News

Palo Alto shoots for carbon neutrality by 2030

Council hopes new heat pump program will accelerate city's electrification efforts

Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt automobiles charge at the electric vehicle charging stations installed at the Foothill Research Center office complex in Palo Alto. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Seeking to make the city a model in the global battle against climate change, the Palo Alto City Council adopted on Monday night an ambitious goal of making the city carbon neutral by 2030.

The new target, which the council approved by a unanimous vote, builds on the city's existing goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2030, with 1990 as the baseline. So far, Palo Alto has reduced its emissions by about 50.6%, thanks in large part to its switch in 2013 to a fully carbon-free electricity portfolio.

But if you discount the impacts of the pandemic, which resulted in fewer drivers commuting to the city, the decrease in emissions is only about 42%, according to staff projections. Even as council members, staff from Public Works and Utilities departments and a growing contingent of community volunteers have spent the past 15 months crafting plans to cut emissions, actual progress on achieving these cuts has been glacial.

Now, the city is preparing to put these plans into action and speed up its transition to green energy. On Monday, the council voted 6-1, with Greg Tanaka dissenting, to approve one of its most significant sustainability programs to date. The program aims to have 1,000 residents replace their gas-powered water heaters with heat pump heaters by the end of 2023 by providing subsidies, on-bill financing and contracting services. Later this month, the council plans to update the city's building code and raise the requirements for electric-vehicle charging equipment in new commercial and multifamily developments.

The council also voted unanimously to approve the goals and key actions of the city's new Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, a document that will serve as a road map to carbon neutrality. According to the document, Palo Alto would need to effectively eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from single-family appliances for water heating, space heating, cooking and clothes drying. In nonresidential buildings, the city would need to electrify heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) units as well as cooking equipment and gas appliances.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

With transportation accounting for an estimated 61.9% of its emissions, Palo Alto would have to get people to drive less and to encourage those who do to go electric. The sustainability plan suggests that the city would need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions related to transportation by at least 65% when compared to 1990. The council hopes to achieve this by aggressively promoting and supporting residents' purchase of electric vehicles, expanding the city's bicycle network and increasing the availability of transit and mobility services, according to the plan. This includes creating a bike- or scooter-share program, a service that the city has been exploring for years with little to show for it.

Despite the city's mixed record in recent years, Mayor Pat Burt offered some reasons for optimism, including the low cost of renewable energy and the advent of technology such as low-watt appliances, which make electrification cheaper and easier, and two-way chargers that allow electricity to flow from the vehicle to the grid. Once these chargers become more common, local car owners will be able to use their vehicles to power their homes or sell excess energy, making the grid more stable.

While the city is lagging behind its 80x30 goal, Burt argued that it remains well ahead of most other municipalities. And if Palo Alto manages to get close to an 80% reduction, it could close the remaining gap by purchasing carbon offsets as it works to implement new technology.

"We want to move toward more sequestration, we want to have more reductions. But actually hitting the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 is, compared to almost anybody else, much more doable in Palo Alto," Burt said.

The Monday meeting was the council's second hearing in two weeks on the topic of sustainability. But while the Sept. 27 meeting was devoted to broad overviews and didn't feature any votes, on Monday the council took numerous actions. These included creating a new citizen commission devoted to climate action. To date, much of the work on the topic has been done by a council ad hoc committee, which consists of Burt and council members Alison Cormack and Tom DuBois. That committee will remain in place for the time being, though both Cormack and council member Greer Stone supported creating a permanent commission with dedicated spots for local youths who are involved in combatting climate change.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

"This is an eight-year project and we need people to dig in deep," Cormack said.

Some of the commission's potential members addressed the council Monday and encouraged the council to approve the heat pump water heater program and the Sustainability Climate Action Plan.

"The climate crisis put us a very tight timeline and right now we have the opportunity to continue the great progress we made in past decades," said Maya Perkashi, a member of the Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition. "Approving these key goals and actions from the Sustainability Climate Action Plan, particularly its carbon neutrality goals, its investment in electrification and its heat pump water programs, is crucial to this progress because electrification serves as the next great hurdle to significantly reducing our emissions."

Members of the group Carbon Free Palo Alto, which worked with staff and the council to develop new electrification programs, also supported the council's new plan to go carbon neutral by 2030. Group member Bret Andersen noted that this would put the city well ahead of California, which has a goal of carbon neutrality of 2045.

"We don't have that much time, and I think we are more focused on what we can do locally on a science-based goal over the next 10 years," Andersen said.

Burt and others argued that Palo Alto is particularly well positioned to go carbon-free. The city has its own municipal utility and if its pilot programs on electrification prove successful, they could be scaled up to serve even more customers. As part of its actions on Monday, the council approved a $7.7 million contract with the company Synergy for installation of heat pump water heaters at local homes.

Burt acknowledged that the switch to electrification poses a challenge for the city's aged electric grid, which will need to be gradually upgraded over the coming years. He suggested, however, that thanks to emerging technology like two-way chargers and low-watt appliances, the city can move ahead with its sustainability efforts while performing these upgrades.

"We're seeing these problems ahead of almost any other city," Burt said. "Because we have the highest electric vehicle adoption rate in the country … and we're beginning the home electrification program. So we've run into challenges that other cities will be facing in the coming years as they go through similar adoption cycles similar to what we've done."

Not everyone was convinced that electrification should be the top priority. Tanaka made the case for doubling down on transportation and providing incentives to residents to get around on electric bikes. Tanaka said that after calculating the costs of various carbon-reduction programs and the actual amount of greenhouse gas being reduced, he had determined that the city would get 7.3 times more carbon for the dollar with e-bike incentives than for the heat pump program.

"This has to do with just the fact that natural gas is a much smaller percentage of our carbon output than transportation," Tanaka said. "Transportation is the lion's share of it."

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now
Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Your support is vital to us continuing to bring you city government news. Become a member today.

Palo Alto shoots for carbon neutrality by 2030

Council hopes new heat pump program will accelerate city's electrification efforts

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 12:24 am

Seeking to make the city a model in the global battle against climate change, the Palo Alto City Council adopted on Monday night an ambitious goal of making the city carbon neutral by 2030.

The new target, which the council approved by a unanimous vote, builds on the city's existing goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2030, with 1990 as the baseline. So far, Palo Alto has reduced its emissions by about 50.6%, thanks in large part to its switch in 2013 to a fully carbon-free electricity portfolio.

But if you discount the impacts of the pandemic, which resulted in fewer drivers commuting to the city, the decrease in emissions is only about 42%, according to staff projections. Even as council members, staff from Public Works and Utilities departments and a growing contingent of community volunteers have spent the past 15 months crafting plans to cut emissions, actual progress on achieving these cuts has been glacial.

Now, the city is preparing to put these plans into action and speed up its transition to green energy. On Monday, the council voted 6-1, with Greg Tanaka dissenting, to approve one of its most significant sustainability programs to date. The program aims to have 1,000 residents replace their gas-powered water heaters with heat pump heaters by the end of 2023 by providing subsidies, on-bill financing and contracting services. Later this month, the council plans to update the city's building code and raise the requirements for electric-vehicle charging equipment in new commercial and multifamily developments.

The council also voted unanimously to approve the goals and key actions of the city's new Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, a document that will serve as a road map to carbon neutrality. According to the document, Palo Alto would need to effectively eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from single-family appliances for water heating, space heating, cooking and clothes drying. In nonresidential buildings, the city would need to electrify heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) units as well as cooking equipment and gas appliances.

With transportation accounting for an estimated 61.9% of its emissions, Palo Alto would have to get people to drive less and to encourage those who do to go electric. The sustainability plan suggests that the city would need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions related to transportation by at least 65% when compared to 1990. The council hopes to achieve this by aggressively promoting and supporting residents' purchase of electric vehicles, expanding the city's bicycle network and increasing the availability of transit and mobility services, according to the plan. This includes creating a bike- or scooter-share program, a service that the city has been exploring for years with little to show for it.

Despite the city's mixed record in recent years, Mayor Pat Burt offered some reasons for optimism, including the low cost of renewable energy and the advent of technology such as low-watt appliances, which make electrification cheaper and easier, and two-way chargers that allow electricity to flow from the vehicle to the grid. Once these chargers become more common, local car owners will be able to use their vehicles to power their homes or sell excess energy, making the grid more stable.

While the city is lagging behind its 80x30 goal, Burt argued that it remains well ahead of most other municipalities. And if Palo Alto manages to get close to an 80% reduction, it could close the remaining gap by purchasing carbon offsets as it works to implement new technology.

"We want to move toward more sequestration, we want to have more reductions. But actually hitting the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 is, compared to almost anybody else, much more doable in Palo Alto," Burt said.

The Monday meeting was the council's second hearing in two weeks on the topic of sustainability. But while the Sept. 27 meeting was devoted to broad overviews and didn't feature any votes, on Monday the council took numerous actions. These included creating a new citizen commission devoted to climate action. To date, much of the work on the topic has been done by a council ad hoc committee, which consists of Burt and council members Alison Cormack and Tom DuBois. That committee will remain in place for the time being, though both Cormack and council member Greer Stone supported creating a permanent commission with dedicated spots for local youths who are involved in combatting climate change.

"This is an eight-year project and we need people to dig in deep," Cormack said.

Some of the commission's potential members addressed the council Monday and encouraged the council to approve the heat pump water heater program and the Sustainability Climate Action Plan.

"The climate crisis put us a very tight timeline and right now we have the opportunity to continue the great progress we made in past decades," said Maya Perkashi, a member of the Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition. "Approving these key goals and actions from the Sustainability Climate Action Plan, particularly its carbon neutrality goals, its investment in electrification and its heat pump water programs, is crucial to this progress because electrification serves as the next great hurdle to significantly reducing our emissions."

Members of the group Carbon Free Palo Alto, which worked with staff and the council to develop new electrification programs, also supported the council's new plan to go carbon neutral by 2030. Group member Bret Andersen noted that this would put the city well ahead of California, which has a goal of carbon neutrality of 2045.

"We don't have that much time, and I think we are more focused on what we can do locally on a science-based goal over the next 10 years," Andersen said.

Burt and others argued that Palo Alto is particularly well positioned to go carbon-free. The city has its own municipal utility and if its pilot programs on electrification prove successful, they could be scaled up to serve even more customers. As part of its actions on Monday, the council approved a $7.7 million contract with the company Synergy for installation of heat pump water heaters at local homes.

Burt acknowledged that the switch to electrification poses a challenge for the city's aged electric grid, which will need to be gradually upgraded over the coming years. He suggested, however, that thanks to emerging technology like two-way chargers and low-watt appliances, the city can move ahead with its sustainability efforts while performing these upgrades.

"We're seeing these problems ahead of almost any other city," Burt said. "Because we have the highest electric vehicle adoption rate in the country … and we're beginning the home electrification program. So we've run into challenges that other cities will be facing in the coming years as they go through similar adoption cycles similar to what we've done."

Not everyone was convinced that electrification should be the top priority. Tanaka made the case for doubling down on transportation and providing incentives to residents to get around on electric bikes. Tanaka said that after calculating the costs of various carbon-reduction programs and the actual amount of greenhouse gas being reduced, he had determined that the city would get 7.3 times more carbon for the dollar with e-bike incentives than for the heat pump program.

"This has to do with just the fact that natural gas is a much smaller percentage of our carbon output than transportation," Tanaka said. "Transportation is the lion's share of it."

Comments

MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 7:54 am
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 7:54 am

How many of the people who are making the decisions for thousands of residents were present during the heat wave, with all of its power outages? I bet those without A/C were holed up in a fancy hotel, far away from the sweaty masses of people who had to stay here, without options.

"Seeking to make the city a model in the global battle against climate change" --- well if they can't build fiber optic internet that can circle the sun and all the planets, at least they can run all of the poor people out of Palo Alto altogether by 2030. Voila! No more housing crisis!

Just don't forget who delivers your Door Dash, or who manicures your lawn, or fixes your coffee every morning, or who takes your blood pressure at your concierge primary care doctor's office. They won't be able to live here and they won't be spending $10/gal to be at your beck and call.

Maybe there are going to be free Teslas for the low income workers who do all the heavy lifting for the privileged few? BTW ... there are fewer privileged people here than, say, during 1990. The noose is tightening especially over the last 9 months of double digit inflation.

And double digit inflation always seems to get stamped out, like a wildfire, when it's time to calculate the COLA for Social Security. It lowers just enough to make sure SSI, SSDI, and SS recipients will get screwed. People whose income is dependent on SS won't be buying electric cars or putting in a new water heater.

But these aren't issues for our elite CC. The best way for poor people to "Dig In Deep" is to keep raising the price of gas like we're experiencing. And the elite, who can pay whatever the market will bear, can buy whatever cars they want and buy gas in Mountain View.

My favorite part about this whole scheme: "As part of its actions on Monday, the council approved a $7.7 million contract with the company Synergy".

Follow the money.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:15 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:15 am

This is virtue signalling at best.

Palo Alto can't do anything but make gestures which often fall flat.

As an example, many months ago (maybe a year ago) work started at Charleston Plaza to put in EV charging station. That is still not available for anyone to charge. A couple of dozen tall shrubs were put in to hide the electrical boxes but these are now dead probably through lack of watering.

How many more of these mistakes will be made to make us net zero?

As I said, nothing more than virtue signalling.


Walter Sobchak
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:21 am
Walter Sobchak, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:21 am


Counterproductive.

The environment is actually too important to be left to environmentalists. They make a mess of things by working from a stale and often counterproductive playbook: more bureaucracy, more political control over people and resources, and endless costly lawsuits. The environmentalist movement and the regulation it spawns arguably retards environmental improvement and remediation throughout the world.

Modern environmental regulation is the most expensive species of regulation, routinely imposing billion-dollar solutions to million-dollar problems. The only resource environmentalists think is unlimited is other people’s money, not adhering to their own general principle that when you’re wasting resources you’re harming the environment in aggregate.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:46 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:46 am

“And if Palo Alto manages to get close to an 80% reduction, it could close the remaining gap by purchasing carbon offsets as it works to implement new technology.”

Purchasing offsets is very expensive virtue signaling, basically a City cash donation to another part of the world to meet a self imposed goal that last I heard, voters didn’t ask for.


Lorraine Nichols
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:00 am
Lorraine Nichols, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:00 am

Kudos to the PACC for their visionary efforts in making our planet a far less toxic environment in which to live.

A city comprised of all-electric homes and vehicles will be quiet, clean, and environmentally responsible.

Green is displayed prominently in Palo Alto's city logo and the PACC (with the possible exception of one member) is devoted to ensuring that Palo Alto continues to set a glowing standard for other cities to follow.

As we approach 2030 and beyond, there will be fewer internal combustion vehicles polluting our city and fewer gas stations as well. They will not be missed.

The results: plant foilage will be greener and the air considerably fresher than they are in today's toxic environment.

And with the phasing-out of all gas heaters and stoves, Palo Alto will also be less flammable and prone to explosions.

Years from now, former PACC members (with the possible exception of one former member) will be able to look back and credit themselves for taking Palo Alto into the next millennium, far ahead of countless cities still clinging to their anachronisms.

Like intrepid star travelers, the PACC has charted an infinite course for the future and only the human dinosaurs still clamoring for fossil fuels will be left behind.

The PACC is taking us where no man has ever been before.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:49 am
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:49 am

Synergy's website says this about electric water heaters: "Electric water heaters use an electric heating element to gradually heat the water in the tank. Of all water heaters these are the least efficient because of the electricity required to heat the water tank."

About the heat pump variety: "Heat pump water heaters are a great option for applications where gas fuel is not available. Like a traditional heat pump heating system, the system will extract heat from the ambient temperature in the air to maintain temperature within the tank. In the event there is not enough heat in the ambient air, the system will revert to an electrical backup to provide hot water."

They suggest we do what I used to do, which was let the sun provide the heat for the water. But Synergy goes it one step further on cold days, which is to provide electric heating -- and their own website says electric is the least efficient way to heat water.

Dig deep, residents. The cost of the hot water under this plan is the only thing that's scalding.

I'm already not using the gas in my place, but still have to pay fees to have a meter. Here I am trying to save the environment and get shot in the wallet for my efforts.

This scheme is kinda like that. If you can't get the ambient temperature to cooperate you will pay crazy fees for electric hot water. Web Link <--- synergy hot water heater website.


Judith Wasserman
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 4, 2022 at 10:25 am
Judith Wasserman, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 10:25 am

@MyFeelz: If you have no gas equipment, you can have your meter pulled and no longer pay that fee.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2022 at 10:33 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 10:33 am

@MyFeelz Watch — They’ll be loads of abandoned old gas burning hot water tanks along our streets — the hauler will just dump Willy nillly. These and tent homes! Numero uno — Face and fight climate with prevailing wages and homes for humans near good transit corridors. The CC was giddy w excitement over a new home gadget to show off at their cocktail parties. A fun factor home appliance.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 4, 2022 at 10:59 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 10:59 am

"Seeking to make the city a model in the global battle against climate change..." when ""We're seeing these problems ahead of almost any other city," Burt said. "Because we have the highest electric vehicle adoption rate in the country … and we're beginning the home electrification program."

Ok. PA's a model. Yay! Go collect the award(s) and stop the virtue signalling. How about making it a priority to having a workable electrical grid and demanding answers to Diana Diamond's quests about whether CPAU's ready for the increased demand??

How about undergrounding the wires so every balloon, fallen branch and squirrel doesn't knock out our power? How about upgrading the pathetic power outrage reporting system so we now how long we'll be powerless (irony intended)?

"the council approved a $7.7 million contract with the company Synergy for installation of heat pump water heaters at local homes."

That amount almost equals the proposed $9 million business tax! So glad we've got unlimited funds for this, a new city gym, $143,000,000 for fiber, beefing up the Junior City Museum and Zoo to cover revenue shortfalls, more bike lanes and road furniture, and an Uplift newsletter offering weekly recipes and tips on mindfulness, ,,,,,

Where's the common sense?? We're in a recession looking at declining sales tax revenues!


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:04 am
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:04 am

@JudithWasserman, I thought of that but especially after our heat wave last summer and its companion power outage, I have to give new respect to Mother Nature. For all I know, this winter we could face sub-zero weather with 3 feet of snow. Another test of our utility system, to show how icicles on power lines can leave us all in the dark and in the cold. I would hate to suffer from hypothermia while living indoors! The price of climate insecurity we will all suffer from sooner or later.

@Native, they could re-purpose the tanks by turning them into mini-silo storage units. A welding torch could do wonders with those spaces. Plant them all over town. Let anyone who wants one have free use, they just have to provide a lock. Besides, it would be such a badge of honor to see how Palo Alto went carbon-free. We could charge admission to come into the city limits! Tourists will be amazed. Kind of like all those Cadillacs planted in the dirt in Amarillo. Except the Cadillac Ranch charge no fees. But we are loftier than that. Web Link <--- Cadillac Ranch, a must-see if you are in the middle of nowhere and have nothing better to do.


El Duderino
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:07 am
El Duderino, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:07 am

Heat-pump water heaters require 1,000 cubic feet of surrounding air space (approximately a 12x12 foot room with a normal ceiling height) in order to operate efficiently. Any smaller than that and their efficiency drops precipitously due ineffective thermal conditions.

Show me all the old homes in Palo Alto with a room this big around their water heater. Many won't have it. Anyone with a gas water heater sitting in a small room (or a closet!) is in big trouble.

I really hope our city leaders are writing regulations such that changing out a water heater doesn't results in five-figure remodeling expenses for homes where adequate square footage simply isn't available. What will happen to homeowners whose houses simply can't accept a heat-pump water heater without significant and costly structural changes?

How about getting an energy credit for living in an older, smaller home? Large new homes with basements might be able to fit (or retrofit) more efficient and lower carbon-intensity appliance, but with their greater square footage and water use their overall energy consumption may be higher than an older, smaller home.

This isn't about politics, it's about physics.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:23 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:23 am

@El Duderino,

“Heat-pump water heaters require 1,000 cubic feet of surrounding air space (approximately a 12x12 foot room with a normal ceiling height) in order to operate efficiently. Any smaller than that and their efficiency drops precipitously due ineffective thermal conditions. “

What a visual - the city subsidizing or paying people with this kind of space in Palo Alto to switch. Wonder what the City will offer to “compete” with AT&T.




MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:35 am
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:35 am

@resident3, so far they are willing to cough up $144 million dollars to compete with AT&T ... if you want to hold the golden shovel to symbolize actual digging, they are having a raffle. Every one of the 700 or so people who bought tickets at $50/each to "show interest" is in the running.


Garry Wyndham
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:40 am
Garry Wyndham, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:40 am

These expensive programs are beyond the normal remit of local government.

PA CC should focus on cleaning streets, fixing potholes, burying utility wires and otherwise improving the local environment.


Garry Wyndham
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:43 am
Garry Wyndham, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:43 am

These expensive programs are beyond the normal remit of local government.

PA CC should focus their energies on fixing streets, schools and utilities. There’s plenty still to do.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 12:06 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 12:06 pm

You can say that again, Garry. PA is not so much a city anymore as it is a fiefdom. Or maybe it always has been.


Chris Zaharias
Registered user
another community
on Oct 4, 2022 at 1:25 pm
Chris Zaharias, another community
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 1:25 pm

It globally warms the cockles of my no-longer-living-in-PA heart to see that the tide of comments to articles like this one has *firmly* shifted from holier-than-thou climate alarmism, to realism and statements of fact, namely that PA’s leftist political class has no idea the harm they’re doing to people who aren’t independently wealthy.


Esther
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 4, 2022 at 1:32 pm
Esther, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 1:32 pm

@GarryWyndham and @OnlineName Nobody likes a power outage but undergrounding power lines is not suitable for all neighborhoods.
• “In addition to the capital cost, undergrounding may make routine maintenance of the system more difficult, and thus more expensive, because of reduced accessibility to power lines. This may also make it more difficult to repair the system when outages do occur, prolonging the duration of each outage.” Web Link and, "Can burying power lines protect storm-wracked electric grids? Not always " Web Link


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2022 at 1:54 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 1:54 pm

@Esther,

“not suitable for all neighborhoods. “

That’s how I feel about the Fiber project 100% non-need. At least undergrounding is not slated to be funded by the City borrowing money to do it.

How about let all mansions pay for their own heat pumps, keep the City out of my bills and let’s revive the pros and cons of undergrounding to see what makes sense. Oops, making sense won’t happen anytime soon apparently.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:09 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:09 pm

@Esther
Living in a long-undergrounded neighborhood, there doesn't seem to have been any maintenance difficulty issue. There is an savings from not having to prune trees near power/cable lines. However, if you're going to install new or upgraded service, my understanding is that the homeowner has to pay for the new underground conduit from the street connection to the house.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:26 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:26 pm

Look carefully before you vote as to which council candidate has been deeply involved in these recommendations to the council.

Recommendations which do not take into account many Palo Alton’s live in homes without a 12’ x 12’ room and thousands of spare dollars lying around for a compulsory new heat pump system.

Ironically, whose more modest older homes have a lifetime footprint that is minuscule compared to the embedded environmental impact of tearing down existing homes to replace them with multi-million dollar mansions, however many “ green” features are included.

There is nothing less sustainable than the lifetime environmental impact of all the concrete and raw materials required to replace an existing older house.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:47 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:47 pm

Re undergrounding, given that PA is largely flat and uniform, I don't see why some neighborhoods are suitable while others aren't. My neighborhood was undergrounded about 18-20 years ago and I remember paying about $8,500 then for the trenching from the house to the street.

And I agree with mjh re scraping modest old houses without air conditioning but nice thick old walls and replacing them with huge McMansions with their a/c, glass walls, 4+ bathrooms etc is counterproductive.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:55 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 2:55 pm

Somebody here suggested the City Council is going to save the planet, one hot water heater at a time. All it will do is force the working class out of PA entirely. First, they'll outlaw the cars they need to get to work. Then, the PACC will do what ... try to forcibly mandate landlords of multifamily buildings to build a new room to house these great heaters that only one local supplier can get their hands on, apparently? Will that be like the landlord directory mandate of 2002 the City Council already can't enforce? "Past CC Members" (ALL OF THEM) who were part of crafting that piece of local coding said they, too, were ensuring the housing safety of residents. But as we've recently learned, it's another "Emperor's New Clothing" tale being written by the current round of residents who are STILL being impacted by NON ENFORCIBLE city codes. Believe me, landlords are looking for creative ways to empty their buildings in order to raise ALL of the rents to astronomical amounts. A retrofit of the building is just the kind of launching pad they're looking for. EVERYBODY OUT! Forget the "relocation fees" that are also jokingly carved in stone right next to the one about the landlord directory. By local statute they can force everyone out under no-fault cause per page 37 of a PTC agenda (2021): "4.Intent to demolish or substantially remodel a unit. “Substantially remodel” means the replacement or substantial modification of any structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical system that requires a permit, or the abatement of hazardous material, including lead, mold or asbestos that cannot be reasonably accomplished in a safe manner with the tenant in the unit and that requires the tenant to vacate for more than thirty days. Cosmetic improvements alone, including painting, decorating, and minor repairs, do not qualify, nor does any work that can be done safely with the tenant in the unit." DOES IT REQUIRE A PERMIT?

I said earlier, follow the money.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2022 at 4:49 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 4:49 pm

@MyFeelz let’s face it, very affluent (full of it) SFH owners are really steaming mad that Cali & Feds are mandating climate controls w new build MFH’s before their turn. Mayor Burt laments “ it was soooo hot in Sept. We want our HVAC too without the $$29,000 plus price tag billed to owner. Badly paraphrased here, “ I thought PA is (was perfectly gold). when I relocated here, I was promised by my realtor, it would be temperate all day and all night long, year round. to sweeten the deal, “into infinity and beyond”. SOLD! Now bite that coin.

In such a un-honed emergency, no one , not one’s city action need be focused on anything else. I could make a comparison to an earlier darker time, like 80 years ago. Yet it’s dark out now.our SFH comforts are primary, (you know like Prop 13 was a selfesh rationale for rising SFH tax)and climate and housing come after. Long after. I was struck by the overuse and general term “community” that this sparkling, new appliance was desperately needed for, Who??? Next they’ll vote for themselves for a new Tesla house roof. Could anything get any worse, blatant , egregious, self centered. No CC said iota of how much improved prop value it brings. This town is what the Internet is; a suspension of disbelief.


Paly Grad
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 4, 2022 at 4:55 pm
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 4:55 pm

Let’s start with something that’s actually doable in the short term! There is a real need to support the transition from gas powered leaf blowers to electric leaf blowers. Each and every move in this direction will reduce both air pollution and noise pollution!


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Oct 4, 2022 at 5:49 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 5:49 pm

Aha but @Native the CC is very cagey in their lack of discussion of "What Ever Shall We DO" about the RENTERS? (Clutching at pearls in desperation!) PA has almost 50% renters, except there's no registry to prove it. Are we supposed to think the CC is pointing their gaze at only single family homes for these new water pumps? Were the SFH's pointed yonder to the Mitchell facility as a (poorly planned, poorly executed) "cooling room"? Of course not. Anyone with eyes and $$ knew that was the signal to get outta town. The CC was probably forewarned about all of the missteps that would lead to MULTIPLE outages that didn't happen anywhere but here. And now the answer is to collect the ambient heat to not only heat your water, but cool your house on a hot day? Sorry, as a once-removed Texan due to global warming, living inside a swamp cooler is not a liveable existence. "I got some ocean property in Arizona, from my front porch I can see the sea..." borrowing from a Country Song, you are under the spell of a sweet talking Real Estate agent and you are a victim! Can you sue for this?? I too am here for the temperate micro climate that is touted here (though, being born here it's kinda easy to say I'm more used to this than living in the boiler room called TX). I just believe, and will say again, this is part of the plan of which low income folks aren't privy to. The best way to corral 'em and move the herd is take away their car keys and evict them for no cause except to rehab the building so it will be CARBON NEUTRAL. And we already know the permitting process takes more than 30 days. Landlords are watching. See if the landlord registry doesn't show volunteers signing up day and night, so they can empty their buildings to put in a new water heater. PACC will say they did it to get the registry completed (though it's been on their task list for 20 years). Now see if they enforce the relocation awards to evicted tenants!


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2022 at 6:10 pm
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 6:10 pm

"Mayor Pat Burt offered some reasons for optimism, including the low cost of renewable energy"

The Mayor might be referring to the low cost of production. For the end customer green electriciy costs increases are on par (if not more) than other non green sources.


d page
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 4, 2022 at 7:17 pm
d page, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 7:17 pm

"We have the highest Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption rate in the country … and we're beginning the home electrification program." The EV adoption rate has almost nothing to do with City government efforts, and the electrification has yet to begin - 16 years after the Palo Alto Green Ribbon Task Force wrote about a "moral imperative" to halt climate pollution.

A lot of "talking the talk" continues, but what does the City do to spread awareness about the lethal urgency? Where is the educational program regarding cows burping, or jet engines burning kerosene, etc.?

I continue to hear vague words such as "goals", "emissions", and "climate", but not more easily understandable vocabulary such as "death", "pollution", and "weather". If the City won't provide graphic, yet accurate, information about the misery connected to our everyday (yet invisible) releases of various gaseous pollutants, why will Palo Alto residents see any need to change behavior?

ps - the first 3 cars in the photo above are a Tesla, a Leaf, and another Tesla. There's no Volt shown.


James
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:08 pm
James, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:08 pm

It looks like Electrify America EV charges at Charleston Plaza are almost ready for use.


James
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:19 pm
James, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 8:19 pm

Here's a Rheem heat pump spec sheet. My interpretation is that you can use a duct to reduce the space required.
Web Link

Rheem residential heat pump web page -
Web Link


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:50 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:50 pm

Here is the real data de Ja vu. Mayor Burt spearheaded the Mayfield Agreement between Stanford & the City . The City got a soccer field w a petroleum smelly turf. Stanford got the former Mayfield Elementary site (historic). Where before a school, cows were corralled from top of old Page Mill. Stanford also got 165 high end units above Cal Ave, now Stanford Terrace. The City GOT all electric, super low end 71 units of low bottom units of ALL electric, all ADA designed floor plans 4 us hard working service working families who mostly are not ADA residents. Cupboards covered in vinyl & fall off the “hidden” hinges, carpets 100%petroleum based, electric boilers that don’t work, household appliances that crack & broke in months, rents that get raised 12% a year. Segue (the demonstrative Co. that Berkeley dealt w 6 tragic deaths 4 a waterlogged balcony in 2015). Yeah. Mayfield Place near did not open. My two small children were unhoused for a month after a year of draconian, arduous lease up. Because? They made some bad 3rd party errors!! In the final 6 months of completion, every code was shorted by 2” in each unit to save w/out viable, secure parking or family sized washers or a true community space to stretch out.. Dollars were saved at the expense of families growing, being, living, thriving. What residents now have is a half completed unit that imbibes a temporary camping out situation, until something better comes along. Yet. nothing better — is waiting forever to 4 nothing. Short changed in an environment that has no absolutes, clueless as to what & who or where humans evolve, grow & become. Yeah. I am pissed. Tax credit bldg that is getting dividends by shorting the sq ft, where the bank loans cannot measure. So much for family, so much for inclusion, so much 4 life. It’s a 21st Century “warm” water flats. And lease violations & cruel Related management oversees it. By all means: Build your Hudson NYC Yard, Related! Yet, give us hard laborers achance to live.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:58 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 11:58 pm

[Post removed. Successive comments by same poster are not permitted.]


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2022 at 12:15 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 12:15 am

[Post removed. Successive comments by same poster are not permitted.]


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2022 at 4:11 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 4:11 am

[Post removed. Successive comments by same poster are not permitted.]


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2022 at 5:09 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 5:09 am

[Post removed. Successive comments by same poster are not permitted.]


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Oct 5, 2022 at 7:20 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 7:20 am

@James and others. Check out Sherry Listgarten's excellent blog here, where she has posted extensively about the practical aspects of installing a HPWH, including closet installations using a duct to access more air.


MyFeelz
Registered user
another community
on Oct 5, 2022 at 11:28 am
MyFeelz, another community
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 11:28 am

@N to the B, there are alternatives with LIHTC properties, to make real change on that front. It can be done by contacting the CTCAC to request an inspection. They are the governing agency that regulates tax credit buildings. One caveat: I don't recommend this if you have children, because part of "real change" may end up with you living on the street. Search this document to see if your housing developer is in compliance: Web Link PS I didn't know we have a PA rent stabilization petition. Isn't that an East PA thing?

@Mondoman, I think the contract the city has made will determine what type of equipment will be installed. Though it doesn't prevent anyone from buying a different type and having a licensed contractor install it and a licensed electrician wire it up ... but the permitting could be a nightmare for anyone BUT the chosen golden contractor named in the $7.7 million contract. Can't say for sure, but some here who have already investigated getting it done by anybody but Synergy suggest it will be daunting. Maybe Sherry can suggest something.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 5, 2022 at 11:44 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 11:44 am

Read Diana Diamond's excellent blog about all the non-answers she's gotten from city officials about the city's readiness to meet increased demands for electricity.

Web Link

All such costly virtue-signalling projects should be put on hold until our "leaders" provide some concrete answers. Sloganeering doesn't keep the lights on, something all Palo Altans expect.

How about spending the money on fixing the electrical grid instead of wasting $143,000,000 on the risky unproven fiber project.


Sherry Listgarten
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Oct 5, 2022 at 3:34 pm
Sherry Listgarten, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 3:34 pm

@MyFeelz: Mondoman and James are right, closet installations are very common and one way to do it is to duct the inlet and/or outlet of the heat pump water heater. Most (but not all) closet installations that I've seen do that. Others just have louvers in the door/wall, as shown in the spec that James links to. The city's program includes proper ventilation.

@ElDuderino is right that if you install a HPWH in a small, unvented space, it will run very inefficiently. That is also true if you install one that is too small for your needs, since it will end up using the electric resistance a lot. (That element uses 3300-6600 watts instead of 400 watts). But his claim that you need a 12x12 room is not correct.

I think that, because the city is investing so much in this program, you are unlikely to get cheaper and/or better service by hiring your own contractor. One possible exception is SunWork, which does simple installs for around $4500, which comes out a little below the city's $2700 price with their $2300 rebate. If you have a simple garage installation, you might call SunWork instead. But there is no reason afaict for a resident not to sign up for the city's HPWH program. At worst, you will learn that your water heater is difficult/costly to electrify and that's still useful for you (and the city) to know. That's my 2c.


SteveDabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2022 at 4:40 pm
SteveDabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 5, 2022 at 4:40 pm

The point that is not ever mentioned in these dreamscape aspirations of the city council, and others who believe so whole heartedly in this project, is that it will have no effect on global warming whatever, not one iota, zero, zilch!

Another one of those "if everyone does it it will have an big effect" propositions, except that is probably false and everyone is not going to do it. Global warming is probably a done deal and thinking more in terms of measures to take to deal with the results would be far more useful than blowing large sums on wishful thinking projects.

The Council would be better off spending their time figuring out how to fix the potholes!


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2022 at 2:20 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2022 at 2:20 pm

If only I had a spare closet or a soft of spare corner in a garage that rent burdened family members were not using to "crash" while they work low-wage service jobs in-between 3 hour commutes. If only my all electric 5 year-old sub par stove worked and my electricity did not surge. If only there was a life quality. Planned obsolescence has been foisted on the poor. Yet are there repair warranties on these heat/cooling pumps? It's so ironic that when gas fired water heaters were introduced 100 years ago, they'd be plopped in a kitchen corner or special little hut would have to be constructed. Now 100 years later there are not even huts for humans. 50 years ago renting was not great investment in California. Now it's near non-existent, for 160,000 unhooked individuals in California. This is the climate crisis !! These humans are at the brunt of the calamity. Are there batter packed or electric generated heat/cooling pumps one can carry on the shoulder for those in tents under freeways and along train tracks and our waterways and in our gutters. It's really an emergency situation. But I hope ya'll are cool and warmed by your new appliance in your nicely manicured walled in shelter !


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Oct 12, 2022 at 11:50 pm
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2022 at 11:50 pm

Palo Alto ought to turn off or turn down a few lights at night, and encourage businesses to do so too.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 13, 2022 at 3:38 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2022 at 3:38 pm

Until Palo Alto bites the bullet and spends the $$$ necessary to expand the capacity of its city-owned power grid and make it far more reliable and robust, any plans to increase electricity consumption soon are not just crazy, they're laughable. And don't forget. Palo Alto also has to spend megabucks installing four below grade rail crossings along Alma to prevent traffic jam madness --- soon.


Ryan
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2022 at 11:19 pm
Ryan, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2022 at 11:19 pm

Anyone who is serious about evaluating "green energy" needs to read the book "Sustainable Energy – without the hot air" By David MacKay. Look it up, it will open your eyes. The book is available online as a free PDF. David MacKay is a physics professor from Cambridge and Caltech. This was his life's mission. You will never forget the book once you read it.


Larry
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2022 at 7:06 pm
Larry, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2022 at 7:06 pm

"And if Palo Alto manages to get close to an 80% reduction, it could close the remaining gap by purchasing carbon offsets as it works to implement new technology."

Here we go with the carbon offsets again. Please remember that we ALREADY pay for offsets to make our natural gas carbon-neutral, and have been doing so since 2017.

Web Link

But the contribution of these natural gas offsets is conveniently omitted from the City's GHG emissions arithmetic, as if they don't even exist! So Mr. Burt, I respectfully suggest that if offsets don't count towards our supposedly "carbon-neutral" natural gas, they shouldn't count elsewhere for reducing the 80% goal gap.

Alternatively, if you do believe offsets are a valid mechanism for mediating GHG emissions, then please apply the existing gas offsets to the current GHG reduction plan. Per Figure 1 of the SCAP, it would drop emissions by 27%.

Web Link


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.