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Last Updated: Mar 8, 2014
Palo Alto Utilities OWNERS MANUAL:
Value - What you get for what you spend
Supplies - Sources and their status
Infrastructure - Condition and planned improvements
Rates - Status & 2013 changes (Details below, but view residential rate graphichere)
How do utilities costs and value compare to the other things you spend money on every day?
For ~$1.40 per day, the average household can purchase enough electricity to run their refrigerator, TVs, computers, the lights in every room, hair dryers, space heaters, power tools in the garage, possibly a clothes dryer, stove, oven and anything else they plug in.
For under $1 per day in the summer and just over $2 per day in the winter, the average household can buy enough natural gas to heat their entire home, operate a gas stove and oven and also heat water for cooking, showering, bathing and clothes washing.
For under $2 per day in the winter, the average household can buy enough water to drink, cook, do dishes, wash hands, wash clothes, flush toilets as well as take showers and baths. During warm weather, when water use typically doubles in order to irrigate yards and gardens, fill pools etc, the average price tag is still around $3 per day.
Electricity Palo Alto gets its electricity fromseveral sources. While the exact numbers from each source vary annually, the important point is that Palo Alto achieved an “all green” carbon-neutral electric supply portfolio effective January 2013. Read all about it here.
Gas The current natural gas supply in this country is substantial and the market price has dropped dramatically, so in 2012 the City Council agreed to followa “market-based” purchase strategy so that gas rates change every month based on market prices.
Water Palo Altans are fortunate to get water from the Hetch-Hetchy system, one of the most pristine, high-quality sources in the country. But like all Californians, we have to face the statewide problem of not having enough water to meet ever-growing needs---a problem that is not going away. Recurring drought cycles are a permanent feature of water supply in this state.UPDATE: As of January 17, 2014, we are experiencing one of the driest years on record and the Governor has declared a "drought emergency" statewide. The Hetch-Hetchy water supply system relies on snowpack, most of which typically accumulates in January and February, so it is too early to predict whether 2014 will in fact be a drought year. We expect tentative predictions in February and March, with a final decision by the SFPUC by mid-April. Visit our website here for more detailed updates and get breaking news even faster updates by following us on Twitter (@PAUtilities).
Electric - Along with ordinary maintenance, the Utilities Department is implementing numerous capital improvement projects to replace aging lower voltage electric lines with new higher voltage ones that can better serve growing electric needs. For details on these and other major capital projects, clickhere.
Gas - Leading the industry with an aggressive pipeline maintenance program, the City has replaced over 110 miles of aging gas mains (out of 207 total miles of pipeline) with new lines made of state-of-the-art materials. Click here to learn more about Palo Alto's gas distribution system, including specific pipeline materials and projects in different areas of town. Clickhereto read about current gas line replacement projects.
Water - Palo Alto’s supplier, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), is still implementing its 4.6 billion dollar infrastructure improvement programto upgrade old pipelines and build new secondary pipelines to enable the Hetch-Hetchy supply system to recover quickly from an earthquake or other natural disaster. At the same time, the City continues to implement an aggressive program to upgrade its own water distribution pipelines as well as finishing its multi-year project to rehabilitate, replace and install new reservoirs and wells to bolster our localemergency water supply system. Both the Hetch-Hetchy upgrade and City 's emergency water project are very smart investments in the long-term viability of our superior water supply.
Sewer - Projects continue to maintain and replace sewer lines reaching the end of their useful life. For details on current major projects, click here. Since July of 2011, the City has also been engaged in an industry-leading program to search for and identify any gas line crossbores in the sewer pipeline system to ensure the safety of customers dealing with blocked sewer lines.Check out the progress here.
Currently, a residential pilot study is investigating the use of advanced meters as tools to improve efficiency and to implement options such as time of use rates to encourage electric vehicle charging at night.
Current residential electric rate schedules are here.
Current commercial electric rate schedules are here.
Gas - market-based monthly-varying rates went into effect July 2013.
Natural gas supply rates are market-based and therefore fluctuate from month to month. Given current market trends, staff is anticipating supply costs to increase slightly over the next year although they will still be well below what they were in previous years.
Your gas bill includes costs for things other than the gas you use itself---such as the expense of infrastructure improvements and customer services---but those costs are holding steady for the coming fiscal year.
It’s important to remember that usage levels---not prices---remain the biggest factor impacting your gas costs. Therefore, efficiency improvements remain the best way to manage your gas bill.
Water - for residents, increased 8% on average for residents effective July 1, 2013.
This is no surprise. The utility financial projections have been showing the need for annual rate increases for some time now. We are currently midway through the process of paying Palo Alto’s share of the costs from the SFPUC system’s infrastructure upgrade program as well as those upgrades required by our own water utility.
To view a graphic poster summarizing the residential water rate situation, click here. The commercial rate version is here.
The main factors driving this increase are:
SEISMIC SAFETY---the ongoing need to pay Palo Alto’s share of the costs for the SFPUC's Water System Improvement Program (WISP) as well as replacing aging infrastructure within our own water utility distribution system.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS---the costs of rehabilitating and expanding Palo Alto's local emergency water storage and supply system.
FAIR TREATMENT---adjustments to ensure each customer class (residential, commercial, etc.) is paying their fair share based on the true cost of service for their class.
Current residential water rate schedules are here. (New rate schedules will be uploaded on July 1st)
Current commercial water rate schedules are here. (New rate schedules will be uploaded on July 1st)
Sewer (Wastewater) - Last rates adustment effective July 1, 2012.