Carbon Neutral Portfolio


We took the leap - Palo Alto Electricity is now 100% carbon neutral!

The City Council approved a Carbon Neutral Electric Resource Plan (March 2013) committing Palo Alto to using carbon neutral electric resources from now on.  This makes our town one of only a handful of places on Earth that is using 100%* carbon-neutral electricity. The Carbon Neutral Plan is designed to be transparent, credible, sustainable, inspirational and repeatable by other communities. (*Note: carbon is emitted as part of the process to construct energy facilities, but the power output is what is being referred to by this 100% figure.) 

A big step forward

In keeping with the City's efforts to combat climate change, this plan effectively eliminates all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the City's electric portfolio effective right now.  (The term "electric portfolio" refers to the entire collection of power resources from which the city obtains electricity.)

The Carbon Neutral Plan achieves carbon neutrality for the electric supply portfolio at a cost cost expected to be less than one tenth of a cent per kilowatt hour [kWh}  above the already anticipated cost of ~four tenths of a cent per kWh to meet the City’s renewable energy portfolio standard goal. To read more about the whole concept of "renewable portfolio standards," click

How we got here

Palo Alto has a long record of leadership in pursuing initiatives to increase our community's environmental sustainability. Some recent examples: 

Utilities carbon neutral electric plan

Near term (2013 through 2016)---the City will purchase short-term renewable resources and/or renewable energy certificates (RECs) to supplement existing and committed long-term renewable and hydroelectric resources, which account for 65% to 83% of the portfolio.
Longer term (beyond 2016)---long-term renewable resources will provide about a 50% RPS level within the existing 0.5 ₵/kWh annual RPS rate limit. Since about 50% of the electric supply portfolio is already sourced from carbon-free hydroelectric resources, the additional cost of achieving carbon neutrality between 2017 and 2020 is very small.

City climate protection plan

The City Council recognizes environmental sustainability as one of its top priorities. In 2007 an aggressive Climate Protection Plan was approved which identified short and long-term community-wide GHG emission reduction goals:

By 2009
, the City reduced emissions by 5% from 2005 emission levels for a total reduction of 3,266 metric tons of CO2
By 2012 the City and Community reduced emissions by 5% from 2005 emissions level for a total reduction of 39,702 metric tons of CO2.
By 2020, the City and Community will reduce emissions by 15% of 2005 levels, equal to 119,140 metric tons of CO2, and bring the community in line with State emission reduction goals.  (The Plan is currently under revision and these goals may be set even higher.)

In recent years the City has taken multiple steps towards reducing GHG emissions in its electric portfolio through
energy efficiency efforts, encouragement of solar photovoltaic panel installations, offering PaloAltoGreen, and adoption of an accelerated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  Combined, these efforts are expected to account for an over 40% drop in 2012 electricity-related GHG emissions compared to 2005 levels.

Watch a great Student Video about going for a Carbon-Free Palo Alto here.

The Carbon Neutral Plan report can be viewed here.

Last Updated: Sep 19, 2016
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