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A $4.5 million grant from the state sparks Menlo Park's conversion to all-electric buildings

A partnership with BlocPower aims to help homeowners convert gas-powered appliances and equipment to help reach city's climate goals

Solar panels on the roof of a Palo Alto home. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Menlo Park is receiving $4.5 million from the state of California to fund the city’s electrification program in partnership with BlocPower, aiming to make the switch from natural gas more affordable to residents.

Mayor Betsy Nash describes BlocPower, a climate technology company that has partnered with the city of Menlo Park, as a "one-stop-shop" for everything that residents need to electrify their homes, from organizing incentives and contractors to providing equipment at a lower cost. BlocPower also provides workforce training to create jobs locally and provide the labor needed to complete the project.

“I’m extremely excited about what the BlocPower partnership can do for Menlo Park,” said Nash. “The state investment in our community will make a huge difference in accelerating electrification of homes.”

It is all part of Menlo Park’s plan to become completely carbon-neutral by 2030 through voluntary electrification of homes and buildings to end the use of natural gas. State Sen. Josh Becker brought forward the idea to provide Menlo Park with $4.5 million from the state budget in order to assist residents in electrification conversion projects. The funding would lower the cost for residents and go directly to helping low and middle-income homeowners in converting gas-powered equipment and appliances (like heaters, stoves and clothes dryers) in their homes.

Several City Council members expressed their gratitude to Becker for the funding, and their eagerness to work toward electrifying the city of Menlo Park. Council member Drew Combs stressed that he supported the voluntary aspect of Menlo Park’s electrification process.

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Menlo Park's city facilities already run entirely on renewable energy through Peninsula Clean Energy, so moving the rest of the city to all-electric buildings is a way of further decarbonizing the city. Menlo Spark, a local nonprofit, is collaborating with the city in an effort to raise up to $35 million to further reduce the cost for low- to moderate-income households.

With the help of BlocPower, Menlo Park hopes to electrify 15 buildings in 2022, 100 in 2023 and 1,000 or more in 2024 and the years following. Menlo Park’s electrification program is voluntary but seeks to assist the residents in the process.

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Cameron Rebosio
 
Cameron Rebosio joined the Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. She previously wrote for the Daily Californian and the Palo Alto Weekly. Read more >>

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A $4.5 million grant from the state sparks Menlo Park's conversion to all-electric buildings

A partnership with BlocPower aims to help homeowners convert gas-powered appliances and equipment to help reach city's climate goals

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 7, 2022, 11:42 am

Menlo Park is receiving $4.5 million from the state of California to fund the city’s electrification program in partnership with BlocPower, aiming to make the switch from natural gas more affordable to residents.

Mayor Betsy Nash describes BlocPower, a climate technology company that has partnered with the city of Menlo Park, as a "one-stop-shop" for everything that residents need to electrify their homes, from organizing incentives and contractors to providing equipment at a lower cost. BlocPower also provides workforce training to create jobs locally and provide the labor needed to complete the project.

“I’m extremely excited about what the BlocPower partnership can do for Menlo Park,” said Nash. “The state investment in our community will make a huge difference in accelerating electrification of homes.”

It is all part of Menlo Park’s plan to become completely carbon-neutral by 2030 through voluntary electrification of homes and buildings to end the use of natural gas. State Sen. Josh Becker brought forward the idea to provide Menlo Park with $4.5 million from the state budget in order to assist residents in electrification conversion projects. The funding would lower the cost for residents and go directly to helping low and middle-income homeowners in converting gas-powered equipment and appliances (like heaters, stoves and clothes dryers) in their homes.

Several City Council members expressed their gratitude to Becker for the funding, and their eagerness to work toward electrifying the city of Menlo Park. Council member Drew Combs stressed that he supported the voluntary aspect of Menlo Park’s electrification process.

Menlo Park's city facilities already run entirely on renewable energy through Peninsula Clean Energy, so moving the rest of the city to all-electric buildings is a way of further decarbonizing the city. Menlo Spark, a local nonprofit, is collaborating with the city in an effort to raise up to $35 million to further reduce the cost for low- to moderate-income households.

With the help of BlocPower, Menlo Park hopes to electrify 15 buildings in 2022, 100 in 2023 and 1,000 or more in 2024 and the years following. Menlo Park’s electrification program is voluntary but seeks to assist the residents in the process.

Comments

been there
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2022 at 4:28 pm
been there, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 4:28 pm

The city of Menlo Park gets $4.5 million and the residents are forced to go all-electric. Not everybody agrees that all-electric is the best way to go. After all the money is spent, every resident ends up on the short stick. The council wants to force everyone to accept their values by mandate and not by encouragement. Money always wins in Menlo Park.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 7, 2022 at 8:12 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 8:12 pm

Here we go again. Council trying to get everyone to be all electric. Never mind the grid can barely handle the load/demand it currently has. But, let's go ahead and pile some more load on the system. Brilliant. I am so sick and tired of members of the council trying to shove electrification down everyone's throats. To supposedly "save the world" when any reduction of CO2 by Menlo Park won't even move the needle. The council needs to get real and start dealing with issues that actually have a direct affect on Menlo Park. Last time I checked the city has staffing problems, unfunded pension liability problems, and a whole host of other problems that they might actually be able to do something about. As opposed to tilting at CO2 windmills.

This whole things really makes me wish we elected council at large so I could vote against all of these yahoos.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 8, 2022 at 8:34 am
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 8, 2022 at 8:34 am

Great to see this effort to allow more people to opt into electric power. Thanks to the Council.

"Been There" and "Menlo Voter" ... We have had this conversation before but here is a short rebuttal:

* On "Not everybody agrees the value of going electric" ... Sure, there are always dissenters. There are people that think the Earth is flat, for what's worth. Most people agree we should go electric. More to the point, the elected council agrees.

* "Forced adoption of electricity" ... We can argue that point with other initiatives, but not with this opt-in effort.

* "Load on the grid" ... The grid does need help but there are multiple efforts to address that, including managing load on DER (distributed energy resources), see Web Link for example. Fortunately we can do multiple things at the same time: improve the grid physical infrastructure, manage it better, create more sources of electricity, create more DERs, and increase electricity adoption. A variation of "yes, you can pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time"

* "Reduction on CO2 in Menlo Park won't move the needle" ... That is so, but add 1000 cities (as in California) or 20000 (as in USA) and we do move the needle; a lot.


lelkins
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 8, 2022 at 10:00 am
lelkins, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 8, 2022 at 10:00 am

Some people seem to have missed the word “voluntary” which is repeated multiple times in this article. If an individual chooses to keep all their gas appliances, nothing in this program or anything else that the council has done, or is proposing to do, will stop them or penalize them.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 8, 2022 at 7:05 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 8, 2022 at 7:05 pm

EPL:

Sorry, but a few thousand cities adopting all electric will not move the needle as long as China and India continue to produce CO2 at their current rates, or as expected, increase the production of CO2. Requiring everyone to go electric does nothing but increase their costs of heating water, heating their homes and cooking. Not to mention associated casts to upgrade services, etc. IN addition, at a minimum 35% of power in California is produced by burning natural gas. Burning gas to produce electricity to make heat is less efficient than simply burning gas to make heat.

Renewables will never produce enough power for an all electric California. The only way to replace natural gas to produce power is to build more nuclear power plants. We both know that is a non-starter, especially in California. So, since power is still generated by burning natural gas, what's the point in forcing everyone into all electric?


John McKenna
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 8, 2022 at 11:22 pm
John McKenna, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Jul 8, 2022 at 11:22 pm

I would like to applaud the city for not only partnering with BlocPower (and thank you to those individuals instrumental in making that happen) but also for adopting a Climate Action Plan to be net-zero by 2030. This is a goal that all cities should set. Partnering with BlocPower is a step towards achieving this goal. Two aspects that I especially like about the BlocPower partnership are 1) an initial focus on helping LMI households voluntarily electrify and 2) the job training/creation component. In regards to some of the previous comments, I would welcome the opportunity to sit down and talk with anyone interested so that we can share concerns, ideas, and solutions for addressing the climate crisis. It is an incredibly large problem that will best be solved if we can all find a way to work together. Respectful conversations are a pathway to collaboration. Please reach out to me if you'd like to meet in person or simply talk on the phone. I've never commented here before so I don't know if my name will show up somewhere, but my name is John McKenna and my phone number is (650) 776-8548. We owe it to our children, future generations, and all living things to do whatever we can to save as much of this beautiful and diverse planet that we can.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2022 at 8:30 am
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 8:30 am

re: Menlo Voter -- Separating my reply into two topics.

re: impact of local regulation, vs China (etc). It is a mistake to dismiss the value of local action. See where we are with Electric Vehicle adoption. If California had not required BEV sales, we would be many years behind in adoption. CARB regulation was a key reason why BEVs will take over the industry.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2022 at 8:39 am
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 8:39 am

re: Menlo Voter -- Cost of going electric --

Heat Pump water heaters are much cheaper to operate than Gas Tank water heaters. And substantially cheaper than Gas Tankless water heaters. Looking at Home Depot gets you EnergyGuide labels for the water heaters they sell.

Rheem 48 Gallons Tank Gas - $293
Rheem Tankless Gas - $200
Rheem Hybrid 80 Gallons - $149

I have one of the Hybrids and my cost is lower than that as I only use the Heat Pump mode, which is *VERY CHEAP*.

Heat Pumps are intrinsically much more efficient than Gas (or Electric) Heaters. In the case of Water Heaters, the best efficiency numbers I can find for Gas is around 1, while Heat Pumps are over 4 and they are getting better all the time.

We also have a Heat Pump Space heater and those are also more efficient than anything else.

The Heat Pump units themselves are more expensive but there are rebates from different sources to help with that.

And Heat Pumps do not load the electrical system either. We have a 200A panel because we also have Electric Vehicles but a 100A panel can handle both Space heaters and Water Heaters Heat Pumps systems.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2022 at 8:43 am
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 8:43 am

re: Menlo Voter -- Ah, there is a third point in your comment.

The percentage of renewable electricity used in California will continue to grow. There are multiple initiatives to improve the generation, distribution, storage and moderate consumption of electricity. And we live in San Mateo, where we can easily get our energy from renewables.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2022 at 4:38 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 4:38 pm

"And we live in San Mateo, where we can easily get our energy from renewables."

It all comes over the same grid. You're getting power from non-renewable sources whether you want to believe it or not.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2022 at 4:43 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 4:43 pm

EPL:

heat pump water heaters may be cheaper to operate if you don't care what your recovery rate is. It is abysmal when compared to gas water heaters. Hybrid mode only work well if the heater is not in a closet or small room. If it is, once it sucks all the available heat out of the air it fires up the second electric element which is not "cheap". Every person I have installed hybrid heaters for has not been happy with them due to their terrible recovery rate. I even had one customer who had us add a demand gas water heater on the inlet to the hybrid heater to preheat the water going in so it didn't take so long to heat the water electrically. When in hybrid mode, he room the water heater was in was like a refrigerator.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2022 at 4:51 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 4:51 pm

EPL:

Where are all these additional renewables coming from? Production of hydropower is down and falling. Wind power may end up being dumped because of its damage to birds. If we're going to go all electric, nuclear power is going to be necessary. Not to mention a huge improvement to the stability of capacity of the grid. That will likely require the state to take over power distribution. As long as PG&E is providing power we know they will do what they've done in the past and take money that was supposed to be used to improve the grid and give it out as bonuses or they'll raise they're rates for electricity even higher than they already are, making electricity even less affordable than it is now. Sorry, all electric is a pipe dream that will cost people a lot more money than it already does, placing a huge burden on many people that struggle to pay for it now. To virtually no benefit.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2022 at 5:55 pm
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 5:55 pm

> Hybrid mode only work well if the heater is not in a closet or small room

All the articles / docs I've seen on HPWH do not recommend installing an integrated HPWH in a small space unless there is very good intake/outake ventilation. A split system, like a SanCO2, does not have that constraint, but SanCO2 are hard to find, more expensive, and require more installation expertise.

> Recovery

We installed a larger tank and it works flawlessly for us.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2022 at 10:10 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2022 at 10:10 pm

"All the articles / docs I've seen on HPWH do not recommend installing an integrated HPWH in a small space unless there is very good intake/outake ventilation. "

That's right. And where do you think many older homes have the water heater located?

"We installed a larger tank and it works flawlessly for us."

That's great if you have the room. See above.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 10, 2022 at 8:30 am
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 10, 2022 at 8:30 am

I'm mostly familiar with post-WWII houses around California. I can readily believe that earlier houses may have a water heater inside the house, not in a basement, and may also have knob and tube wiring and panels with low capacity (30A and 60A), and all that is problematic. I don't know what programs exist to help homeowners with the transition. In our case our house was built originally in 1945 and we had to replace some knob and tube. We eventually also upgraded the panel from 100A to 200A, for the BEVs.

Back to the HPWH in a closet. The exhaust problems could be addressed with vents. If there was a gas tank there previously shouldn't already be a vent there? That does not address the sound problems though.

I do wish California had access to more split-unit HPWH. Many mainstream manufacturers (LG, Bosch, Mitsubishi) have them in other markets (EU, NZ, JP) but they don't bring them here. I'd have installed a split-unit in the garage if I could.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 10, 2022 at 8:45 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 10, 2022 at 8:45 am

"Back to the HPWH in a closet. The exhaust problems could be addressed with vents. If there was a gas tank there previously shouldn't already be a vent there?"

Yes, there is usually make up air in those closets, but that is intake air for the water heater which exhausts out small flue. The ventilation supplied isn't even close to sufficient for a hybrid water heater. Post WWII house had knob and tube wiring well into the 50's. Homes built in the 60's frequently don't have the grounding system that is required now, nor did they have larger service panels. Homes built in the 70's might have 100 amp service panels. Service upgrades are costly, as I'm sure you found out, and if it requires upsizing the incoming conductors, that can get extremely expensive.

But again, even with subsidies and other things, our going all electric will matter not a whit in the global increase in CO2. You may feel good because you did it, but you didn't actually do anything that had any effect. If people want to go all electric on their own, more power to them. Forcing people into all electric is wrong.


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 10, 2022 at 4:20 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 10, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Electricity has probably been the dirtiness power source in California for the last 10 years pumping untold tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. I say this based solely on the fires that have ravaged California cities and forests caused by PG&E's transmission lines. My friends lost their houses in Paradise and some of them lost their friends. Here are just a few fires caused by PG&E:
Dixie fire burned 1 million acres and 1300 homes, KILLED 3 firefighters
Camp Fire burned 155,000 acres, destroyed 18,804 buildings and KILLED 85 people
Kincade Fire burned 78,000 acres, destroyed 374 buildings
Zogg Fire burned 56,000 acres, destroyed 204 buildings and KILLED 4 people

That is just a few of the 31 wildfires that a judge determined PG&E was responsible for in the last 5 years.

From a pbs article:
"By the judge's accounting, while on probation, PG&E has set off 31 wildfires, killing 113 Californians, burning nearly 1.5 million acres, and destroying almost 24,000 structures. The utility is blamed for some of the biggest fires in the state's history, including last summer's Dixie Fire in Northern California, which burned more than 963,000 acres and destroyed 1,300 structures."

Here is a link to the full story: Web Link

So until PG&E fixes their problems I have zero intention of converting to all electrical based on pollution alone. Let's not forget about rate Hikes (9% hike on March 1, 2022) with more and larger rate hikes being asked for to pay for burying the lines. This is at the same time that PG&E profits are soaring. Here is a snippet from a story on ABC "In January, electricity rates went up 8%. That was followed by another rate hike of 8.9% in March. This happened all while gas rates went up 11% in January. In total, the average PG&E bill has gone up to $384 annually -- and this could be only the beginning of more rate hikes to come."


MenloVoter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 11, 2022 at 7:51 am
MenloVoter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 11, 2022 at 7:51 am

Thank you Brian.

Not only is PG&E a major polluter, they are a criminal corporation, found guilty in a court of law. The cost of electricity they provide alone makes all electric untenable. When I heat my home with gas during the winter, my total PG&E bill runs around $400/month. When I am running AC in the summer it runs around $800/month. And they want us to use electric heat? AC is a heat pump that works in the cooling direction. A heat pump providing heat is the same as AC, just running in the opposite direction. It takes the same amount of power to provide heat as it does cooling, unless your system requires a "booster strip" to add heat which cost even more. So, I am supposed to double my heating costs so I can pretend to be doing something for global warming? Not on your life. Those who want to do that and pat themselves on the back for something that makes no difference are free to do so. DON'T TRY TO FORCE ME INTO YOUR SAME INSANITY.


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 11, 2022 at 6:59 pm
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 11, 2022 at 6:59 pm

> AC is a heat pump that works in the cooling direction.
> A heat pump providing heat is the same as AC, just running in the opposite direction

Not so. They work on the same thermodynamic cycle principle but their details and design parameters are different. Heat Pumps are very efficient -- and cheap to operate.

> $400 / month in winter (using gas)
> $800 / month in summer (just electric AC)

Our highest monthly costs since we installed our heat pump are

$260 / Jan '22 Full electric bill, including heating the house and charging 2 cars
$140 / Jul '21 Full electric bill, including cooling the house and charging 2 cars.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 11, 2022 at 7:12 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 11, 2022 at 7:12 pm

EPL:

I'm happy for you that you're happy with electricity. I also think you're mistaken about heat pump/AC.

"While heat pumps and conventional air conditioners differ, they rely on the same principals to condition inside air temperatures. Both systems utilize a compressor to compress refrigerant contained within the system. Inside the compressor, gas is compressed, causing its temperature to rise significantly. The gas then flows through the condensing coil where it cools to ambient temperature. As the gas enters the evaporator coil—located inside the house—it expands, causing its temperature to rapidly drop and cool the evaporator coil.

A fan or blower assembly within the air handler draws air through the cooled evaporator coil to provide conditioned air to the home’s interior. The main difference between the two systems is that a heat pump can reverse the process by switching the function of the evaporator and condenser coils to raise inside temperatures."

Web Link


EPL
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 12, 2022 at 6:25 am
EPL, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 12, 2022 at 6:25 am

MV - I should not have said "No so". I should have said something like "yes, but...". Sorry I started the reply that way.

You are correct, both Heat Pumps and A/Cs work using the thermodynamic cycle, same as refrigerators. What I tried to convey is that the details vary. In fairness, specific systems and specific house setups will also vary in many ways, so direct comparisons are not best. We have a fairly small, fairly well insulated house with good natural ventilation and we have a modern system. Our heating / cooling costs are pretty reasonable but I've compared with a few other Heat Pump owners and our costs are within the average. Heat Pumps are very efficient.


Westbrook
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 17, 2022 at 10:09 pm
Westbrook, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Jul 17, 2022 at 10:09 pm

When the gas plants and Diablo Nuclear Plant shut down and you electrify everything, in your homes, new construction, our public buildings, and our cars you will have large scale Brownouts and Blackouts throughout the State,

We will all look back at these times as a failure of leadership of epic proportions.

No way will wind and solar make up for other sources lost. You fools,


MenloVoter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2022 at 7:06 am
MenloVoter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jul 18, 2022 at 7:06 am

Westbrook:

but, they're "saving the world" so they can virtue signal to their friends or they're deluded. In either case they can't be concerned with reality.


Westbrook
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2022 at 3:42 pm
Westbrook, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Jul 18, 2022 at 3:42 pm

I'm quite sure you are the same imbeciles that are ok with millions of people coming illegally across our southern border, Overloading our already strained Social Services, Schools and Medical care. Their kids won't be coming to Oaknoll or Hillview or you might feel differently, How many is too many, 5 million, 10 million, 20 million? Including 60 known terrorists so far this year, And causing the price of gas to go up to $6.00 a gallon hurting mostly poor and fixed-income persons, And believed inflation would be "transitory". And are ok with Afgan Nationals that supplied some "material support" to known Terrorist Organizations coming into the US.

And, you believe electricity comes from an outlet. Ignorant, Dumb or both?

While you may be insulated from most of this here in Silicon Valley, Is this the Country you want to leave to your kids?


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