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Aspiration or commitment? Foothill College weighs its climate goals.

Uploaded: Sep 10, 2023

Foothill College has a decision to make. Last summer the school was forced to close its pool due to a substantial leak. A subsequent investigation found that the underground pipes supplying water to the 63-year-old pool were cracked and offset. Replacing the pipes would mean ripping up both the pool deck and the pool shell, so Foothill staff envisioned a larger improvement. The updated facility will have a new Olympic size pool, expanded locker room, and improved accessibility. It is a vision that the board, students, faculty, and community at large are eager to see come to fruition.

Foothill College’s pool will no longer have a T shape. Image source: Wikimedia

But one big question remains. Should Foothill heat the pool water with gas boilers or electric heat pumps? The old pool produced one-third of the campus' emissions. That is a significant amount, making this a unique opportunity to substantially reduce Foothill’s emissions.

The old pool accounted for one-third of the campus' Scope 1 emissions. Source: Presentation to Foothill Board of Trustees, September 2023

The new facility will use pool covers, which will reduce the heating requirement (and emissions) by 40%. If the school opts to use gas, the pool will use efficient condensing boilers, which will further reduce emissions. This setup is similar to that used at other large aquatic facilities in California today (Stanford, Berkeley, etc), and would reduce pool heating emissions by a total of 46% and overall district emissions by 15%. That is substantial.

The gas-based plan will reduce pool emissions by 46%, with most of that coming from the adoption of pool covers. After the renovation, this single gas-heated pool would then produce 21% of Foothill campus' Scope 1 emissions. Source: Presentation to Foothill Board of Trustees, September 2023

A 46% reduction sounds good. But in January of this year, Foothill College released its Sustainability Action Plan, which includes the objective to “Transition to natural gas-free by 2035”. As board member Peter Landsberger pointed out, it seems that installing gas boilers with a lifetime of 25 years is in conflict with this goal.

The board had its engineering consultant, Gayner, evaluate several all-electric designs. They came up with a workable design, but stated that it would almost double the cost of the project from $22M to $41M, and require considerable attention to operate and maintain due to its complexity. The firm also raised concerns about the impact of power outages, the space needed to accommodate the 20 or so heat pumps, and the sound emitted from those heat pumps, which will run much of the day and night.

Disappointed with Gayner’s findings, the board hired engineering firm Salas O’Brien to do a peer review of the analysis. The second review generally agreed with the first, though they also suggested evaluating a hybrid heating option using both gas boilers and heat pumps.

Dennis Berkshire, President of the Aquatic Design Group, spoke at Foothill’s August board meeting where they discussed the gas vs electric decision. His firm has worked on 75-80% of all large public pools in California, including the nearby Rengstorff Aquatic Center in Mountain View, which will be all-electric. Berkshire suggested that the gas boiler design is indeed the best option for Foothill. “In today’s world, the desire for electrification has outpaced industry and what’s currently available on the market.”

The Vice Chancellor for Business Services of the Foothill-DeAnza College District, Susan Cheu, has been following this closely. “I think it’s important to note that we were not happy about the outcome of not being able to use all-electric.” She explained that this is why they had the peer review done and went to the trouble of evaluating several other options. “At the end of the day, there’s some pragmatism that has to go into these projects.”

And yet.

In the Bay Area alone, there are four large outdoor all-electric pools in development (approved, funded, and under way). There is the Rengstorff Aquatic Center in Mountain View, the Belle Haven pool in Menlo Park, the Piedmont Aquatic Center, and a new aquatic center in South San Francisco. (1) Blake Herrschaft, the Building Electrification Programs Manager for Peninsula Clean Energy, reeled off this list and added that Peninsula Clean Energy is helping organizations like these find ways to cover the excess costs that may be involved in going all-electric. Clarence Mamuyac, President of the design firm ELS that is working on these all-electric pools, reported that the excess cost for going electric has been on the order of $1-$2 million for these projects.

I asked Mamuyac what might be different about Foothill, and he said he can’t say as he doesn’t know the details of the project. Could it be the size of the pool? (Olympic pools are very large.) He said it’s certainly possible, though he noted that the surface area of the two pools at each of Rengstorff and Piedmont (10,000-11,000 square feet) approaches that of an Olympic pool (13,500 square feet). Both of those projects are using 20+ heat pumps, similar to what Foothill’s design calls for. Berkshire mentioned when he spoke to Foothill’s board that the reliability requirements for a recreational pool like Rengstorff are not as strict as those for Foothill. It’s “not the end of the world” if the pool is unavailable for some reason. (2) He added that at Mountain View, their commitment to their carbon reduction goals was paramount. “In the case of the city of Mountain View, the city came back and said that they have a city ordinance for electrification. They chose to hold themselves to it at this facility…. Now in that case they decided to go all-electric, and in doing so, the capital costs and operating expenses were never discussed. It was simply saying ‘This is the right thing to do and we’re going to move ahead.’” (3)

The Board of Trustees at Foothill seems frustrated with the situation. Landsberger views the objectives in the Sustainability Action Plan, which they approved after years of work, as a commitment. “Are we essentially repealing our climate objectives? I want to know if we are doing that.” Cheu views it differently: “They are goals, and they are sort of an aspiration that we are trying for.” Board Chairman Patrick Ahrens sounded frustrated: “I’ve seen so many of these bodies have these aspirational goals and fly right by them,” but then went on to suggest that they might be better off focusing on transportation emissions.

On Monday September 11, District staff are proposing to move ahead with the gas boilers. They cite the complexity and risk involved with being early adopters of this technology in our area, as well as concerns about availability and noise.

Regarding that risk, Cheu reflected during the August board meeting, when this proposal first surfaced: “It wasn’t just a fiscal decision. Also what plays around in the back of our mind is the Sunnyvale Center. We did try new technology there and it didn’t, as you know, work out so well. That is something that is sort of also guiding our decision-making process through this. We want to make sure that whatever we put in there is not only going to be sustainable, but it is going to work, is going to do what it needs to do, and is going to be something we can maintain.”

There is undoubtedly risk involved in being an early adopter. While these technologies aren’t new, using them for large outdoor pools in the Bay Area is new, and we have a critical lack of expertise with deploying this type of efficient electric heating here. Consider what happened with the Sunnyvale Center’s hydronic HVAC system. Some rooms were too hot and some were too cold. An engineering consultant told Foothill that they needed to replace the entire system, with the possible exception of the radiant pipes, and the school did. But I’ve heard of this problem in other contexts, for example when a refrigerant with a high temperature differential is used. In Europe they will sometimes toggle the direction of such circuits so that no room stays cold or warm. Would that have been an option here? I don’t know.

The point is, we have a dearth of skilled engineers and tradespeople in the Bay Area who can design, implement, and tune efficient electric heating systems like this. What better place than Foothill College to start addressing that skill gap? Foothill is the top-ranked community college in all of California, and one of the top in the entire nation. The primary purpose of Foothill College is to educate and to train, to help students develop the skills needed in the future. It has passionate faculty and an energized student body. Should a school like that duck this challenge or lean into it? Stanford has been innovating with its building HVAC systems for years, and it’s not been without its challenges. Two summers ago there were several days when they could not adequately cool the campus, and there was an uproar about it. When I was researching this blog post, I spoke with an engineer who teaches part-time at Cal Poly, where they are also developing a zero-emission on-campus heating system. These projects, which enable those on campus to learn so much and develop many highly relevant skills, are by their nature risky and require extra attention. But that is how we learn, and Foothill is first and foremost a learning institution.

Should Foothill be embracing this opportunity rather than running away from it? Would a more forward-thinking engineering firm provide a different evaluation? Would someone digging into the eye-popping $20M cost differential for the Gayner design find some savings? Are partnerships possible so that Foothill can lead the way rather than follow the leader? And where are all of the faculty and students who should be weighing in on this? They need to speak up. Information about Monday’s board meeting can be found here. Directions for emailing the board can be found here.

Foothill’s Board of Trustees bears much of the risk for this decision. It is their job to be prudent. But they should keep in mind that choosing gas comes with risk as well. Below is a graph showing the gas use and gas expense for a 25-yard, 8 lane pool in Palo Alto over the last three years. The Greenmeadow Pool’s gas use has decreased by 13% over the past three years, but the gas bill has gone up by 72%.

Any analysis of the cost of choosing gas for the Foothill pool should include not only the time and expense of dismantling and replacing the gas system before 2035, but also paying what are likely to be increasingly costly bills while the gas boilers are in place.

This energy transition is not easy but it has to happen. Decisions like this are where the rubber meets the road. This summer, which broke heat records in much of the country and the world, will be one of the coolest summers of the rest of our lives. The only way to turn that around is to stop burning fossil fuels. Foothill, what is your plan?

Update: The Foothill-DeAnza Board of Trustees met on Monday to discuss this issue. You can find my summary of that meeting here.

Notes and References
1. Berkshire stated during the August board meeting that “In many of our projects, from the city of Folsom, to the city of Albany, to Piedmont, to a lot of these projects, the conversation of electrification has come up with today’s technology. And in every case, with the exception of Mountain View, it’s always been that it’s an issue they cannot afford, both to capitalize and to operate when you look at this.” He must have misspoken about Piedmont.

2. Power outages typically last a few hours. Mamuyac said he would recommend covering the pool if an outage proves to be extended beyond a few hours. Pool pumps require electricity either way, though it is much simpler to provide a power backup for a pool with gas heating than with electric heating since the electric load is much smaller.

3. Pat Showalter, the Vice Mayor of Mountain View, disputes that characterization. “That’s not right, costs were discussed. They told us what each component of the update was going to cost, operating costs too.” Then she added “It is fair to say that, the way we see it, we’ve changed the regulations, and it’s serious business, like building codes. We have to follow the rules.” She continued, saying: “We do consider not going forward with electricity when it’s really out of the question, for one reason or another. For instance, in an upgrade that was done recently to the HVAC of the Performing Arts Center, it just wouldn’t work to use a heat pump. The cost was truly excessive. So we’re going with older technology, but we’re buying offsets to make up the difference. The offsets are local, with projects in Mountain View itself.”

4. Pool covers make a huge difference in energy use, so it surprises me that Foothill has not been using them. As a sometime Masters swimmer, I have done my share of covering and uncovering pools. I would love to see more/better automation around this.

Current Climate Data
Global impacts (July 2023), US impacts (July 2023), CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

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Posted by Steev, a resident of Los Altos Hills,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 9:06 am

Steev is a registered user.

Thank you so much for this well-researched article. Many of these same issues apply to the Fletcher pool project.

Posted by David Coale, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 9:49 am

David Coale is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

Thanks for your in-depth look at the pool heating options at Foothill College and your siting of references for your work. At first reading it looks like Foothill College did their home-work and had it checked as well. On a deeper dive into the CO2 calculations as presented by Gayner Engineers in their study of the pool and heating complex, on page 11, they are not using the right numbers or the correct assumptions. They are using the present rate of 0.524 lbs. of CO2 per kwh for electricity emissions and natural gas emissions of 13.446 lbs of CO2 per therm.

While the first number is correct for PG&E, this will be declining over time and there are other sources of less carbon intensive CO2 than PG&E, including Foothill's own extensive PV systems on campus. On the natural gas numbers this should be twice as high to account for leakage of the natural gas systems that deliver gas to the end user. Not sure why these errors were made except to say that externalities are often over looked. And, nowhere have I seen the cost of carbon factored into these calculations.

This is just for the CO2 calculations. As you point out, the increase in the cost of gas has been very significant as well and will continue to climb as the end of gas will only increase prices even more. What's more is that they used a COP of 2.5 for the heat pump system over the entire year, when as stated elsewhere, this is the lowest value in the wintertime and is normally around 4.0.

The peer review by Salas O'Brien caught some of these items but not all and nowhere did they evaluate a solar thermal/heat pump option. Solar thermal systems can have a COP as high as 15, so this should not be over looked, plus there are rebates from the state on solar thermal systems for pool heating as well.

Posted by David Coale, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 9:50 am

David Coale is a registered user.


So, even though significant time has been spent on evaluation this system, I think a more thorough and detailed analysis is called for, one that factors in the true accounting and costs to future generations. I am reminded of two quotes here, the first one from Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state:

“We're the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we're the last who can do something about it".
And this one from Donella Meadows: “We'll go down in history as the first society that wouldn't save itself because it wasn't cost-effective."
I hope that Foothill will take a second look at all the options here, and as was mentioned by Steev, the Fletcher pool project in Palo Alto as well.

Thanks for your analysis on this.

Posted by Peter Davis, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 12:33 pm

Peter Davis is a registered user.

Fantastic article, Sherry, as always - so well researched, balanced, informative, relevant. I wish we could clone you!

It looks like there has been no analysis of lifetime operating costs, without which it's impossible for the trustees to make an informed decision. Gas prices are predicted to rise 30% more than electricity prices in the next 10 years (conservative CPUC estimate), but likely a lot more - by 2027, residential gas heaters will no longer be sold in the Bay Area, with all of California to follow in 2030, so pretty soon gas sales will be dropping fast, while the extensive costs of maintaining the infrastructure will stay the same, driving big increases in gas prices.

And why no serious consideration of sourcing their electricity from solar+storage? There is tons more room for solar panels on the parking lots and elsewhere, and that electricity will be drastically cheaper than PG&E.

Can't disagree that there is some risk in using new technology, but when you put that against the certainty of the climate crisis, I think I'll take a few hours or days of the pool being closed against the heat domes, wildfires, orange-and-noon days that we're already experiencing, let alone what is soon to come.

Posted by Margaret Okuzumi, a resident of another community,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 1:34 pm

Margaret Okuzumi is a registered user.

Regarding what David Coale found, my husband also flagged this and found that the 0.524 lbs. of CO2 per kWh for electricity is a very old outdated figure. This value appears to be extracted from an obsolete PG&E "Carbon Footprint Calculator" PDF from 2007 that happens to show up in top 10 web search responses. If you look closely, that document literally doesn't talk about electric cars - it only mentions that one could "switch to a hybrid-electric vehicle" and urges people to "Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs" for lighting!
The most current CO2 per kWh value he's able to find from PG&E is for 2021, and is .098 (see the graph under "voluntary emissions reporting").
URL: Web Link

2022 is probably going to be even better - PG&E is claiming that its energy mix in 2022 was 96% GHG-free:
Web Link

So Gayner appears to be overstating the carbon impact of electricity consumption of the heat pump system, by more than 500%. This is an example of how "the electric grid gets cleaner over time", and Gayner apparently didn't look for current numbers. Very sloppy work on their part.

My husband also noted that the Salas O'Brien report drops big hints that they don't trust Gayner's cost estimates for the heat pumps:

1. The O'Brien report says "The cost estimate for the gas fired option appears to be reasonable" but makes no similar statement for the heat pump option.

2. The O'Brien report says, on the same page, "The cost for the air source heat pump option should be revisited."

Posted by James Kozelka, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 3:36 pm

James Kozelka is a registered user.

Many thanks for a thorough, informative and thought provoking article! I see you statement “The point is, we have a dearth of skilled engineers and tradespeople in the Bay Area who can design, implement, and tune efficient electric heating systems like this." differently and believe there are local resources available. A couple of very capable ESCO's immediately come to mind.

Also, I concur with other readers' excellent points and add:

1. The first pie chart is misleading at best and the second is a false equivalence considering there are carbon free options.
2. The concern around the problems with the technology at the core of the Sunnyvale campus' HVAC system is unfounded. The technology there - properly identified as a heat recovery chiller - is relatively new and fundamentally different than heat pump technology that is a good candidate for heating the pool. Traditional heat pumps are efficient, robust, reliable and have been providing good service all across the District for many years.
3. Also, power outages are an unreasonable concern as they will have similar impact regardless of how the pool is heated. It is very surprising that noise from the heat pumps is a stated concern.
4. It is hard to believe ~$19M is the incremental cost of a carbon free solution. The estimate of $1-2M seems closer to the mark.

It is deeply disappointing that Foothill College is considering not following through on its commitment to decarbonization. This is especially true as neighboring communities are planning and building state of the art carbon free heated pools. We must not let the importance and urgency of decarbonization (see the recent “miserable" report card resulting from the 2015 Paris Agreement here) get lost in the noise of some of the concerns noted above.

A natural gas heated pool is not aligned with Measure G and the District's sustainability/climate action plans; nor the community's, CA's, USA's or most of the world's stated goals.

Posted by James Kozelka, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 3:37 pm

James Kozelka is a registered user.


Six years ago to this month, FHDACCD wisely made a legacy decision not to pursue a 20+ year contract for a natural gas fired cogeneration system because “Emissions Matter." I urge The Board to make a similar legacy decision, vote no on this item and seek greater expertise in finding a carbon free solution.

Thanks again, Sherry, for a great post!

Palo Alto resident and clean energy professional for 40+ years,

Posted by Ole Agesen, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 5:30 pm

Ole Agesen is a registered user.

Thank you Sherry for the article and readers for all the comments.

Foothill College's Board of Trustees have been offered an excellent opportunity to show leadership in the fight against climate pollution.

They can demonstrate concern for the well-being of the young students that attend the college, students who face living in a future severely degraded environment: climate refugees, rising sea levels, harmful heat, wildfires, smoke, drought, flooding, food shortages, deforestation, species extinction and exponentially increasing costs to mitigate one disaster after another.

Fortunately, it is not all dread and doom! We still have time to act. We still have time to avoid the worst consequences and eventually return our planet to a healthy equilibrium.

We have an opportunity to turn from despair to hope. And it starts with taking the right steps here and now, specifically at the meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Action today can make a difference for tomorrow, positive or negative. Let us make the difference a positive one. Reject methane "flaring" to heat pools. Stop burning things; go with clean and efficient electric heat-pumps.

You can do it!
We can do it!

Ole, Menlo Park

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 8:22 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thanks for all the great comments.

@David: Re emissions, I also think there is opportunity to optimize for emissions, heating a little more during the day when electricity is cleaner (and heat pumps are more efficient), and less during the night when electricity is dirtier (which is possible because of the covers).

Re solar thermal, ELS is using that in its designs, saying it covers about 1/3 of the load. I think it is not cheap, but it helps to reduce the number, the space requirements, and the sound from the heat pumps.

@Peter: I think the issue with solar + storage is that the power requirements for this pool are so huge, storage would be prohibitively expensive, and solar without storage is not a great deal. But I haven't done the math. Solar thermal apparently makes more sense (directly heating water with solar energy).

@Margaret: Thanks for the note that Salas O'Brien calls for the $41M estimate to be revisited. That certainly makes sense.

I would like to see Foothill College committing to its Sustainability Action Plan, and committing to its task of training the next generation of engineers and tradespeople in working with these efficient electric heating and cooling systems. I would hope that vision and focus would allow them to see their climate objectives as an opportunity rather than as an anchor.

Those who are interested can join the Board meeting in person or live on the district's YouTube channel at 6pm on Monday. You can find information about attending and/or commenting at the meeting here.

Again, thanks all for the comments.

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 10, 2023 at 9:07 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Funding for community colleges is in short supply. What benefits does building an Olympic-sized pool provide over a more "ordinary" pool? Is it possible to save even more money by using some sort of in-place piping replacement/relining that doesn't require the pool to be rebuilt? To me this smacks of edifice-building.

Of course, if the district sourced its natural gas from Palo Alto Utilities, there would be no climate concern, as that's all supposedly offset. If people are worried about distribution leakage being significant, it's easy enough to measure methane emissions, or even just double the offsets to cover any unfixable leaks.

Posted by SRB, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on Sep 11, 2023 at 6:53 am

SRB is a registered user.

Fully support going electric for pool long as it doesn't jeopardize (costs, time...) the Community College core mission of education. I trust the trustees will find the right balance.

Has the impact on the grid been studied? FootHill college is in Los Altos Hills, not sure how much extra capacity is available for instance...

Posted by Eric Muller, a resident of Los Altos,
on Sep 11, 2023 at 10:03 am

Eric Muller is a registered user.

I have no knowledge of the technical feasibility, costs, etc, but two things come to mind.

If there is no solution that satisfies simultaneously 1) acceptable cost 2) low carbon emissions 3) olympic size pool, one of the three needs to be relaxed. Do we need/want an olympic size pool more than a low carbon emissions pool?

And how should that question be answered? By five trustees at tonight's board meeting, or with a larger community involvement? I note that the presentations to the board (and the board asks) have not considered that question.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Sep 12, 2023 at 1:23 pm

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

How about get rid of the pool and save $20M? Seems like a lot of money for a non academic purpose. Also saves the climate!

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 12, 2023 at 6:35 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

You can find my summary of the discussion at yesterday's board meeting here.

Posted by Monta Loman, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Sep 15, 2023 at 7:44 pm

Monta Loman is a registered user.

Joseph E. Davis has a good point... if you weigh the cost against the number of students using the pool, it may be that killing the whole aquatics program makes way more sense than anything else.

Sort of like cash-strapped small colleges who kill their football program to focus on basic education.

Another flexible strategy is solar thermal... with all that roof space on the adjacent buildings all you need is an ordinary pump, way cheaper than heat pumps or even electricity generation with some of the otherwise appealing solar/microgrid/storage options mention by others. We shouldn't be surprised to discover the carbon footprint of solar thermal turns out to be the smallest of all options.

At some point, the right question often turns out to be "why are we doing this at all?"

Posted by James Kozelka, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 16, 2023 at 7:29 pm

James Kozelka is a registered user.

I watched the FHDA Board Meeting and it was very fascinating to see the BoT navigate this critical issue. Ultimately, they made another legacy decision; a courageous and very laudable decision. They properly decided to honor the district's commitment to decarbonization and table the gas (aka methane) pool heating option. IMHO this translates as “If we can't do it right, then we shouldn't do it." (And the vote wasn't as close as it may appear as Trustee Landsberger voiced strong reluctance to vote in favor of the gas option �" perhaps because he apparently somehow felt compelled to provide the motion for the gas option - and was very hesitant about the idea of a new pool at all.)

The previous reader's comments questioning a pool at all - especially since FHDA is facing a “fiscal cliff" - let alone an Olympic size pool, should be thoroughly considered. Is FH thinking “If we build it they will come?" Is anyone aware of an analysis that justifies a new pool? An Olympic pool? We should all be clear that swimming pools are a first world luxury, and that while we do the back stroke the rest of the world suffers. (Full disclosure: I am a swimmer.) I am not necessarily advocating for “don't do it" rather “do it with ultimate responsibility."

Assuming that a pool is justifiable...
A close reading of the Gayner report (dated 7/17/23) and the Salas O'Brien peer review (dated 7/23) reveals some essential concerns. Some of the more notable concerns are:

• Why are pool covers not included in the basis of design? Not requiring pool covers is irresponsible to the point of reckless. THE COST AND SAVINGS ASSOCIATED WITH USING POOL COVERS SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE BASIC DESIGN. (Also, since pool covers will save water - as well as energy - they will also save chemicals.)

Posted by James Kozelka, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 16, 2023 at 7:31 pm

James Kozelka is a registered user.

• The all gas Option 1 is status quo (the path of least resistance.) We all know status quo in the energy pollution realm is seriously problematic for the health of the earth. And it flies in the face of FHDA's SAP commitment to zero gas by 2035. To meet this commitment the gas option will need to be replaced in less than 10 years (by the time the pool is built in 3+ years.) THE REPLACEMENT COST OF THE GAS OPTION WITHIN 10 YEARS SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE ANALYSES.

• The environmental damage of fugitive methane (~20X greater than the carbon emissions resulting from burning gas) is not included in the gas only option. Although hard to quantify (like cost of carbon) it seems some reasonable factor should be agreed upon and included. (The gas industry probably knows this number but will never admit to it.) THE FHDA SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN SHOULD REQUIRE BOTH THE COST OF FUGITIVE METHANE AND CARBON IN ALL CALCULATIONS GOING FORWARD. (VC Chu raises a good point about also including those costs in the cost of construction, but that might be “letting good enough get in the way of prefect.")


• WHAT IS THE CORRECT INCREMENTAL COST OF THE HEAT PUMP OPTION? The Salas O'Brien review claims the first cost of the heat pump option is $19M. This is more than 50% greater than the $12M the Gayner report claims. As I understand it SVCE is working on “a third opinion." It will be very interesting to hear their report in 90 days.



Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 16, 2023 at 9:52 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.


You make some excellent points, e.g. about pool covers, thermal solar, pool sizing. Fugitive methane is I think unlikely to be significant in a new monolithic installation rather than 50-year-old residential appliance connections, but as you suggest it can straightforwardly be measured and an evidence-based factor applied.

I wonder (i.e. don't know) if the zero gas by 2035 wording actually requires zero gas use or instead zero net gas use or fully offset gas use or even no new gas use. If one of the latter, gas warming equipment may not have to be replaced at 2035.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 17, 2023 at 6:36 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Mondoman, re fugitive emissions from methane, the concern is with upstream emissions (e.g., gas production and distribution), not at the site itself. The estimates for these leaks have been increasing and by some calculations make gas as dirty as coal. New measurement techniques are helping to narrow down on the amount and location of the worst leaks and the IRA imposes fines for these leaks, so I'm optimistic this will be less of a problem in the coming years.

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