News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 03/05/2008
Subject :

Rate Increases Proposed for Utility Services in Palo Alto
Contact : Jane Ratchye, Assistant Director, Resource Management, Utilities Department    650-329-2119
Palo Alto, CA – Tonight at 7 p.m. in the Council Conference Room, the Utilities Advisory Commission (UAC) will discuss proposed rate increases for electricity, natural gas, and water services. The proposed rate increases, submitted as part of the proposed 2008-09 budget, are 14% for electric, 7.1% for gas and 8% for water services. If approved by the City Council in June, the average Palo Alto residential customer will experience a utility bill increase of 9.6% beginning in July.

The proposed rate increases are necessary due to many factors. The drought in 2007 increased electricity and water supply costs. Electricity costs went up due to a shortfall in hydroelectric power generation that resulted in higher-priced market purchases. The drought led to more costly water supplies from the City’s wholesale supplier, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Higher energy prices also increased the cost of supplying natural gas. In addition to higher supply costs, funding is also needed for planned capital improvement projects to upgrade, replace and repair the City’s utility infrastructure 

Jane Ratchye, the City’s Assistant Utilities Director for Resource Management points out that, "We’ve done what we can to manage supply costs in an unpredictable marketplace and reduce operating costs to keep the rate proposals as low as possible. We will work with customers to help them manage their energy and water use and thus their utility bills through our rate assistance and rebate programs." 

The UAC will forward its utility rate recommendations onto the Council Finance Committee for consideration at its March 18, 2008. A potential refuse rate increase will also be discussed at that time.

For information on ways to keep utility costs down, call (650) 329-2241 or visit

Here are some simple ways to reduce waste and reduce your utility bill.  For more information on these and other ways, call (650) 329-2241 or visit the City’s website at 

Utility Rebates and Assistance Programs

  1. On-line energy audit with tips to help residents find ways to lower bills. 
  2. Rebates to upgrade and replace refrigerators, dishwashers, furnaces, boilers, insulation and hot water heaters to lower natural gas and electric usage while not impacting your lifestyle. 
  3. Help for low income customers to get replacement or repairs on furnaces and major appliances while installing weather stripping and repairing holes that allow air leaks. Through our energy assistance program (REAP). 
  4. Rate assistance is available to low income customers or those experiencing financial hardship through our Rate Assistance Program (RAP)
  5. Replacement of low water use shower heads and rebates on low water use dishwasher and washing machines to reduce the water usage and the natural gas used to heat it.
Tips to Save on Your Utility Bill

  1. Keep the thermostat no higher than 68 when you are home and 55 at night or when you’re away.
  2. Don’t crank up the heater when your home is cold.  Setting the thermostat really high won't help it warm up any faster. When the heat is on it runs at the same "speed" regardless of the temperature setting.   Use a programmable thermostat to have the heater turn on a few minutes before getting up or coming home.
  3. During the winter, ceiling fans set at slow speed can push warm air away from the ceiling and move it around the room without creating a chilling breeze. This spreads the heat more evenly and will make you feel more comfortable.
  4. Use drapes or other window coverings to help reduce drafts.  Keep window shades open during the day to benefit from the heat of the sun. Close the window shades at night to keep the heat in.
  5. If your heating unit is more than 10 years old and needs major repairs, it is usually more cost-effective to replace with a new unit than to repair the old one. If you are thinking about purchasing a new heating system, look for ENERGY STAR® certified systems. Minor repairs to older units and major repairs to newer units are usually more cost-effective than replacing it.   All furnaces should have filters checked and replaced a couple of times during the winter.
Saving on hot water use (showering, bathing, clothes washing, etc.) can yield a triple savings on your utility bill. When you reduce your hot water use you save on the water bill itself, and you also save on the dollars it costs to heat that water and on top of all that, you save on the sewer costs. Take short 5 to 7 minute showers, wash clothes in cold water and check your home for water leaks.