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By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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All you don’t want to know about our escalating utilities rates

Uploaded: Mar 7, 2023
Our utilities bills here in Palo Alto and elsewhere are soaring – with no relief in sight. Can we – or ‘they” (those responsible for the higher costs) do anything about it?

What does this say about our escalating rates when my January 2023 utilities bill was equivalent to almost half of my social security check for that month. For lower-income residents, the burden surely is worse.

Our electricity rates in Palo Alto increased by 20 percent t in January and that 20 percent hike will continue each month.

My utilities bill hit a record high of $927 --the biggest culprit was the electric charges. Our house is heated electrically and our use is consistent, yet the charges increase each year. (I know some of you are experiencing even higher bills.) During the winter we only heat two rooms of our 10-room house -- the family room and one bedroom. I walk around wearing a sweater and fleece jacket. Just the two of us (and 11-my pound dog) live in this house.

Then last week I saw the dire headline that said our utilities bills would again increase in July 2023. The Utilities Department said (my comments are in italic) the additional charges are:

Water – 7 percent starting July 2023 (fiscal year 2023-24), then 3 percent hike in each of following three years. This is driven by infrastructural improvement, and increasing seismic safety. What the department does not say is these increases are compounded. Simply put, if there is a 7% increase in 2023, the 2024 increase of 3% would be based on the 2023 rate bplus the 7% increase.

Wastewater – a cumulative 9 percent increase between 2024 and 2028.

Gas – 8 percent rise in gas rates, assuming supply costs will remain steady during 2023 and 2024. If the assumption is wrong, then these rates could go higher.

Electric – the city is planning to raise the basic rate by 14 percent, which means that even if the “hydro rate adjusters” are slashed in half because of drought relief, our bills will remain at the same current level.Why not just drop the drought charge altogether? Maybe it’s their way to avoid any drop in revenues it gets from utility users. Clever, isn’t it!

That drought charge

The irony of our increase in water rates simply make me laugh. We are paying water drought charges even though the drought doesn’t exist this year. Our water rates are higher because we aren’t using enough to maintain the department . I am thinking that maybe the city wants all the increases because then it can keep all its utilities personnel fully employed and happy with their raises.

The Utilities Department said there are multiple reasons for these increases – high wholesale cost increases, which may vary; the department’s plan to “refill its depleted financial reserves,” and upgrading aging infrastructure,. . Rational reasons but these upgrades are ongoing and the upgrades seem never-ending.

City officials and the state, also are also, simultaneously, encouraging Palo Altans to buy electric cars, which will put an additional burden of providing more electricity to utilities customers in the next few years. Of course, the council is still going along with its plan for this city residences to go all-electric, starting with electric, not gas, heat pump water heaters.

By the way, the Utilities Department has said it cannot, as yet, provide enough electricity until it ramps up its transformers and power lines. And upgrading these transformers and power lines are still only in the planning stage.

I suggest that this all-electric plan is our virtue signaling, because city officials hope that Palo Alto will show it is a leader in going all-electric, and the city can serve as a model for other cities to emulate. Oh, the fame this city will have!

However, the state of California will need three times more capacity to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2045, according to a report from the Joint Power Agency Report, Energy Commission, published in the Weekly. Can we really achieve this goal? We haven’t done too well on our other climate goals.

Other considerations

There are several other issues here. The Utilities Department is suggesting we become more efficient in our energy use by turning down our thermostats, using less water on our yards or planting drought resistant native plants. In other words, use less gas, water and electric. Nothing new about that message.

And another dilemma -- at the same time, legislators in the state are urging cities to build more housing, especially affordable housing, which means more people will live in this area and require more water, gas and electricity.

Palo Alto imposed a drought tax a year or so ago, which will be cut in half this year because we no longer have a drought. Half means that we will still have a drought tax. And while we are being been urged to use less water during the drought, or water rates have gone up because we use too little and the department needs more funding to operate. “Operate,” I suspect includes paying all the employees who work in Utilities, including giving them annual raises and, in some cases, bonuses.

Sure, it’s easy and logical to argue that all the maintenance and upgrades are necessary and needed, but are all these things necessary? And must the city and state work on all “needs” at once?

The ironies of these increase

What’s missing in all these energy plans and goals, I think, is the seeming lack of concern about how these rate hikes will affect consumers, because we are the ones who have to pay for all these upgrades, expansions and repairs.

Our City Council and our Utilities Commission accepted the Utilities Department’s rationale for why all these rates had to increase. There was little probing, few pointed questions challenging their assumptions and predictions.

An audit is definitely in order. Our costs are too high, compared to other places in this state. Let’s hire an outsider auditor, not someone internal nor a person who reports to the city manager. A report to the public is in order!

What is it worth to you?


Posted by I+miss+my+small+town+feel, a resident of another community,
on Mar 7, 2023 at 4:42 pm

I+miss+my+small+town+feel is a registered user.

Don't forget the government is going to come at us for a $20B bond to finance low cost housing and I bet most of those will get the subsidized lower PG&E rates (Does Palo Alto have a similar CARE program?) These bonds will be added to our property taxes and if you can't afford to charge your car, don't fret as the under parked housing projects won't have enough parking for the people who will double up to live there with maybe 4 cars in a 2 unit building... so they will spread into the SFH neighborhoods and park in front of your house... so "they" want you to ride a bike or take the bus by sharing the bus stops with the drug addicted "residents" who have taken over some of the bus stops in Mtn View.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Mar 7, 2023 at 5:34 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Rate increases aside, just keep in mind our gas and electric bill is like our weight. We are what we eat, and our bill - we are what we use.

It has been a colder winter than normal, but you don't have to crank the heat. Put on a sweater, a blanket, etc. I'm using an electric blanket for the first time. 12 cents an hour, versus running the heater. Leave the oven door open after you cook. Leave the dryer door open too. Have a fire if you have a fireplace. I agree with the Utilities department. Turn down your thermostat.

$927 is extremely high. A friend of mines PG&E bill was over $700. I recommended a space heater and an electric blanket. Her next month's bill was under $400. With the price of natural gas, we can't run the heat without price gouging, regardless of your electric and gas company. Warmer weather is coming.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 7, 2023 at 5:46 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Well said, Dianna.

Additionally, we have so little way to reduce our charge. Trash pickup is a good example. We cannot have vacation holds or request pickups only twice a month. We pay the same amount regardless how much we use it and the small black bins are almost empty for most of us.

As for putting on extra sweaters, for able bodied adults who are active and home for a small portion of the day that works, perhaps. But what about someone who is recovering from surgery, newborn babies, home alone, working from home, wearing coats and gloves just doesn't seem to be the answer.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke with one senior who was in tears as she told me about her bill. Does she have to choose between food and heat? She is not happy.

Posted by Ginny Prescott, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 8, 2023 at 7:20 am

Ginny Prescott is a registered user.

There is no escaping escalating residential utility costs including gas/electric, water, cable TV, internet, HOA fees etc.

We are all captive to the necessities of modern day life & the only way to escape it is to either go off the grid to some isolated/temote area or move to a 3rd world country where these services & billings do not exist.

Most people would decline either option so we're just gonna have to get used to these rising costs.

Complaining & sharing commiserations is pointless.

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Mar 8, 2023 at 11:22 am

Anneke is a registered user.

And as the energy companies are raking in record profits from record high prices they charge, we, the small consumers, are made to feel guilty about the limited energy we use in our homes.

"Big Oil Made Record 2022 Profits While Fleecing California Families"

o Exxon: 55.7 Billion - setting a company record and bringing in $6.3 million an hour.
o Chevron: $36.5 Billion - doubling their 2021 profits, with executives flaunting their "outstanding results" in an earnings call.

Yes, an independent audit of our own Utilities' organization is in order. I would like to understand how much the members of its management team pay for their utilities per month. Somehow it appears they do not feel the pain we feel.

Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 8, 2023 at 2:43 pm

III is a registered user.

My biggest bill is gas!!! House is forced air. Gas is up 40% or more.
My total Palo Alto utility bill went from $425 per month most of 2021-2022.
Was $530 in Jan 2023, $900 February, and this last bill was $565.
We had turned off home heater most of the wee. Usually 2 hours 5pm-7pm was on. Weekend mornings 8am to 11am was on. I have a small electric heater running
4pm-8pm in the bedroom.....
I am afraid this is our Gasoline sticker shock of 3 years ago. Auto Gas
never really gone down past 3yrs, and probably never will....
Gotta tell ya, even with a job, that $900 bill was a complete shock.
Safeway went from $45 Wednesday sales to $70.
So not just the Palo Alto Utility rate shock in my mid town Palo Alto life.

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Mar 8, 2023 at 10:35 pm

mjh is a registered user.

I want to know how much of my my utility bill is padding so the city manager can siphon off $20 million (and rising year on year) into the general fund each year to pad salaries etc. twenty odd years ago the transfer to the general fund was a small amount to reimburse the city for some small costs. That is until the council realized our utility bills coukd be a cash cow.

Posted by Andy, a resident of Community Center,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 10:41 am

Andy is a registered user.

While electricity prices did go up in February, gas prices went up several times as much. The fact is that Palo Alto buys gas on the spot market, so pricing is volatile and out of our control. However, we own our electric utility, so those prices are more predictable--a good reason to invest in electric appliances. Another plus is that electric heat pump appliances (water heaters and furnace/ACs)are much more efficient than gas-powered ones, so you will be using less power and saving money over time.

Posted by Tina, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 10:43 am

Tina is a registered user.

The bills are really out of control, pretty soon they will be close to a month of rent.

Posted by Tina, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 10:44 am

Tina is a registered user.

Also, charging for the drought when we are out of it this year is unfair (on top of it all), it seems very dishonest.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 10:51 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Rate increases aside, just keep in mind our gas and electric bill is like our weight. We are what we eat, and our bill - we are what we use."

This is just not true. I added up my recent bill and found that more than 1/3 -- 33% -- was fees, surcharges, taxes, public benefit fees, etc. That means that we could go on vacation and use nothing and still get a horrendously high bill.

My gas bill alone was $450 and only HALF of that was for the gas I used.

I recently wrote to the City Council, mayor and City Manager sking about the various fees, why we have several different utility users taxes, etc.

I finally a received lengthy general form letter misspelling my name and apologizing for the delayed response that didn't respond to any -- not a SINGLE ONE -- of my specific questions. I resubmitted it highlighting my 3 main points about the fees and noting that Dave Price has called for a public vote on our forced conversion to all-electric when it's clear on may grounds that we just can't deal with the huge increase in demand.

Some REAL answers would be special from our highly paid staff. A vote on the forced conversion is needed when we're not even considering upgrading the grid or undergrounding so falling branches and balloons will STILL leave us sitting in the dark.

Enough with this unfounded and costly virtue-signalling and platitudes about meaningless "conservation" efforts that then are used to justify rate hikes because we didn't use enough energy!

Palo Alto could give Kafka a run for the money.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 11:15 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Okay, rate hikes and FEES aside, you are what you use. Of course you can go on vacation and still get a bill. Your refrigerator, etc. will still use energy.

A perfect example of you are what you use in an above post. One month was $500, $930 and $565 - three months in a row, supposedly. Another example was my friend who reduced her bill from over $700 to under $400 in one month buy not running the heater constantly.

Rates and fees aside, take responsibility for your own usage. To say that you can't wear a sweater while working from home is absurd. It's a sweater, not a trench coat. Conservation efforts are COMMON SENSE. You can use them or whine about you bill. The choice is yours. With rate hikes and fees, you should be conserving even more.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 11:38 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Okay, rate hikes and FEES aside, you are what you use. Of course you can go on vacation and still get a bill. Your refrigerator, etc. will still use energy."

Sorry, you are what you're BILKED (to put it politely). You are what your inattention led you to vote for letting the city continue to "overcharge" us -- again to put it politely -- by more than $20,000,000 a year WHILE they ALSO raise rates by another 20%. By the vote I mean the Utiities Transfer Tax where the money STILL gets sip0honed from our pockets into the General Fund to line the pockets of our "leaders" and their consultant buddies.

What was their excuse for raising water rates by more than 7%? The fact that we DIDN'T ENOUGH so they had to raise prices!!

And then they have the nerve to charge us for all their marketing marketing pitches telling us to be good doo-bees and conserve more so they can charge us more. Sure, let's hire Sustainabilitu Officers to pitch that, too.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 11:46 am

Online Name is a registered user.

PS: The city was ordered by the judge to pay us our court-ordered settlement in the Miriam Green lawsuit against the practice of "overcharging" us. They used OUR money to hire an outside law firm to appeal and lost. The city then decided to only pay us IF we could show need and/or were in poor health and/or were older than a certain age.

Did you ever receive an inquiry about our age, or health? I didn't.

We've been waiting YEARS for our court-ordered payments. Think they'll pay us interest? Hah.

They did send us our settlements for "mistakenly" billing us for our phone or cable hookups which they have nothing to do with, esp. since many of us have eliminated those services.

How many other imaginary fees like that are buried in our bills??

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 12:01 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I've read more than a few times (on this site) that Palo Altans like to say that they pay less than PG&E. It's been awhile since we lived in Palo Alto and I don't remember what our bills were, but my PG&E bill has been under $200 all winter, and our home is 3400 sq. ft. Our neighbor has a home about the same size, and she complains that her bill is "over $500." Two people living in each home about the same size, yet she's paying more than $300 a month than we are. We conserve, she obviously doesn't.

I agree that Palo Altans get "bilked," but you still have to take responsibility for your usage. We're owed a court-ordered refund too. Who knows if we'll ever see it.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 12:21 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Jennifer, since you no longer get CPAU bills, you might not know that we were charged twice the PG&E rates during one recent winter month. Also note that PG&E announced a 75% cut in their next gas rates. Anyone taking bets on if our rates will drop by 75%?

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 12:31 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Online Name, I did read here (and I think the Daily Post) that Palo Altans were billed twice the PG&E rate during a winter month. I also heard it from our daughter who rents our home in PA.

To be clear about the 75% reduction from PG&E, keep in mind that includes the April Climate Change credit that appears on our bill twice a year - usually April and October. It also includes a drop in rate on natural gas. I wouldn't bet CPAU will reduce rates by 75% any time soon.

Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 12:32 pm

III is a registered user.

Our gas bill has gone up 40% due to RATE increase, not added usage.
Our electric bill has gone up 25% due to RATE increase, not added usage.
Same with our water bill. And the massive increase of tax and fees have increased
as well each year past few years on our bills!!!!
YOU DO KNOW that past 5 yrs we have conserved water due to drought and request of Palo Alto utility. But due to lack of water use by Palo Alto citizens, utilities have raised the price of water to make their ends meet!!!!! They were losing money due to lack of use by Palo Alto citizens, so raised their prices to us!!!!!!
So stop with your YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE..... It is the increase in fees NOT our increase in using energy. Most of us use less of all utilities than 4yrs ago.
Yet this year our bills doubled with same or less usage. Get over yourself

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 1:49 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

According to Lisa Forssell, there is a hefty rate increase coming up because rate increases were delayed during COVID because people lost jobs etc. In general, small rate increases appear to happen every year.

Posted by Barron Park Denizen, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 3:34 pm

Barron Park Denizen is a registered user.

A couple of Diana's points stood out:

1. The need for an outside audit, including cost cutting options. This audit should be done by an experienced engineering consultant, not a CPA firm or management consultant. Salaries and benefits and organization should be part of the scope. Audit costs could come out of the $20 million of annual siphonage.

2. The Palo Alto CC needs to stop wanting to hold up our city as a shining example for the nation. The nation doesn't care. With the arm-twisting about converting away from gas usage as an example, Council does not have carte blanche to spend the treasure of its citizenry.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 5:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"According to Lisa Forssell, there is a hefty rate increase coming up because rate increases were delayed during COVID because people lost jobs etc. In general, small rate increases appear to happen every year."

Define "small"!!!

Someone should inform Ms Forsell that in the last 2.5 months that more than 200,000 techies have been laid off and that the layoffs are still continuing and extending into NON-tech sectors.

She might also be interested to know that due to the tanking stock market, the worthless stock options and the sales to support basic living expenses that CA has gone from having a huge surplus to a deficit of more than $28,000,000,000 (BILLION) and growing.

She might also care that due to inflation people on fixed income are having trouble affording their prescriptions AND food when their energy bills are eating up so much of their Social Security.

@Jennifer, just for your information, many of us who aren't working ARE conserving heat by huddling in bed under a) down duvets AND B) heavy merino wool banks AND) heavy flannel sheets D) while wearing fingerless gloves. One of my friends just bought an old-fashioned nightcap!

For Utilities Commissioner Lisa Forsell to justify these increase as "small" is outrageous and clueless.

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 5:33 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Online Name, no, she agrees that the rate increases at the moment are large. The point is that it is large now because multiple small rate increases were deferred due to COVID, and those no longer can be deferred.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 5:56 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Why can't they be deferred?

What's she doing to cut costs and ensure efficiencies? When will we get rebates for all the power outages we suffer under non=emergency conditions?

For DECADES we've been asking to cut garbage pickups, esp. when we're on vacation to reduce the risk of alerting burglars to our absence?

What's she doing to ensure that we get accurate power outage reports? They JUST sent out one showing that 2 different areas in 2 different zip codes had exactly the same number of outages and the exact same number of customers served.

How much of the Utilities Transfer Tax is going to the General Fund and how much to Utilities? Perhaps WE need a break more than spending $1,000,000 on dinosaur models?

Perhaps we didn't need the Utilities Transfer Tax since the city didn't reveal that that it had a $40,000,000+ surplus until after the vote was taken due to concern over "bad optics" -- to use their term.

How much of our bill reflects their push to spend a fortune on Fiber to the Home when we never ever had the chance to say we have other more pressing needs?

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 9, 2023 at 6:56 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Online Name: So I seem to have unintentionally put a target on Lisa Forssell's back but I just brought up a relevant comment she made at a Stanford seminar today about the challenges of municipal utilities.

You've laid out some great questions that can give you more context around what decisions were made jointly, by many people - and you can send those questions to all 7 members of the Utilities Advisory Commission, all 7 Council members, and some of the top level city staff in the Utilities Department.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 7:45 am

Annette is a registered user.

Unless there's a realistic way to reverse it, the utility transfer is probably with us to stay. Our City Manager must be delighted; he surely did orchestrate a coup. Even if not liked, rate payers will accept higher rates IF there's an understanding that they are valid. For this, we have to trust the system and those who determine the rates. Right now, that's a problem. A truly independent audit of City practices would help restore trust. There should be one and the City Manager and the head of CPAU should have zero input into the selection of the auditor. We may still see increases, but I think an audit would at least give assurances that they are warranted and fair.

The current City management team has eroded civic trust, which is critical to management decisions not being challenged. Test this for yourself: do you believe the budget reports? Given all that has been exposed since the election, do you think there was full and honest disclosure about city finances vis-a-vis the business tax measure? Do you feel you have access to City Management? A chance at getting a permit in a reasonable period of time? A way to address concerns? Grievances? Did you know that this week the City was in court defending a law suit related to the fees paid for parking? I get that running a city is complicated but I think things have gone more than a bit awry in Palo Alto.

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 7:49 am

Anneke is a registered user.

Another good news article on the greed of the energy companies and their managements:

Web Link

Posted by Jennifer Broughton, a resident of Professorville,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 8:00 am

Jennifer Broughton is a registered user.

This escalation of rising utility costs/billings is increasing EVERYWHERE...just ask the residents who have to deal with SDG&E (San Diego Gas and Electric).

Increases in state population and an over-reliance on gas & electric comes with a price as does water.

State & municipal mismanagement is another consideration...remember Gov. Gray Davis & the Enron mess back in the early 2000s? His administration's incompetency resulted in a recall election and a new governor.

Perhaps Gavin Newsom needs to be replaced as well.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 2:39 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"You've laid out some great questions that can give you more context around what decisions were made jointly, by many people - and you can send those questions to all 7 members of the Utilities Advisory Commission, all 7 Council members, and some of the top level city staff in the Utilities Department."

1) Thanks. And first I got back a general and largely irrelevant response from a lower-level CPAU employee which I resubmitted and got back a copy of the back of the bill quoting, for example, what they say about distribution and transportation.

2) No response from City Council or City Manager's office.

3) Re the Utilities Advisory Board, maybe -- just maybe -- they could be proactive and respond here and/or on all the other forums like Facebook and NextDoor where people are complaining and asking questions.

4) Maybe our Chief Communications Officers and the rest of our highly paid staff could start monitoring and responding to the community?

Just a silly thought on my part. Now we return you to our regularly scheduled happy talk about sustainability and forced conversion to all-electric.

Jennifer, re your PG&E April Climate Change credit, that's because of the NATIONAL drop in commodity prices that's been widely covered by the media. As for PG&E specifically, they just denied granting refunds/damage awards o Menlo Park for the 3.5 day outage and are "helpfully" advising everyone to put a bowl of water in the freezer to help keep food cold.

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 2:45 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Online Name: thanks for checking on all that. You're right, I think they need better responsiveness. I don't have an immediate solution to this issue, but let me think on it...

Posted by Hinrich, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 11, 2023 at 8:13 am

Hinrich is a registered user.

You didn't want nuclear. You're ok with shutting down natural gas and fracking and ‘big oil' (you know, the folks that put the gas in your car). Nobody gave much thought to Green energy because, you know, it sounds positive. Californians permit sprawl with little more than a nod to where in the world will the water come from? Californians love sprawl - sprawl requires lots more energy than well-designed urban core. We keep thinking that government imposed restrictions in California (vs gradual transition to better options when they are proven feasible) is ‘saving the planet' (which, of course it isn't but we keep the fantasy going). We don't push for changes that actually - measurably - improve something, we think racial justice and gender are more important than expertise and knowledge.. We don't demand accountability. We don't demand better results from our managers and politicians. We think packing the electric bill with ever-increasing fees is better than building surplus nuclear power that would lower everyone's bills. We have what we wanted or allowed to happen and now we don't like it.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 12, 2023 at 3:50 pm

Resident is a registered user.

CA is a 1-party state and that affects everything including Palo Alto. There is zero challenge to the philosophy that drives this government. IF you really want change, you need to challenge that philosophy full bore and start electing radically different thinkers.

Posted by Miriam Jensen, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 12, 2023 at 4:16 pm

Miriam Jensen is a registered user.

Can methane gas emanating from the PA landfill, grazing land, & human flatulence be harnessed as a supplemental energy source?

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 12, 2023 at 5:20 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Miriam, definitely! I don't know how many places are doing it so far but I googled landfill methane capture and saw this NPR article - Web Link I do think this is one of the more feasible ones because they already had vents to allow heat to escape, so putting a capture system on top of those vents is feasible.

No clue how feasible it is to do methane capture on farms but perhaps if you got all the cow poop in one area you could capture some methane?

I'm super thrilled to hear about your study capturing human flatulence, let me know how that goes ;-)

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 12, 2023 at 5:22 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

oops I can't edit so a more serious answer to the human flatulence thing - you can actually capture a decent amount of energy via our wastewater systems, though how financially feasible that is at this exact moment I don't know. But it's a very active area of study, for sure.

Posted by Dave The Repairman, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 4:11 am

Dave The Repairman is a registered user.

At the end of the day we need gas for our homes whether that's for stoves or especially furnaces. I work as a repair tech and there's just no way around it especially if our winters are going to get greyer with more rain.
Just my 2 cents,
-Dave Your Local Repairman

Posted by Amanda woods, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 9:14 am

Amanda woods is a registered user.

This a very informative and educative article. I learned new ideas about it and also added my knowledge regarding this.

Posted by Tristan Morales, a resident of Mountain View,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 10:00 am

Tristan Morales is a registered user.

@Miriam Jensen & Paly02:
According to some scientists, human flatulence (methane) is the world's largest source of recyclable natural gas & if it could be harnessed effectively, our dependence on other more conventional energy sources would be greatly reduced.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 11:42 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Diana Diamond, please invite our "leaders" from the City Council, the City Managers Office, CPAU and the City Utilities Commission over here to respond to each and every post, especially the one about the forced conversion to all electricity all the time.

Posted by Paly02, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 6:28 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Tristan - that is definitely not true but I am ready for you to harness the power of human farts!! aaaahahaha

@Online Name - good idea. Having at least one in-depth explanation for the layperson will help us know what's going on.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 6:54 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

In my continuing correspondence with CPAU, a staffer wrote back "The Utility Users Tax was approved by Palo Alto voters in 1987 and updated in 2010 and 2014. It consists of a 5% tax on electricity, gas, and water (and a 4.75% tax on telecom, which does not show up on your City utility bill)"

In response I asked him about the 4.75% and reminded him that within recent memory there was a successful lawsuit against the practice of taxing telecom services we get elsewhere. I think it applied to landlines and remember getting a very very small payment.

Having neither landline long distance nor cable service, I asked him to specify what we'd be taxed on: cell phone purchases for which we paid sales tax, monthly cell phone service which is already taxed, our internet service ...

I also asked when we'd get our checks from the Miriam Green lawsuit.

Stay tuned for the next exciting adventure.

Posted by Ming Lee, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Mar 15, 2023 at 3:46 pm

Ming Lee is a registered user.

Palo Alto utilities are getting very costly this winter. We keep out thermostat at 65 and wear extra layers of clothing.

No regular hot showers. We towel bathe and rinse-off quickly with lukewarm water from shower head.

We use a small portable propane stove to cook with and avoid oven.

Laundry is washed by hand and dryer used only if needed. We hang clothes outdoors to dry on sunny days.

Only appliance on all the time is the refrigerator.

We practice austerity. Are other Palo Alto residents also capable or too spoiled?

Posted by Lenora Peters, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 17, 2023 at 11:41 am

Lenora Peters is a registered user.

@Paly02...if I could harness my husband's 'natural gas' Russia would no longer be a key player in regards to eastern European energy needs.

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