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Bay Area to begin phasing out gas heaters this decade

Uploaded: Mar 15, 2023

In a momentous and likely highly influential vote at the end of a six-hour meeting on Wednesday, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) voted to ban the sale of gas heaters. More specifically, water heaters and boilers that emit any nitrogen oxides (NOx) cannot be sold or installed if manufactured after 2026, and the same for gas furnaces manufactured after 2028. (1) While theoretically NOx-free gas heaters are allowed, they do not exist and all indications are that replacements will be electric. This ban is conditional on a determination of “equitable outcomes”, with a focus on low-income households. A working group will evaluate that condition and adjust dates or requirements as needed. An earlier blog post outlines the proposal in more detail.

The vote was nearly unanimous, with 20 of the 21 directors who were present voting yes and one abstaining. Well over 90% of the 200 speakers who commented in person or on Zoom at the meeting advocated for the ban. Some were physicians concerned about the health impacts of nitrogen oxides. For example, an OB/GYN doctor talked about how she helps pregnant women adopt healthy habits but has little control over the often polluted air that they breathe. The doctors all encouraged the board to reduce disease and save lives.

Some speakers were students concerned about their own or their relatives’ asthma. One talked about how he loves to play sports with his siblings, but their asthma makes it difficult for them to enjoy sports. Eighth graders from the Urban Promise Academy in Oakland spoke about a survey they had done at school that found that 16% of the 163 respondents had asthma and 31% had a relative with it. Some speakers were parents or grandparents concerned about their kids’ future. Renters spoke up who were glad to have a policy that would reduce their building emissions, since they could not do it themselves.

Representatives from environmental organizations advocated for clean air, noting the equity impacts and the fact that we are out of compliance with our own air quality standards many days a year in the Bay Area, which has some of the dirtiest air in the nation. A representative from the EPA mentioned that those standards are being tightened further and this policy will help the Bay Area to comply. Other speakers were concerned about global warming and eager to reduce our burning of fossil fuels. One speaker talked about how he grew up in Virginia where household heating was clean electric. He was shocked to find after moving to California that we use dirty gas-burning heat.

Of the few speakers who spoke against the policy, there were concerns about cost; about grid reliability (some had no power still today from yesterday’s storms); about the disruption to tenants of multi-family housing if the building had to switch from gas to electric heat; about the space requirements for electric heat; about the time needed for panel upgrades; and about the “complicated nightmare” of updating very old homes. One owner of a large apartment building said he is on year 3 of an update that so far has cost $1 million and he is still waiting for PG&E to provide the necessary service.

I found the public comments to be moving and interesting. Some speakers may have been misled that this proposal would improve indoor air quality (it generally won’t), or cure asthma (it affects only 5% of NOx emissions in the Bay Area), or leave their gas stoves and fireplaces intact (plummeting gas demand is likely to make them unaffordable). But nevertheless most were eager to move forward into a future with cleaner air and reduced emissions, and trust the BAAQMD to ensure that the mandate is affordable and equitable. All speakers were respectful and thoughtful and used their one minute well.

After the public comment, the 21 directors in attendance took turns speaking. All felt strongly about reducing air pollution, which is the charter of BAAQMD. Director Brian Barnacle spoke about how this ruling would give time and certainty to equipment manufacturers, inspiring entrepreneurs and catalyzing innovation to reduce NOx emissions. Vice Chair Davina Hurt of Belmont said that the timing would allow the area to be “first in line” for federal money. Vicki Veenker of Palo Alto noted that with the long lifetime of these appliances, full compliance wouldn’t be until 2046 or so. “We have time to get this right.” Sergio Lopez of Campbell enthused about the ability to influence others with this ruling. “This is a region where we do big things… We will be the first, but I guarantee we won’t be the last.” Lynda Hopkins of Sonoma County similarly expressed excitement about “disruptive, radical, transformative change”.

But some highlighted relevant cautions as well. Tyrone Jue of San Francisco hammered on the need to get PG&E committed to and successfully supporting this effort with regard to grid capacity, electrical upgrades, reliability, and responsiveness, and others concurred. Mark Ross of Martinez talked about the importance of making the wide and confusing array of incentives accessible. Margaret Abe-Koga of Mountain View said it is important for this to work well in cities like hers that have rent control.

Juan Gonzalez of San Leandro highlighted implementation challenges, including getting adequate power to homes, responding quickly to replace a broken heater, and preventing unpermitted work by unskilled contractors. He worried that some regions that would benefit least (e.g., sparsely populated areas without much NOx from buildings) might bear undue costs. And he clarified that eliminating building NOx is hardly a panacea when it comes to asthma. And yet he supports sending this market signal to see how technology and workforce will respond, and trusts the two-year checkpoint reports to avoid big problems.

Ray Mueller of San Mateo County, the lone abstainer, read a letter from Peninsula Clean Energy, a local Community Choice Agency working very hard to equitably electrify buildings, with concerns that he shares. Costs to electrify buildings can be very high and are highly variable. The grid in many areas is not reliable, particularly in the coastal communities that he and Peninsula Clean Energy represent. PG&E improvements to the grid are not happening at the pace needed, and the alternative of battery storage is expensive and in short supply. They believe San Mateo County will need additional money from BAAQMD in order to comply, based on their experience. Mueller is skeptical that adequate technology will be available in just four years to handle the diversity of electrification needs. (I think of replacements for tankless water heaters as one example, though they get an additional four years.) Moreover, if a sufficiently large and trained workforce doesn’t exist, Mueller worries that greater demand will increase rather than decrease rates, as it has done with building contractors in his area, pushing up housing costs beyond reasonable values. He says BAAQMD isn’t appropriately anticipating the “amazing amount of contractors” and training that will be needed. Mueller says he is fully committed to working hard to make this a success, but he is very concerned about the scale of the effort that will be required, the potential cost burden on the middle class, and the significant negative impacts that can occur if the Implementation Working Group doesn’t execute perfectly.

I find myself wondering how many of the board members have attempted to electrify their own homes. It is not always simple or cheap. Many are optimistic about the power of capitalism to respond to the mandate and lower costs, but others noted the long length of time it took to develop electric vehicles. Houses are complex and varied. Gonzalez seems aware of all of these risks, and ultimately trusts the built-in process to slow things down if equitable outcomes cannot be ensured. Whether that protects the middle class, Mueller’s concern, remains to be seen.

The critical next step is to create an effective Implementation Working Group to enumerate and make progress on these issues. The group will be able to lean on many high-level state senators and representatives who are strongly supportive of this effort. There is funding from multiple sources. And there are some aggressive local efforts driving electrification in Palo Alto, Peninsula Clean Energy, and Silicon Valley Clean Energy territories that will help suss out issues of cost and complexity. This is going to be a very informative and interesting next few years. This vote is just the start.

Notes and References
0. The staff report, a fact sheet, infographics, and more can be found here. The presentation from the meeting can be found here.

1. Bigger water heaters have a 2031 deadline, and even bigger ones are exempt entirely at this point. Propane heat is exempted as is gas heat in mobile homes.

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

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Comments

Posted by eileen , a resident of another community,
on Mar 15, 2023 at 8:45 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Having electrified my small townhome, I am well aware of the time and money it takes to do this. I find myself agreeing with Mueller and his concerns. I also support his focus on working to make this a success for everyone, especially those less well off financially. Mueller hopes that the Implementation Working Group will execute perfectly. That is perhaps overly optimistic.


Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 2:35 am

Mondoman is a registered user.

Interesting wording:
"More specifically, water heaters and boilers that emit any nitrogen oxides (NOx) cannot be sold or installed if manufactured after 2026, and the same for gas furnaces manufactured after 2028."

Does this mean that one could stockpile a replacement gas-fired water heater or furnace manufactured before the cutoff and legally have it installed some years later?


Posted by krobinson, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 11:13 am

krobinson is a registered user.

When my gas boiler died last year, I tried to replace it with an electric one. My house (built in 2010) uses the water heater for sinks and showers, but also to heat the water that runs through the wall radiators that heat the home. This requires 125º water. I was told by several contractors that there are no electric water heaters on the market that would get the water hot enough to heat the home. Apparently, radiant floor heating uses 105º water, and can work on electric. But not my wall radiators.

I was disappointed. I installed solar panels the year before in an effort to electrify the home. Now I find I can electrify my dryer, stove, even my car.... But not my home heating, which is the largest consumer of gas in my home.

This is just one example of how complicated it can be to electrify one's house.

Still, I applaud this vote, and my hope is that it will indeed spur innovation so that, in 15 years when this hot water boiler finally dies, there will be an electric hot water heater that will work for my house!


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 2:14 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@krobinson, one option might be to replace the radiators with fan coils like these, which work with lower temperature water. (They also have the benefit of both heating and cooling.) Or maybe Chiltrix or Harvest Thermal can be tuned to work with radiators and not just radiant floors. Much of this technology is standard in other parts of the world. I've heard from some frustrated Europeans about this. Few contractors here know about this tech and even fewer are comfortable with it. This ruling can help to attract more of this technology and skilled workforce to the Bay Area.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 2:17 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Mondoman, you ask about the potential for a black market in gas appliances. Good question. I answered this on the older blog post, but putting it here as well along with responses to the other comments there. It also addresses the cost and time issue that @eileen raises.

Thanks all for sharing your thoughts. I was hoping for more feedback from people who are excited about this, but at least one did weigh in (@PeterDavis), and I have a couple of comments on that since my perspective has changed some.

A couple of you worry about the ability of the grid to support this effort. That’s a reasonable worry, though the load from EVs is much bigger. The different thing about heating is that it often happens in the early morning, which is not when we have a lot of clean energy right now, and it’s not especially flexible. Off-shore wind will help, more geothermal will help, batteries will help. The people operating the grid are not unaware of all of this. BAAQMD cited an E3 report that they relied on, which you can find here.

I’ve written about the efforts to expand our grid before, for example here. The CPUC doesn’t appear to be taking its foot off the pedal. Just recently they announced a need for another 4 GW of net qualifying capacity, and the CEC announced the need to keep Diablo Canyon online. In the meantime, CAISO approved an extended day-ahead market across a wide area of the west. These are all big moves to shore up reliability. So it can’t be said that the agencies involved are not paying attention.

Grid capacity is not one of my worries. But the distribution grid (the lines to our homes), yes. We need to make better use of what we have (panels, transformers) and expand it where needed.

Some of you wonder about the analysis for the health impacts, and ask whether BAAQMD just made something up to serve their own purposes. BAAQMD mentioned in the meeting, and they write in this report, that they used models and analysis that the EPA recommends.

A couple of you wonder if this is the best, most cost-effective way to address NOx pollution or even health issues. @BarronParkDenizen says: “Society (again, you and I) doesn't have unlimited resources. If saving lives is a useful goal, how do we benefit the most people? An indirect attack on NOx and PM2.5 probably isn't what one would come up with.”

I think this is a good question. It might be easier and cheaper to electrify all diesel trucks or construction vehicles than it is to electrify all houses. That gets to a strange thing about this whole proceeding. BAAQMD is not responsible for regulating mobile sources of nitrogen oxides. And they seem to have omitted greenhouse gas reductions from their value proposition because of the possibility that people could choose zero-NOx gas appliances. So the analysis leaned entirely on NOx, but it’s not clear to me that they would have taken this same action without the other benefits from electrifying buildings. It is electrification that needs a long lead-time, not so much updating gas appliances. That doesn’t mean this action is wrong, but it may mean that the reasoning was more contorted than it needed to be.

Some of you worry about costs. That is in my opinion a big concern. Some electrification projects are straight-forward and others are anything but. My uncle is electrifying an older Menlo Park house, switching from a gas furnace to heat pumps. He had to upgrade his electric panel, then redo the attic insulation, then replace all of his ducts, but he is still having trouble getting the house sufficiently warm despite hiring an experienced contractor. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of money, and it’s still a work in progress. Certainly some of this was deferred maintenance, but the project keeps getting more expensive and he wasn’t prepared for that. One glimmer of hope is that the BAAQMD board said that they would lean on other agencies as needed, and in particular they can lean on the CPUC to lower electric rates for middle-class and lower-income people. (This would raise rates for wealthier people and people with solar. I’ll write about it more in a future blog.) But I think Mueller is right to worry about the middle-class, since much of the money and focus is on low-income households.)

In that vein, @Mondoman asks about propane and, in another thread, about buying and stashing away gas appliances for future use. BAAQMD also mentioned the possibility of a black market for purchasing and installing gas appliances if they don’t do this right, and they want to avoid that. It is not safe, among other things.

@PeterDavis, who supports this ruling, suggests that it’s selfish of people to want to hold onto their gas heater when it might exacerbate someone’s asthma. I think that’s a stretch. We all do all kinds of things that hurt people and animals and our planet every day. It doesn’t help the conversation to righteously call people selfish imo.

That said, he also says that he disagrees with me that we should move more slowly, and I am coming around to that. This ruling is not fast by any means. It just puts a stake in the ground that helps to attract money and encourage the industry to move a little faster. There are safeguards in place to adjust the policy as needed. If you believe, as I do, that we need to get gas out of homes, then this ruling can only help. It is never going to happen fast. These appliances last too long for that. But maybe now we can make real progress in my lifetime.

Again, thanks for the great conversation. This ruling is a very big deal. Now we need to understand the reality of building electrification in a lot more detail.


Posted by Asher Waldfogel, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

I support gas to electric transition, but I don't support this vote or the CC's recent ban on gas hot water heaters.

The first problem with both is it leaves huge stranded costs in gas systems unaddressed. The right way to switch without stranding system costs is to schedule sunset for gas services district-by-district as facilities are depreciated. We can't just allow customers to opt out of system costs that were incurred on their behalf. (Thought experiment: if Stanford University could generate all their electricity on campus, should they be exempt from transmission system upgrades statewide?)

The second problem is both decisions are sticks when carrots would be more appropriate. There aren't heat pump options for all conditions on the market today. They will emerge, but it should be a Statewide or Western Regional decision, not a City or Bay Area decision.

The third issue is that something as material as gas to electric transition should be an explicit legislative action, not an administrative decision from an agency reinterpreting its charter. Did BAAQMD show gas furnace replacement has the highest return of any dollar spent on NoX? Or just that it was the highest return within their non-mobile-source jurisdiction?

What it all adds up to is we need a purposeful approach to shift investment away from gas systems to electrification, but instead we're on a track to invest heavily in electrification while we continue to maintain a gas system for another 25 years. It's not sustainable to have customers electrifying and reducing their electric bills to pennies based on daytime solar generation while they lean on the grid all night for heat and cooling.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 3:21 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Asher, which city has banned gas water heaters? The only thing I'm aware of in Palo Alto is a very big incentive plus full service installation if you want to try a heat pump water heater. But maybe the talking about another city?


Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 5:56 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

@Sherry Thanks as always for the extensive links and background research you've presented.

Regarding stockpiling gas appliances, I was referring to legal, licensed installation of those appliances rather than a black market. The wording mentioned indicates to me that installation of previously-manufactured appliances would still be allowed, presumably to allow suppliers to exhaust their existing stock. Thus, if someone bought a gas appliance in say 2027 and stashed it until their water heater failed in 2030, it sounds like it would be legal to have it installed then. I don't see how that would be unsafe, as all the usual Code and installation rules would still apply.


Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 6:13 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Here's the wording itself:
"301.5 No person shall sell, install, or offer for sale within the District any natural gas-
fired storage tank water heater that is manufactured after January 1, 2027,
with a rated heat input rating of 75,000 BTU/hour or less, that emits more than
0 nanograms of nitrogen oxides (calculated as NO2) per joule of heat output.
This subsection shall not apply to mobile home water heaters."

To me that indicates that it's fine to buy, sell or install a gas water heater in 2028, 2030 or even later just as long as it was manufactured by the end of 2026. This may be an important loophole.

On another aspect, it seems disingenuous that the gas appliances that directly emit NOx into living (and breathing!) spaces -- stoves -- are exempted. That suggests to me that the professed health concerns are not serious and the whole scheme is just a roundabout way of trying to force electrification. This is the type of action that prompts public distrust of our regulatory bodies.


Posted by Asher Waldfogel, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 6:51 pm

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

Sherry

Here's the language in the PA Muni Code adopted last Fall:

16.14.110 Section 4.509 Water heater replacement.
Section 4.509 of Chapter 4 of the California Green Building Standards Code is added to read:
4.509 Water heater replacement. For existing residential building remodels or additions where the gas water heater is replaced or new water heater is added, the new water heater shall be a heat pump water heater (HPWH).


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 16, 2023 at 8:52 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Asher, thanks for that. Palo Alto requires electric water heaters in new construction, and this was a recent modification to also require them in remodels or additions. So to clarify, it's fine to replace a water heater with a gas one if other major construction isn't happening, which is the most common case.

BTW, I agree with your comment that we need to be thinking about how to shut down the gas system. That is why the utilities said they would have liked to see all gas appliances included in this, not just space and water heaters. I don't think BAAQMD was especially transparent that all gas appliances will have to go in order to avoid prohibitively expensive gas rates.

@Mondoman, what they said in the meeting was they were writing the rule based on installation date so that vendors wouldn't be stuck with inventory. They didn't mention potential for stocking up on and warehousing these. I think at some point they would not permit installation of these, and it will get increasingly expensive to buy, install, operate, and maintain gas equipment. But we'll see.

BTW, I think it's true that this is less about NOx and more about electrification despite how it was presented, and I don't love that either. But the Bay Area is a good place to start with electrifying buildings and I expect BAAQMD was the easiest vehicle available to make it happen. I think it's easier to justify this kind of political maneuver the more critical you think it is that we reduce emissions. I don't love it but I can stomach it. In general, though, I think BAAQMD and proponents were less transparent about several things than they could and should have been. And that was evident in the many misguided comments from speakers. But that may just mean that I'd be a very ineffective politican...


Posted by Asher Waldfogel, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 17, 2023 at 4:03 am

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.

Sherry, you are probably right it's more about electrification than about NoX. Which is why I strongly oppose this process. We are beset with regional agencies that can't get important things done in a timely way (roads, bridges, rail, housing) and building electrification was not added to BAAQMD's brief in a public way.

My recollection is that electrifying diesel trucks is much higher impact and more cost-effective than anything in buildings, especially since the useful life is much shorter than for building systems.

I think we need a very public discussion about how much money to spend maintaining safe gas systems until we discontinue gas service and whether there are any stranded costs owed by subscribers when canceling gas service. The only feasible and fair approach I see is to schedule end-of-service based on useful life of infrastructure facilities, not to piecemeal the demand side with subscriber equipment that takes decades to retire.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Mar 17, 2023 at 11:58 am

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

I just endured yet another multi day power outage, which was rendered somewhat more tolerable by the ability to use a gas powered generator to run my gas furnace. Both of these appliances, which are used to provide a minimum level of habitability during power outages, will soon be illegal to purchase in California.

Words cannot express the seething rage that I feel towards the Very Smart People who, in service to their great god of green power, and with complete disregard for the practicalities of our infrastructure, are continuing with their plans to impoverish and immiserate Californians.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 17, 2023 at 5:31 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

If you are interested, they have posted the video of the meeting. Some timestamps that might be of interest:

2:49:07 -- a citizen speaking up about why they are supporting this (1 min)
2:50:10 -- a PG&E spokesperson sharing their concerns about the remaining gas appliances (1 min)
2:56:22 -- an apartment manager sharing his concerns (1 min)
3:24:50 -- a senior in an old home saying why she supports this (1 min)
4:14:05 -- BAAQMD Director Tyrone Jue (San Francisco) sharing his thoughts, especially about PG&E (4 min)
4:33:30 -- BAAQMD Director Juan Gonzalez (San Leandro) sharing his thoughts (8 min)
5:11:12 -- BAAQMD Director Ray Mueller (San Mateo County) sharing his thoughts (13 min)
5:40:28 -- BAAQMD Director John Gioia (Contra Costa County) sharing his thoughts (10 min)

If there are other specific board members you would like to hear, let me know and I am happy to share the timestamp.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community,
on Mar 17, 2023 at 10:58 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

It appears gas-fired _tankless_ water heaters will also still be OK as per the language of 301.5 that @Mondoman posted, which specifically only applies to “any natural gas-fired storage tank water heater that is manufactured after January 1, 2026 ..."


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 18, 2023 at 9:17 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Reality, thanks for that important correction.

FWIW, here is what is says about tankless water heaters in the lengthy pdf report:

Finally, tankless water heaters are classified under Section 9-6-303.5, meaning that natural gas-fired tankless water heaters that are manufactured up to January 1, 2031 can continue to be installed under the proposed rule amendments. Tankless residential water heaters are not subject to the compliance date of January 1, 2027 in Section 9-6-301.5. Tankless heat pump technology exists and is on the market today but typically serves smaller loads. This technology is expected to improve over time and an updated evaluation of
its efficacy will be included in the interim reporting to the Board of Directors that is required by the proposed rule amendments.


So it looks like they are subject to the 2030 date but not 2026.


Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Mar 18, 2023 at 3:15 pm

MichaelB is a registered user.

"Words cannot express the seething rage that I feel towards the Very Smart People who, in service to their great god of green power, and with complete disregard for the practicalities of our infrastructure, are continuing with their plans to impoverish and immiserate Californians."


The "Very Smart People" are looking and sounding more and more like people that we used to call communists. How "successful" has communism been?

"Reduce emissions" and "saving the planet" are their newest excuses (not "benefits") to create a regulatory state and micromanage every aspect of our lives - for their utopian version of "common good". They are already trying to centrally plan economic activity with so called "green jobs" regardless of the new regulations/taxes imposed that cost other jobs/reduce economic growth. How long is it going to be before individuals and their residences will be monitored, locked down, or subsequently punished to make sure their activity is "carbon free" and/or "net zero"?


Posted by BobB, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Mar 20, 2023 at 10:53 am

BobB is a registered user.

I agree that eventually switching buildings to electric from gas will be beneficial, but what I don't see in this article is a consideration of how much of the electricity generation will need to be gas, and just move the problem from one place to another.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 20, 2023 at 2:59 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@BobB, thanks for the question. Do you know, I don’t worry about that much. California is aggressively cleaning up its power. In 2019 it had an emissions target of 44 MMT (million metric tons) for the sector by 2030. (For reference, California’s total emissions in 2020 was 369 MMT and 60 of that was for the power sector.) In 2022 California set a more aggressive target of 35 MMT by 2032. There is a lot of planning that goes into those targets. The full decision is here, a summary is here, and some editorial can be found here.

The new target represents 73% renewables by 2032 and 86% greenhouse gas-free (which includes large hydropower and nuclear). (In 2020 we were at 35% renewables and 59% ghg-free.) You can see what it will take for us to hit our 2032 target, assuming high EV penetration, in the table below from the CPUC decision.



The question is always whether California can hit these targets, but it has a very good track record of doing so. However, drought has hurt hydropower production the last few years, and clean imports may be harder to come by as neighboring states ramp up their clean power targets as well. So we’ll see. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of hydropower, and we will have more access to out-of-state wind, as well as building our own offshore wind. Plus there is a huge amount of work on storage. So I wouldn’t bet against CA.

BTW, the National Renewable Energy Lab released a study earlier this month that said that the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will significantly clean up US power overall. Here is a direct quotation from the conclusion of that report.

“The results of this analysis demonstrate that IRA and BIL have the potential to drive transformative change in the U.S. power sector. Under the Mid case scenario explored, wind, solar, and storage deployment more than doubles historic maximum annual rates of deployment, clean electricity reaches over 80% of total generation by 2030, and emissions fall to 390 Mt CO2 per year—over 80% below the 2005 CO2 level. These potential emissions reductions are, in turn, estimated to lead to $880 billion worth of cumulative avoided climate damages (using the central 2%- discount rate SC-CO2 value), while related reductions in criteria pollutants lead to an estimated $170 billion of cumulative avoided health damages.

Sensitivities structured to evaluate less favorable conditions for clean electricity deployment, including higher projected costs of clean electricity technologies and barriers to technology and infrastructure deployment, were shown to reduce the level of total clean electricity deployed. However, even in these cases, the IRA and BIL were still found to drive substantial increases in the clean electricity share, reaching over 70%, with power sector emissions falling to 72% below the 2005 level. Nonetheless, the lower rate of clean energy deployment in the deployment constrained and high clean cost cases highlights the potential value of continued research and development to drive advancements in clean electricity technologies as well as actions taken to mitigate existing and developing constraints on deployment of clean electricity, transmission, and pipeline and storage infrastructure.”


Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Mar 20, 2023 at 3:31 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Sure hope all that proposed biomass doesn't get banned due to NOx emissions :)


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 20, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Another overnight power outage in large parts of Palo Alto.

Getting rid of gas heaters is a virtue signal at best when our power supply is so unreliable.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Mar 22, 2023 at 9:56 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I watch a lot of local news - they go all over the bay area to show where roads are broken, trees down, houses falling down a hill. Last night SU lost all power along with 5,000 people. The newscaster was at University and Middlefield remarking on the issues in this city. How is it that government employees ignore the reality around them and keep thinking up ways to spend money they don't have and implode restrictions on the residents of this state. I don't think that Sacramento is in one of the counties that is being targeted. Amazing.


Posted by BobB, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Mar 22, 2023 at 2:24 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@Sherry Listgarten,

I hope you're right about that. The reason I'm a bit pessimistic is because I think a lot of the current increase in power from solar and wind is kind of low hanging fruit. Things get tougher when gas plants can't follow the load and storage has to make up the difference. A lot of optimistic assumptions could have gone into those projections.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 22, 2023 at 7:07 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

I hope I'm right too! The amount of battery storage that is supposed to come online in the next few years is breathtaking. I wonder how much we will diversify our storage portfolio, wrt battery composition or even storage mechanism.

It is also very important that we get EV charging happening when renewables are plentiful. Aggressive time of use pricing will help with that, as will smart chargers. I just today saw the CEC's $9M grant opportunity for smart charger development.

I would just say that there is a *lot* of focus and effort, across multiple large state agencies, on getting a clean and reliable grid. It is fundamental to the state's climate goals, and failures (esp wrt reliability) can dramatically hurt the governor's reputation.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 22, 2023 at 7:34 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

BTW, here is part of an email that I received, which I thought worth sharing.

I am a small scale landlord with older properties in Menlo Park. Presently I am beginning the process of renovating a rental that will be vacant come August and I will prepare it for electrification. My first concern is that older residences/apartments will need a service upgrade not just a panel upgrade. My contractor estimates that it will take PGE 6 months to complete the service upgrade if power is delivered overhead and longer if delivered underground. That's a long time to be without heat if a furnace breaks unexpectedly. My second concern is that while I most likely can complete a service upgrade for occupied units, I doubt I will be able to rewire/upgrade a unit while occupied. I am worried that I may lose excellent and long term tenants. Also I can't reasonably wait too long for all the exceptions to be worked out given the service upgrade lead time. Tenants expect and deserve a speedy repair/replacement to water heaters and furnaces.


Posted by Ole Agesen, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 23, 2023 at 11:02 am

Ole Agesen is a registered user.

We upgraded the electrical system on a 1943 house in Menlo Park from a 60A "fuse box" to a modern 200A panel. We also had a new 240V wire pulled for a heat pump water heater and a 120V dedicated circuit for a future heatpump clothes dryer. Finally we upgraded the wiring to the range from old-style 3-wire to modern 4-wire (with neutral).

It was done in a day. PG&E disconnected the old wire in the morning, the panel was upgraded, Menlo Park inspector came mid afternoon and signed off, and PG&E returned to reconnect power before 4pm.

The total cost including permit (and before various rebates) was $6500. Had we just replaced the panel, the cost would have been $4000.

It really wasn't very difficult or inconvenient at all.


Posted by Mark Twang, a resident of another community,
on Mar 24, 2023 at 3:29 pm

Mark Twang is a registered user.

Currently on Day #4 of a PG&E outage.

PG&E's andcgrid management inspire little confidence.

Fortunately we have a propane generator and gas appliances.

Sherri: you're in dreamworld if think that there will be battery storage to accommodate even 5% of our energy needs.

But at least the Smart People(TM) are doing good in the world.


Posted by Hinrich, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 24, 2023 at 6:44 pm

Hinrich is a registered user.

These minority interests defining what everyone must do isn't actually working out so well in California. The State hasn't ushered in more effective government creating a better life at lower taxation for Californians - its evangelical progressivism isn't really that great. Actually, the State is a mess. California gov't delivers the least actual services per buck than any other state and yet has some of the highest taxes. Is this forced State management of local zoning really designed to build better communities. Are we going to force every Palo Altan to pay-up and then realize 1. Palo Alto could turn off all appliances and it wouldn't make any global difference - except to the citizens wallets. 2. What exactly - not rumor or wish - what exactly is the benefit that will be realized, how will it be realized, when will we get it and how will de-gassing complicate the total unprecedented projections for electricity that we can't yet produce? And 4. Do Palo Altans agree with the city trying to lead the world. Why not focus on a better community and let the energy experts figure out the future? ALL consumers will rush to cheaper, better, cleaner when it is available. Why do we need energy dictatorships to manage the marketplace?


Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 25, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

Sherry, I hope you see this question to an old post.

We need to either put out the window A/C's for the summer or get the gas furnace replaced with heat pump heating/cooling. Can't go through another summer without some kind of climate control indoors.

We have already priced the heat pump system for the house, and it was way out of our range, but the rebates promise to make it possibly doable with family loans. We just have to know how good are they, how do we get them, etc. I can find websites that purpose to give numbers but it's all pie in the sky without more details.

Can you help?


Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 25, 2023 at 2:11 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

PS - I meant how good are the rebates, how do we get them (not the heat pump systems).


Posted by Silver Linings, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 25, 2023 at 2:11 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

I can find websites that PURPORT to give numbers but it's all pie in the sky without more details. (Sorry, autocorrect can be very sneaky.)


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Apr 26, 2023 at 1:08 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

This blog starts with a number of agencies that are working the issues of Climate Change. One is a spin on Asthma - attributing it to gas stoves and gas heaters. Move the discussion up one notch and you end up with a student providing an opinion to the SFC 04/26/23 - Spare the Air who lives in San Leandro and has Asthma. He is writing in about the ships in the harbor of Oaklnad - he thinks that they all should be in conformance with the Advanced Clean Fleet. He did not think this up himself. San Leandro is not near the Port of Oakland and it's ships.

1. SFC Opinion Editor - you print the Ships Log in the paper every day - Section A. This is all of the ships coming and going by name and location. The majority are not US American Ships. A lot of CA agencies are working to eliminate and large commercial ventures that drive our economy. WE already saw the port of SF reduced to glamour condos and commercial entities working to survive. Converted to some purpose other than that which supports the taxbase of the City. Entertainment works well here but closed most of the time.

2. For Children with Asthma - do the parents smoke? Do they have friends in the house who smoke? Is the house they live in backed up against a hill that traps bad air? Have the parents of said child worked to make the living conditions the best possible?

3. I grew up in LA. SMOG capital -if you live up against the hills, Live near the beach and you get better air.

Bottom line is that the economy of this state has differnt conditions for survival. [portion removed]


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 26, 2023 at 4:53 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Silver, I think the best place to get information about incentives is generally (a) your local utility or CCA and (b) Switch Is On in the Bay Area.

For Palo Alto in particular, I would call the Home Efficiency Genie. I do think the incentives are pretty straight-forward and work, both the federal tax credits and the city rebates. One issue with contractor incentives ($1000 for some contractors, see the Switch Is On) is they do not always translate to lower prices for consumers.

Generally, I would get a few bids. If you have a ductless system, then I also advise starting small since they are pretty modular and you can add more later. (That's not possible with a central ducted system.) I would also not ignore cheaper but cost-saving items like smart thermostats and window coverings. The quality of the installation can affect electricity bills, so make sure you do have a good installer.

Hope this helps some. I'd love to hear how your effort progresses!


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