Palo Alto, CA –The Palo Alto City Council voted tonight to implement a Carbon Neutral Plan, which commits the City to pursuing only carbon neutral electric resources, effective immediately and from now on. In making this move, Palo Alto is showing the kind of initiative towards innovation and sustainability that has long been the hallmark of this progressive city. Palo Alto is now one of very few entities worldwide who can claim to be purchasing completely carbon-neutral electricity.
Palo Alto owns all its own utilities, including the electric utility which was founded back in 1900. Visionaries back then saw the potentially huge benefits that could come from local control. And indeed, this local control was exercised tonight to make a bold decision about where Palo Alto’s electric power was going to come from.
“Palo Alto has been a leader in reducing its carbon emissions,“ comments Mayor Greg Scharff, “but when we realized we could achieve a carbon neutral electric supply right now, we were compelled to take action. Climate change is one of the critical challenges of our generation and we hope our actions will inspire others to follow suit.”
The City has many contracts for renewable resources in its electric portfolio from wind farms, solar arrays and renewable gas captured from landfills. In addition to these renewable resources, about 50% of the City’s electric supply portfolio comes from non-carbon emitting hydro-electric generation. The recent decision to make all its power purchases carbon neutral from now on involves continued promotion of energy efficiency, taking advantage of existing carbon-free resources, contracting for new short and long-term new renewable resources and, if needed, balancing any small percent of non-renewable power purchased with “renewable energy certificates [RECs].” (By purchasing RECS from renewable power producers, Palo Alto supports these operations while getting credit for the carbon-free qualities of their electric output.) The economic impact of being 100% “carbon neutral” is estimated to be under $3/year on the average Palo Altan’s electric bill.
“As a City, we’ve had cheaper, greener power for our citizens for decades, and being able to make this recent move to 100% carbon-free electricity is just another example of how owning our own utilities pays off,” said City Manager James Keene.
Palo Alto‘s Climate Action Plan, established in 2007, sets goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including transportation as well as energy. “The climate crisis requires a robust response in the next ten years. By taking this first step of de-carbonizing its electricity supply, Palo Alto has established itself in the vanguard of forward-thinking communities,” notes Bruce Hodge, a grassroots activist who in 2011 founded Carbon Free Palo Alto to encourage the City to rely solely on carbon free power.
“The impact of climate change—with its predictable disasters— is increasing at a frightening rate, so it’s heartening that Palo Alto has chosen to generate its electricity from carbon-free sources, thereby demonstrating the kind of bold action that is urgently needed,” adds Walt Hays, a longtime resident who is also active in Carbon Free Palo Alto.
The City of Palo Alto’s investment in cleaning up the environment is a gift to our children. A group of young Palo Altans were inspired to produce a rap video homage to Palo Alto’s decision to maintain a carbon neutral electric portfolio: http://vimeo.com/61055308
Visit the City’s website to read more details about the newly-approved Carbon Neutral Plan: www.cityofpaloalto.org/UTLcarbonfree