Moving Forward on Climate Action

August 2017

Moving Forward on Climate Action

Emissions Trading

California reaffirms its commitment to slowing climate change

At the start of the year, California faced a cap-and-trade program that was set to expire in 2020. After months of negotiations, on July 17 California’s Legislature approved an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program, with a bi-partisan two-thirds super majority. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 398 into law on July 25, ensuring the market-based system to limit emissions will continue — a key tool aimed at allowing the state to meet ambitious goals to slow climate change.

The program extension continues the use of direct allowances to utilities, including the gas and electric utilities administered by the City of Palo Alto. Utilities staff uses our electrical allowance allocations to promote energy efficiency programs and to purchase renewable energy resources. A portion of our gas allowance allocations are used to comply with our emissions compliance requirements. Some of our gas allowances are sold, as required by cap-and-trade regulations, and those revenues can be used to purchase offsets to support our carbon neutral program or fund efficiency programs.

Since 2013, Palo Alto has provided 100 percent carbon neutral electricity and, as of July 1, 2017, we now also provide 100 percent carbon neutral natural gas — making the City of Palo Alto Utilities the first utility in the world to provide carbon neutral electricity and natural gas as a standard to all customers. California’s commitment to cleaner energy and a healthier future reinforces and supports Palo Alto’s commitment to carbon neutral energy.

Paving the way for electric vehicles

Transportation is now the largest remaining contributor to Palo Alto's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The City’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) has a target of 90 percent electric vehicle (EV) market share by 2030 with half of all cars coming into Palo Alto to be electric. While still aspirational, the pace and growth of EV adoption is well above even the most optimistic expectations:

Growing Expectations for EVs

Palo Alto has one of the highest per-capita EV ownership rates in the country, with an estimated 2,500 residents owning a vehicle and a corresponding number of EV commuters coming into town each day. Palo Altans account for about one percent of the state’s total EV ownership, which is estimated to be around 300,000 vehicles.

To make EV driving in the City as convenient and economical as possible, the City is expanding the number of EV charging stations at public facilities, and offering incentives for residents and businesses to install charging infrastructure on private property locations. Starting Aug. 1, we’ve put in place a modest fee for EV charging at public facilities to ensure more access and turnover.  Even with the fee, operating an EV costs less than a fossil fueled vehicle. An additional benefit to using EV chargers is the ability to power them with clean, renewable energy delivered from the City's utility or powered on-site.

The City recently unveiled new EV charging stations at the 520 Webster Street and 445 Bryant Street parking garages. The stations are powered by solar panels installed on-site, which bring the City halfway to its goal of adding 1.3 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity to four City-owned parking structures.

You can find more information about the City’s EV initiatives and incentives, including an interactive location map of charging stations,

Palo Alto and Sustainability News of interest

Visualizing Sustainable Solutions, Aug. 14 - 17

The Global Energy Network Institute will present an unusual innovation event August 14 – 17 (co-hosted by Palo Alto’s Office of Sustainability), prototyping an interactive collaborative problem solving facility – the proposed Silicon Valley SIM Center – using immersive visualization tools to help diverse groups deal intelligently with complex problems. Visualizing Sustainable Solutions is a series of four day-long workshops that will examine key sustainability issues from global, regional, and local perspectives – in a working prototype of the actual SIMCenter.

Receive a 50 percent off discount using the code PaloAlto when you register here. Space is limited, so register today!

Buying Together Pays Off

Palo Alto is participating in Bay Area SunShares, a limited-time program that aims to make it simpler and less expensive to go solar or drive an electric vehicle.

By pooling together our community’s buying power, SunShares participants receive discounted prices on rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and electric vehicle (EV) charging systems. Participants also get free technical advice on products and installations from vetted contractors.

Registration opens August 7, 2017 and closes November 10, 2017. Register at

Efficiency Comes First

According to the California Energy Commission, 23 percent of California’s electricity use is from electronics not being used – a.k.a. vampire power or standby power.

The Home Efficiency Genie (HEG) is a Palo Alto Utilities program that provides one-on-one energy and water efficiency advice and expertise.

In addition, residents who sign up for a discounted home energy house call (a 3-hour assessment of your home’s water & energy systems ) will receive free direct installation of six LED light bulbs, a tier-2 advanced power strip, and high-efficiency showerhead and faucet aerators.

For more information, contact (650) 713-3411 or visit