Sustainability Newsletter


Fall 2014

Welcome to our first eNews update on City of Palo Alto sustainability initiatives for residents, businesses, employees—and all interested community members.

Stay tuned for more, we’re just getting started! 


Climate Ideas Expo November 18th, 6-8PM

Please join us for an interactive “ideas expo” to gather ideas from the community that can help advance the City’s sustainability goals. The results of the “ideas expo” community workshop will help inform the development of the Palo Alto Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP). (See sidebar.)

The dynamic event will introduce the S/CAP and highlight global best practices and municipal advancements in sustainability. Regional and local partners will present and solicit feedback on ideas for sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. During the event, we'll ask you, the community, to generate new ideas to help accelerate the pace of change in Palo Alto: What goals should we target? How shall we meet them? How quickly?

Join us on Tuesday, November 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Downtown Library  to help answer the question: What can one small, innovative city contribute to the sustainability revolution?

Bring your big ideas—the bolder the better! 


Palo Alto Awarded Public Power Utility of the Year! 

As part of Palo Alto's continued progress toward its sustainability goals, the City is investing locally in solar energy through innovative programs. In recognition of this effort, the City recently received the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) Award for Public Power Utility of the Year. The award recognizes the City’s efforts to continuously increase the size of its solar electric portfolio, and demonstrating  solar energy’s viability as a mainstream power source.

Since 1999, there have been 678 solar installations in Palo Alto – that’s almost one a week for fifteen years. The City’s PV Partners program has contributed to the high number of solar installations by providing rebates to City electric customers who install rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar systems.  In April 2014, the Palo Alto City Council approved a resolution establishing the Local Solar Plan to increase the installation of solar PV.  As a result, the City is developing a solar group buy program in conjunction with Foster City, which is expected to launch in the spring 2015. Under this program, residents will receive a discounted price for solar PV system installation in their home during the enrollment period. 


Electric Vehicles Gain Speed in Palo Alto

Palo Alto has become a leader in supporting electric vehicle infrastructure, making it easier for more of us to plug in and cut down on GHGs. In June, the City Council required that all new multi-family residential, commercial and hotel developments support EV chargers. The same standards went into effect last year for single-family residential development.

We’re also expanding our current EV infrastructure. The City marked Electric Vehicle Week in October by celebrating the first curbside EV quick charger in the state, located near Caltrain at the intersection of Lytton and Alma. Our growing network includes 10 chargers in downtown parking garages and four at the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center. 


City Ramps Up Water Conservation Efforts as California Drought Continues

The City is doing its part to address California’s drought by increasing its water efficiency rebate and adopting new water use restrictions, including prohibiting landscape irrigation between 10 AM and 6 PM. Details, and other important water saving measures that can be found in the City of Palo Alto Utiltiies (CPAU) Drought FAQ.

Palo Alto has always taken water conservation seriously. Among the water saving programs include the Water-Wise House Call that provides residents with free indoor and outdoor “water surveys” with customized recommendations on the best upgrades for water efficiency. The program offers residents the option of upgrading low-flow shower-heads, faucet aerators and toilet flappers free of charge. The High-Efficiency Toilet Rebate is a complimentary program offering from $50 to $125 in rebates for installing a WaterSense certified HET or replacing inefficient toilets with qualifying premium model HET.

For a complete list of programs visit:

Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Kicks Off

The City launched its new Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) initiative in August 2014 to chart a path to a more sustainable future for Palo Alto and the region. The vision for the plan is to find ways to improve our quality of life, grow prosperity and create a thriving and resilient community—while dramatically reducing our carbon footprint. 

Palo Alto is already a world leader in sustainability and climate protection strategies. The S/CAP will build on our success (for example, in delivering carbon-neutral electricity, and exceeding the goals of our 2007 climate plan) in order to create an ambitious and achievable plan for 2015 and beyond. The S/CAP will also consider broader issues of sustainability, such as land use and biological resources.

We’re framing our efforts with three (admittedly aggressive) potential scenarios: 

  • reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% by 2050 (California's stated goal)
  • reducing emissions 80% by 2030 (the 2030 Challenge); and 
  • eliminating all emissions in 10 years or less (the California Moonshot)

Are they achievable? We don't know yet. 

Will we want to pursue them? That will be up to you.

"I do know this," said CSO Gil Friend. "Only by exploring such challenging questions will we be able to determine what might be possible, and drive the sort of innovation the Palo Alto is rightly noted for." 

In coordination with ongoing efforts — including the Comprehensive Plan Update now underway—and with significant community input, the S/CAP will clearly articulate the challenges facing our city, a vision for the future, and a set of cohesive strategies to realize that vision. 

S/CAP Timeline

  • November 18, 2014: Introduction to the community and Ideas Expo Workshop
  • December 8, 2014: City Council Study Session
  • Early 2015: Draft Sustainability Roadmap

For more information please visit 


Introducing Gil Friend, the City's First Chief Sustainability Officer!

Gil Friend

Gil Phillip Friend joined the City of Palo Alto as its Chief Sustainability Officer in December 2013, with the charge to develop a world-class sustainability strategy for the city, and manage the activities that will lead Palo Alto to being the greenest city in America.

Widely considered one of the founders of the sustainable business movement, Gil was named as an inaugural member of the Sustainability Hall of Fame by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, and "one of the 10 most influential sustainability voices in America" by The Guardian.

He is a systems ecologist and business strategist with over 40 years experience in business and policy innovation. As founder & CEO of Natural Logic Inc., he helped companies in a wide range of industries design, implement and measure profitable sustainability strategies.

You can follow Gil on Twitter @paloaltocso.