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


Subject :

Palo Alto to Decrease Environmental Footprint and Minimize Rate Impact
Contact : Jane Ratchye, Assistant Director of Utilities, Utilities    (650) 329-2119
Paul Dornell, Assistant Director of Public Works, Public Works    (650) 496-6930

Palo Alto, CA - The City of Palo Alto's Finance Committee will discuss proposed rate adjustments for electricity, natural gas, water, wastewater collection and refuse collection services at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, in the Council Chambers.

These adjustments, submitted as part of the proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget process, are a 10 percent decrease for natural gas, a 10 percent increase for electric, a 17 percent increase for refuse collection services and a 5 percent increase for both wastewater collection and water. The City will not be changing storm drain fees. The expected net impact of these adjustments is an increase of 1.4 percent in the total utility bill for the average residential customer. 

The proposed rate adjustments reflect a decrease in 2010 gas rates due to lower wholesale gas prices and a deferral of a major capital project. Gas rates account for the largest cost item in most customers’ utility bills.

Electric costs were impacted by drought conditions in 2007 and 2008, which reduced the amount of low-cost hydroelectric power available to the utility. Wholesale water costs were affected by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s program to rebuild and repair the regional water system. This essential program reinforces the water delivery system to Palo Alto in the event of an earthquake, allowing for a continued clean water supply. Ongoing cost increases for wastewater treatment impacted the cost of sewer services.

“We aim for a fair balance of cost efficiency with environmentally sustainable choices,” said Jane Ratchye, the City’s Assistant Utilities Director for Resource Management.

The increase in refuse services is mainly due to a new waste collection and processing agreement with Green Waste of Palo Alto that will include enhanced Zero Waste programs. Recycling and waste recovery services are being expanded in an effort to meet the City’s goal of diverting over 90 percent of its waste from landfills.  The increase will pay for closure and post-closure landfill costs, equipment retooling at the Sunnyvale Materials Recovery and Transfer Station, and conversion to a new SAP billing system.

“While getting our community to reach the Zero Waste goal initially requires investment, it’s necessary for building a solid foundation for an environmentally sustainable future,” said Glenn Roberts, Director of Public Works. “As a community, if we don’t take the appropriate actions to curb our environmental impact now, we might see larger increases in the future due to climate change.”

The table below shows the impact of the new rates on an average monthly residential bill, which will have 1.4 percent increase on the total bill.  


Impact on Bill from Proposed Rate Adjustments


Average Monthly Use

Current Bill

Proposed Bill

Bill Change

% change




   summer - 30 therms





   winter - 100 therms





Annual Average Gas






14 CCF






650 kWh






flat rate






32-gallon can/cart





Storm Drain

flat rate





User Tax







Based on Average Natural Gas Usage





The City Council will take final action on proposed rate adjustments in June 2009. If approved by the Council, the new rates will be effective July 1, 2009, and will start with the August 2009 utility bill.

For more information on ways to reduce your utility costs, visit or call (650) 329-2241.


What Customers Can Do to Lower Their Bills

  1. Reduce Refuse Costs by Switching to a Smaller Container:  Residents can lower refuse costs by recycling and composting more, which may allow the use of a smaller can for refuse and result in lower monthly fees. For more information on these programs, please visit
  • Focus on Energy Efficiency: City of Palo Alto Utilities offers many sustainable ways for Palo Alto residents to reduce their utility bill. Get tips on reducing your energy use. For more information on energy efficiency, please visit
  • Receive a Customized Energy Audit: Use the on-line Home Energy Analysis and find new ways to save energy. For more information, please visit
  • Receive Rebates: Change to Energy Star rated appliances and get rebates.  For more information on the SMART Energy Rebate Program, please visit
  • Sign Up for RAP & REAP: Eligible low or fixed income customers can save up to 20 percent on their energy bill by using the utility’s discount program, the Rate Assistance Program (RAP), and free energy efficiency program, the Residential Energy Assistance Program (REAP). For more information on these programs, please visit

 Waste Reduction Tips

1.       Purchase items in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging wasted.

2.       Bring your own reusable cloth bags when grocery shopping.

3.       Compost your kitchen and garden waste, such as vegetable peelings and grass clippings. You could reduce up to 37% of your household waste.

4.       Bring reusable bottles for beverages. Americans discard 38 billion plastic water bottles a year.

5.       Donate or sell reusable unwanted items such as furniture or electronics.