Guest opinion: How to get on board with Menlo Park's climate action plan | September 24, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - September 24, 2021

Guest opinion: How to get on board with Menlo Park's climate action plan

by By Brielle Johnck and Steve Schmidt

The Environmental Quality Commission has delivered a climate action proposal to Menlo Park, and the next steps will be crucial for success. For the council to approve an ordinance requiring a switch from gas appliances to electric appliances, there needs to be a robust educational program that prepares residents. We have been Menlo Park residents for over 50 years, who live in a 103-year-old house that has a 100 amp service and even some knob and tube wiring. We have questions as to how we get started.

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Brielle Johnck is a former Environmental Quality Commission member and Steve Schmidt is a former mayor of Menlo Park. They reside in Menlo Park.


Posted by Slc
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 24, 2021 at 9:04 pm

Slc is a registered user.

Really surprising to hear this perspective - we electrified our entire house and this doesn’t reflect our experience at all. We had a very easy time upgrading our panel (and it cost less than $2000). Our electric heat pump is extremely efficient and reliable. Our electric tankless water heater is tiny and very responsive (and hot!). Induction cooking - if you haven’t tried it - is vastly superior to gas in its responsiveness, cleanliness, and ease of operation. Mostly, we are thrilled not to be burning fossil fuels inside our house - our kids aren’t inhaling all those noxious fumes. And I feel more peaceful not supporting fracking.

Electrification has been such a positive change for our household. Feels quite antiquated to burn things inside one’s house to heat or to cook - we are fortunate to live in modern times with electric options! Let’s use them.

I hope Menlo Park listens to climate scientists and proceeds accordingly. Without bold action, future generations will suffer.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 25, 2021 at 4:24 am

Westbrook is a registered user.

I'm sorry but I hate when people try to B.S. readers about their experience, There are so many holes in the above I don't know where to start but besides plans being drawn, submitted, fees paid, plan review, any changes necessary, resubmittal, city inspections, reinspections after corrections, cost, Wiring upgrades, You need to replace all exposed knob and tube wiring while doing any upgrades. 80% of all homes in Menlo Park have knob and tube, Along with sheetrock repairs, painting, and additional planning permits etc. for the appliances,

Sorry, you can't upgrade to 200 amps for $2,000, For all the above then add in an electric heat pump, water heater, stove, furnace, you could easily be at or above $25,000, "Easily", I suggest anybody thinking about upgrading contact a local licensed electrician for a rough estimate. I suggest the council do some random interviews with people that got estimates for some real numbers,
Plus I don't know anyone that thinks cooking on an electric stove is better than gas.

plus + where do you think electricity comes from?

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2021 at 5:17 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I don't know what kind of gas water heater you replaced with a heat pump, but they are decidedly "not more responsive" than gas water heaters. The FACT is they have terrible recovery rates when compared to gas. If you're going to make stuff up, at least make it believable.

And it only cost $2000 to upgrade your panel? Did you do it yourself? The panel alone is at least $250, without a meter socket. With a meter socket is $100 more. Then there is associated materials like a larger main breaker that need to be purchased. That is pretty much an all day job for an electrician and they are charging $150 to $200 an hour. You most likely had overhead power to the house as those are usually sized large enough to up size the panel to 200 amps without a service upgrade. If you are underground, you will likely have to do a service upgrade involving PG&E and that is not cheap. Usually starts in the neighborhood of $7500 JUST for the PG&E part of it.

So, sorry, but converting to all electric appliances is not "simple". It can be complicated an quite expensive. And it is pointless virtue signaling for the City of MP to be requiring it as even IF every home in MP went electric it wouldn't even move the needle in terms of C02 reduction.

And to the original authors, just jack up the utility tax. Great idea. You seem very good at spending other people's money. I question whether that tax should be there in the first place and if memory serves it was instituted as a stop gap when the city was in trouble during the great recession. It was supposed to end. And certainly wasn't there for you to use to create a slush fund so you and your friends can virtue signal at someone else's expense. Damn right it should be put to the voters to decide if they want to throw their money away.

Posted by Steev Schmidt
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2021 at 6:32 pm

Steev Schmidt is a registered user.

We electrified most of our home on a 100 amp subpanel.

This panel serves two EV chargers (we are off gasoline), a 5 ton Mitsubishi heat pump, a 50 gallon Rheem heat pump water heater, an LG condensing washer/dryer, a Bosch induction cooktop, and all our other kitchen appliances including an electric oven.

This was accomplished through the use of two "smart splitters" from NeoCharge.

Our gas furnace was 24 years old and had given out. Our tankless water heater was 14 years old, so ready to be replaced. The washer and dryer were starting to give out. We got quotes for replacing the old gas appliances with new gas appliances, and also for electrifying everything. The net cost difference (after some great incentives from our electric company SVCE and BayREN) was less than $3000. Seems like a decent investment considering the US has experienced $100B of climate disasters so far this year.

@Westbrook and @Menlo Voter: I agree -- some homes may be much more expensive to electrify. But I thought the EQC's plan to fund the electrification of low income MP homes using a few % increase in the UUT was brilliant (even better if it could be only a tax on natural gas use!).

For the rest of us who don't qualify as low income... we are innovators and leaders here in Silicon Valley. There is a climate crisis. Let's work on solutions. If not us, who?

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 26, 2021 at 7:41 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I'm glad electrifying things for you was worthwhile for you. It's not for me and it isn't for many others. You said it was time to replace all of your gas fired equipment. Guess what? For most people it's NOT. Which means you want to force us to spend money (whether we have it or not) on something we don't need. Like I said, you seem good at spending other people's money.

Yes, we are innovators, we are also business people. Would you put money into a business that would do nothing? Because that's what electrifying MP will do to the world's CO2 emissions. Nothing. And if you're going to spend a few % of MY money I want to vote on it. In this case my vote is NO as this is stupid, pointless virtue signaling and I don't want MY money wasted on it.

Posted by EPL
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 26, 2021 at 9:39 am

EPL is a registered user.

Hi Steev Schmidt. Thanks for reporting your solution.

Do you know the details of adding a sub panel? I'm asking for those people that say that they have old wiring (like knob and tube) on a small panel. Switching everything to modern code is expensive, so I wonder if there is an "affordable" combination where the new electric appliances go into a sub panel while the old outlets and wiring are not changed. Something like leaving the old panel as-is (it may even be just 60A) and adding the "new" functionality "in front" or "to the side".

Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 26, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

Please note that STEEV Schmidt, a resident of another community is not Steve Schmidt, former Menlo Park Council Member who authored the guest editorial.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2021 at 1:59 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

Hi Steev Schmidt,

Can you supply us with actual quotes from licensed electricians for upgrading a panel, include permits, retrofits, and fees, You mentioned most of your home, Can you give us the details on that, Sounds like you might not conform to new requirements, with most.

If you're upgrading it only makes sense to get 200 amps, How about those with Gas jacuzzis, would they be required to throw away their existing gas unit and replace it with electric. How about my pool heater, gas, which I replaced 3 years ago? $2500. I think we need a lot more information before any changes are implemented, and I agree with MV, any changes should require a vote,

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2021 at 2:23 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

"if not us who", Start with China they are building coal fired gas plants at a rate that we can't touch with lower demand on gas, Then you could scoot over to India and stop in Russia on your way,

Lake Orville just shut down all hydro-electricity power generation, No water,
Where is the replacement power coming from for that loss?

Already in the state, hydropower is down about 40% this month compared with June 2020, according to BNEF. At the Hoover Dam, on the Nevada-Arizona border, capacity has fallen about 25%, with the site’s reservoir at its lowest point since 1937.
This is also happening at all Ca. hydro systems, Unless you don't have a problem with "brownouts" then I suggest continuing to supply and use gas,

Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2021 at 10:14 am

Dagwood is a registered user.

For those having success with appliance electrification, it's up to the city, or other responsible institution with the resources, to organize the processes and technology options for homeowners. That's the 'educational' perspective of the editorial. Few have the wherewithal to deal with the ins and outs of home upgrades, and trust in technologies which are not widely used, but slowly improving and gaining acceptance. Not to mention novel purchases or home infrastructure costing thousands of dollars. The city council has one tool: the hammer of an ordinance. They are in way over their heads, having no strategic sense of incremental steps needed to make widespread residential electrification a success.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 1, 2021 at 10:57 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

Where will all this newly generated electricity come from again? if Not from gas wells,(being shut down) or hydro, (not recently) then where?

To our City Council, Can you answer this question before entertaining any more ideas about mandating switchover to all electric?

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 2, 2021 at 1:01 am

Westbrook is a registered user.

Where Ca. electric power currently comes from, We have 11.34% coming from large hydro, 46.54% from natural gas, 9.38% from nuclear, and 32.35% from renewables,
We know hydro plants are at 0-low capacity due to the drought, Natural gas is currently being discussed as shutting down new exploration and reducing current production. Our last Nuclear plant Diablo Canyon is scheduled to shut down in 2024,2025, Which leaves 32.35% renewables, and higher demand during reduced Natural gas production, and increased electricity demand for home and industrial consumption towards 0% GHG producing energy, I'm no engineer and there's plenty of smarter people than me, but after a little bit of research this is what I came up with, Can we get some smart engineer types to look at this, I just don't see the math working out. City Council can you look at this please,

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