large PV project cover up our wild deserts. There are some things that do make sense, IMO, like passive solar design and rooftop solar panels, However, we do not deserve to be self-congratulatory about achieving carbon neutrality, using the methods currently employed.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm

This is all just accounting because Palo Alto's power comes off the same electrical grid as everybody else and it's just a matter to whom Palo Alto pays for the power. While the bills may allow the city to claim carbon neutral, the power usage is still growing and, by paying more for electricity, other consumers are buying the same non-renewable power off the grid instead.

Palo Alto would have a much bigger impact if it just bought less power, either by conservation or producing it locally without the 50% losses associated with the power grid.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Was the green community really buzzing? We're they going " bzzzzzzz". What sound was the rest of the audience making? Please report these important facts, gennady. And how come no quote from Scharf in your story?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Less costs more
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm

We have been paying more for green power for the last several years. Now that the whole city is using green power, will that lower the rates somewhat?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Knowing this, would installing solar panels on your house still make environmental sense? I think not....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Congratulations to the City for partnering with the Media Center (midpenmedia.org) to create the Carbon Neutral Video to help promote this new initiative. Kudos to Sean Lee - Gunn Senior - for creating the music to go under the city's message.

Whether or not you can handle the science behind Global Warming, it has got to be a good thing to think about our impact on the environment and to move toward energy alternatives that reduce carbon emissions. It just makes sense. Our responsible decisions role model good stewardship for our community's children and create in all of us more mindful attitudes toward our choices and how our actions impact our world. Remember if we want youth to buy into our values, we must demonstrate values worth caring about.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 5:24 pm

"Whether or not you can handle the science behind Global Warming, it has got to be a good thing to think about our impact on the environment and to move toward energy alternatives that reduce carbon emissions. It just makes sense. Our responsible decisions role model good stewardship for our community's children and create in all of us more mindful attitudes toward our choices and how our actions impact our world. Remember if we want youth to buy into our values, we must demonstrate values worth caring about."

That sounds great, but PA residents drive big, fat cars, have big, fat homes, take big fat vacations and eat huge amounts of food. IMHO, talking about energy decisions outside of the geo-political reasons for energy independence shows us to by hypocrites more than anything else. Kids must ask themselves:

What does it mean to be carbon neutral if we have a big house, fly & drive everywhere all the time, and consume tons of food?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Solon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

As is written, "do not deny the workman their wages"of course, this a phony, meaning less, political concept, waste of money, and IDE,official of no world benefit at all

But,so what? Lots of things are meaningless


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Why not take the $3 from the pensions? There's a lot of fat there.

This is the problem with municipal utilities. Just keep on screwing the taxpayers/residents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by How is it Carbon Nuetral
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm

How is it carbon nuetral when you pay for the dirty energy you use.

This is so stupid


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 6, 2013 at 7:52 am

>As a City, we've had cheaper, greener power for our citizens for decades, and being able to make this recent move to 100 percent carbon-free electricity is just another example of how owning our own utilities pays off," Keene said.

There appears to be a conflation of 'carbon-free' and 'green'. If we had a choice to obtain power from natural gas, using fracking methods, or to dam a wild river to develop more large hydro, which approach would be 'greener'? IMO, natural gas wins the green award over large hydro. It is not carbon neutral, but it is an improvemnt over coal, and doesn't damage the environment nearly as much as damming a wild river. Looking at it in the reverse, would Palo Alto be a greener city if helped to reclaim the Hetch Hetch valley (honoring John Muir), and made up for the lost hydro electcity, by buying natural gas generated electicity?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2013 at 8:41 am

Hydroeletric is not enviromently friendly!


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Posted by No-More-Environmentalism
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

> Hydroeletric is not enviromently friendly!

What a crock! What is true is that hydro projects need to create artificial bodies of water that take over land that might have been used for other purposes. A few thousand acres, here-and-there, is simply not "the environment".

Large hydro projects, like the TVA, converted a lot of land from marginal farming/idle use to a water reservoir. However, the economic value of that land, as it was used at the time of its conversion to being a part of the hydro project was generally minimal—whereas the value of the electricity that was generated was many, many, times greater.

All hydro projects do is create artificial lakes, for the most part. Hydro projects don't pollute the skies in hundreds of miles away, or create artificial weather patterns that destroy all life for hundreds of miles in every direction. Just doesn't happen.

That said, there is some concern that some of the very large hydro projects in China might be triggering movement on underlying unstable seismic zones. This conjecture has not been proven, but is one of the few examples of real impact on the environment that has been shown. Claims that fish populations are somehow impacted negatively gets thrown into the discussion—but these are really specious arguments, for the most part.

We should stop using the term "the environment", which has often global connotations—and if there are concerns about local issues, then identify those issues first.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

>Oh .. whoopee ..
>This whole man-made climate change is a hoax!
>And the City of Palo Alto has bought into it hook, line and sinker!

Watch too much FAUX News do you??

Its time to go get some science education. I suggest the free online courses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm

>All hydro projects do is create artificial lakes

And blocking the salmon/steelhead runs. And flooding incredibly beatiful environmental treasures, like Hetch Hetchy. And creating silt deposit ponds, that eventually fill up...what then? And turning wild streams into a series of artificial ponds/lakes. And cost a large amount of money to build and maintain. And require significant infrastructure to deliver the electrcity, including service access roads throughout the wild lands. And leaving the power production up to the vagaries of the seasonal snow/rainfall. I could go on....

Fracking for natural gas is a much greener way to go. The local Sierra Club should take a stance: Fracking for natural gas, or more Hetch Hetchy type of environmental degradation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DB
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Unbelievable comments here. What an outrage that it will cost us $3 per year (less than a penny per day) to get carbon-free electricity! Add in complaints about hydro power, the fact that yes we still drive polluting cars, why aren't we instead destroying our 100-year old clean water supply by filling in Hetch Hetchy to "honor John Muir", etc. etc. - it's a wonder that any positive step forward happens in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm

DB,
You have to remember that the consensus on PA Online is not at all representative of the general population of California or Palo Alto. It is much more in tune with Fox News/Tea Party. I have come to accept that, and now just observe some of the more interesting topics to see how "unbelievable" (using your adjective) some of the comments can be. And hoping that I will find a few reasonable comments.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm

>Add in complaints about hydro power, the fact that yes we still drive polluting cars, why aren't we instead destroying our 100-year old clean water supply by filling in Hetch Hetchy to "honor John Muir", etc. etc

There has been a fairly vibrant movement, locally, to resotre the Hetch Hetchy valley, by removing the dam. I have not heard any talk about "filling in Hetch Hetchy". It was not filled in to begin with, it was a beautiful valley, second only to Yosemite valley.

John Muir has been, and will continue to be honored.

If Palo Alto wants to be green, it should support fracking for natural gas.


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Posted by No-More-Environmentalism
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2013 at 9:55 am

> take some on-line science courses ..

I'll compare you science course for science course, and I bet that my course count will exceed yours.

But be a sport, sport, and give us a list of on-line courses that you have taken about climate change, or even a list of courses you have taken that deal with the basic tools that climate science requires, such as: meteorology, basic geology, geochemistry, geophysics, atmospheric physics, basic through multivariate statistics, computer programming, data modeling, electrical engineering, experimental design—just to name the most obvious.

You've mastered all of these domains, have you, sport?

Looking forward to your list.

Maybe it's time to stop listening to that mind numbingly banal NPR, and do a little research on the topics you claim to know so much about!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by No-More-Environmentalism
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2013 at 10:14 am

This issue of climate change has become so politicized that it's unlikely anyone will be offered a meaningful view of the matter during our life times. Because we are talking about a time line of about 15B years (age of the cosmos), and a planetary timeline of about 5B years vs a human timeline of maybe 2.5M years we (humans) are probably not going to unravel all of the mysteries of the universe any time soon.

Our current intellectual "platform" from which we seem to have erected a scientific and philosophical basis for rationally investigating these myriad of mysteries is barely 400 years old. Science is a process—that employs theory, discussion, proof/disproof, and iteration. Climate science is one of the newest of these domains, and there are probably fewer than 1,500 people in the world that have the necessary skill set to actually contribute meaningfully to the body of knowledge. And all of these people do not agree, as is the case with any human activity.

One of the most fundamentally disappointing aspects of the Climate Change debate is that the "scientists" have not even come to a common view on how to measure temperatures from a global perspective. And it's also not clear that the temperature data is really "solid" enough to make meaningful predictions (in a forward timeline) for more than a couple of decades, with any hope of accuracy. Of course, mathematical models are used to make these predictions, and without fully disclosing the source code to open review—who knows what's in these models. Sadly, it's hard to find the source code for these models on-line.

No rational person (at least no person who has been provided a non-agenda based presentation of earth science/history) should doubt that climate change is real. The question that is being debated is whether man is the only driver of this change.

A new study has been released this week, which points out that global temperatures were hotter in the recent past, than they are today--
Web Link

So, it's very hard to listen to all this sanctimonious bellowing about how man is "ruining the plant" and that we should be "carbon neutral" to "save the planet". Moreover, given that the climate is know to cycle, at some point we are going to see another Ice Age—where most of North America and Europe will be under sheets of ice that could be a mile thick. There is simply no way that humans have had anything to do with the ice ages that occurred before the emergence of "homo sapiens"—so all of this environmentalism nonsense will have been for naught, since it's not likely that Congress will be able to pass laws to stop the forward march of the glaciers.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2013 at 10:47 am

And as ABAG stuffs more and more people into Palo Alto to live here and the new Stanford Hospital requires mega more staff and more utilities, then what? It's all smoke and mirrors and feel good politics. And this council will be long gone like previous ones who pushed their ideology down our throats and ruined our town......or sometimes they run again and do come back...or go on to 'higher office'.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Matt
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

Hydro Dams do not provide "clean" energy and do cause global warming:

Based on research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, over the last 20 years, the warming impact of annual large dam methane emissions is equivalent to 7.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

By comparison:
Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning (2004): 26.6 billion tonnes (2)
US CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning (2005): 6 billion tonnes (3)
EU-15 emissions from fossil fuel burning (2003): 3.3 billion tonnes (4)
Global CO2 emissions from coal (2003): 9.6 billion tonnes (5)
US CO2 emissions from coal (2005): 2.1 billion tonnes (3)
US CO2 emissions from road transport (2005): 1.7 billion tonnes (3)
Global CO2 emissions from aviation (2002): 0.5 billion tonnes (6)

Also read this article:
Web Link


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