Menlo Park council likes green energy plan


Enthusiasm for the Peninsula Clean Energy program was very clear during a study session the Menlo Park City Council held Tuesday, Nov. 10. Peninsula Clean Energy is a San Mateo County-initiated community choice energy program that would give residents in participating cities within the county the chance to get a greater percentage of their electricity from renewable sources at prices competitive with PG&E rates.

The council discussed what mix of clean energy might work best for Menlo Park. One idea is to adopt a default option that would not raise prices for customers and provide less than 100 percent of the electricity from renewable sources. Another idea is to set as a default 100 percent renewable energy, which would cost the average customer an additional $1.89 per month, according to a study.

Increasing the cost of energy at all might increase the number of consumers and businesses who might opt out, Mayor Catherine Carlton said.

"Let's go all the way," said Councilman Ray Mueller, quoting a Sly Fox song. "Some people think (the song) is about sex. It's not." he said. "It's about politics."

He added that $1.89 is the cost of two Snickers bars. That kind of discretionary spending is minimal to the average household and could have a strong impact on reducing greenhouse gases, he said.

Though the details of the renewable energy options customers would receive is months away from being finalized, with plans to be rolled out across participating jurisdictions in October 2016, cities must decide whether to join Peninsula Clean Energy by the end of February to have a say in determining what those options could be.

According to Councilwoman Kirsten Keith, "I think it's the right move and the right time and I'm excited to see this move forward."

Since it was a study session, the council did not vote on the proposal.

Pay raises

The council approved at the meeting an agreement between the city and the Service Employees International Union, which will give 148 city employees a 3 percent pay raise, city-paid vision insurance, and a 3 percent increase, plus $500 per year, in the city's contributions to employee benefit plans.

After the results of a study on pay ranges for city job classifications is released, the city will re-enter negotiations with the union. If agreement is not reached on the pay ranges, the employees will receive an additional 2 percent pay increase in July 2016.

Other business

In other business, the council approved spending up to $200,000 for the city's storm preparedness plan, which includes providing free sandbags for Menlo Park residents. The city also agreed to share emergency resources with Palo Alto in cases of flooding and to join the San Francisquito Creek Multi-Agency Coordination Agreement and Operational Plan.

The council noted that the city has received a $20,000 grant to build bicycle racks in downtown Menlo Park.

Nikki Nagaya, the city's transportation manager, said that the city is working through the logistical challenges of installing Tesla-compatible electrical charging stations in downtown parking plazas.

The council issued proclamations recognizing:

● Menlo Park Police Officer Louis Tommei on his retirement after more than 25 years of service to Menlo Park.

● Law enforcement clerks by declaring Nov. 12 as Law Enforcement Records Professionals Day.

● Heffernan Insurance and Ducky's Carwash for becoming San Mateo County-certified "green" businesses.

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