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How to go gas-free? Two new reports lay out possible paths to phase out natural gas in Menlo Park buildings

Original post made on Aug 12, 2021

As Menlo Park tries to reach its ambitious goal of converting buildings citywide to electric power, two new reports were recently released that take a deeper dive into exactly what it will take for the city to accomplish that.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 12, 2021, 5:58 PM

Comments (37)

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 12, 2021 at 7:58 pm

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

Thinking that you're going to get 95% of home owners to convert from gas to electricity in the next 8.5 years is a pipe dream of a high order.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 12, 2021 at 8:04 pm

Enough is a registered user.

I have to agree with you Joseph. The cost of conversion is high, buying new appliances and from what I have seen electrical is not as efficient as gas when it comes to on demand hot water or forced air furnaces. I also prefer my gas cooktop to an electric one. I also have to ask the cost to the environment to switching out perfectly good gas appliances with many years of life left to new electric appliances.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 12, 2021 at 8:21 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

You're both right. Electricity sucks for heating and cooking. And in this state, the cost of electricity is higher. You'll never get most people to convert. They're going to have to do what they are doing and force it down everyone's' throats. Build new? Can't put in gas. Remodel big enough? Can't put in gas and you may have to take out what you have.

The biggest problem behind all of it is that, even if they are able to theoretically get everyone on electricity, we are on a power grid that is ancient, in terrible shape and not sized to carry the kind of power that will be demanded. This is just another woke pipe dream and virtue signaling. It won't really happen and it won't really accomplish anything, but we can all pat ourselves on the back because "we're doing something". It's nonsense.


Posted by Taxed to Oblivion
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 12, 2021 at 8:27 pm

Taxed to Oblivion is a registered user.

This policy is absolute garbage. Is the plan to FORCE residents to convert and fill landfills with perfect appliances? These cost efficient studies are also absolute garbage and twist the outrageous costs in their “moral” favor. Meanwhile India and China burn garbage daily. Who elects these people??


Posted by Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 13, 2021 at 8:19 am

Tom is a registered user.

Things are changing quickly around us and we need to keep up with the changes in order to take actions that provide a decent present and future for our kids. Electric appliance technologies have evolved where the same air conditioner that pumps heat out of a building in summer can efficiently pump heat into a building in winter. It's a 2-fer. And its 3 times more efficient than gas heating or those old electric resistance heaters that commenters may be remembering. There's lots of good info about the modern electric equipment in this free guide. Web Link


Posted by Jane Ratchye
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 13, 2021 at 8:19 am

Jane Ratchye is a registered user.

I’m proud of my city for recognizing the importance of and the need to act boldly and decisively to mitigate the effects of climate change. I changed all my fossil-fuel burning appliances to super efficient electric ones and PG&E removed my gas meter. I agree that it is not cheap to make this conversion in the short term. The best way to start is to replace your water heater with a heat pump water heater. We all know that water heaters have a relatively short lifetime and no one wants to wait long to replace it when it fails.

I know folks love their gas stoves, but I love my induction cooktop. It is not your father’s electric stove! It is very fast reacting and responsive like gas, but doesn’t have the bad indoor emissions that gas cooktops do. I recommend testing one out.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 13, 2021 at 9:36 am

Angela is a registered user.

New studies show that children who grow up in homes with gas-powered cooktops are 42% more likely to develop asthma within their lifetimes than children who did not grow up with those appliances. Further studies show that the average American pays >$3200 per year for asthma medications alone (and that doesn't include copays to see doctors or high costs of urgent care/ER during asthma emergencies!). As a parent, I want to do everything I can to keep my children well and healthy, including avoiding an asthma diagnosis. Their lungs are already suffering moreso with the smoke from our now annual wildfires. This means that I want to make changes in my home -- even if they feel like really big ones at the start -- to get my children a healthy, safe future. This also means that I commit to doing everything I can to help control our climate crisis so that my children have a greater chance of living on a planet without increasing extreme heat, flooding, and more frequent, intense storms. When I boil it down, here's how I view it: Yes, I agree that change (especially in our homes) can feel really hard, though in this case, there are big health benefits from doing so. However, not changing will be infinitely harder, especially for our children. My hope for Menlo Park is that we can, regardless of political affiliation, work together to find solutions that minimize transition pain and prioritize public health.


Posted by Cheryl Schaff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 13, 2021 at 10:38 am

Cheryl Schaff is a registered user.

Hallelujah! I'm pleased and relieved that the City of Menlo Park, Peninsula Clean Energy and their experienced partners are laser focused on how we can best use our resources to combat climate change: heat domes, mega droughts, rising sea levels, wildfires, poor air quality and the rest of the sad symptoms of humanity abusing our planet—and being LIVED right here in Menlo Park. As a nation, we are way past the point of being able to choose what's most convenient for us, or what we're most comfortable with because we've "always done it that way." Most of our residents, who've heard summaries of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, are alarmed at the "Code Red for Humanity" that the panel declared. We're out of time. We need to do everything we can now to reduce emitting greenhouse gasses. Methane is a huge source of GHG emissions from our city and something each of us can reduce. Many of us will need or want a new appliance during the next 8.5 years. It's easy to choose a healthier-for-humanity gas appliance. Incentives will make those choices more affordable—and more incentives are being offered each year. Let's do this!


Posted by Nicole
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 13, 2021 at 10:46 am

Nicole is a registered user.

Objection 1: It's a pipe dream.
Response: If we're defeated before we start, we certainly won't make progress.
Objection 2: Electrical is not as efficient as gas.
Response: Factually incorrect and also irrelevant as CO2 and methane from fossil fuels are literally killing us.
Objection 3: Electricity sucks for heating and cooking.
Response: Patently absurd. The source of power has no impact on the quality of heating or cooking. I use electricity for hot water and cooking. My water is hot. So are my meals.
Objection 4: The electric grid can't handle the load.
Response: You demonstrate a lack of awareness about developments in that arena. Catch up before you object.
Objection 5: This is empty virtue signaling.
Response: No. It is based on solid science.
Objection 6: This policy forces people to do something.
Response: Do the right thing on your own and no one will need to force you. You see how well the laissez-faire policy has served us so far?
In sum, your objections and those of people who think like you brought us to our current pass. We have locked in global warming.


Posted by Cheryl Schaff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 13, 2021 at 10:48 am

Cheryl Schaff is a registered user.

Oops! I meant choose a healthier-for-humanity electric appliance.


Posted by Diane Schrader
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 13, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Diane Schrader is a registered user.

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to provide feedback. I know that even when the science is clear and the technology is available, the path to these changes takes time and creative resources. I applaud Menlo Park for developing a sustainability plan and taking the steps needed to create a Menlo Park that seven generations out will want to live in. I am so hopeful. The fact that this article is creating dialog is inspiring. I take my cue from Rosie the Riveter: We can do this!


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 13, 2021 at 1:25 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Nicole:

sure, Menlo Park forcing people into gas is going to make a difference with global warming. It's a drop of water in the ocean. Ever heard of China and India and the quantities of pollutants and CO2 they put in the air? So, yes, this is virtue signaling. They are pretending to "do something" when that something doesn't do or mean anything.


Posted by Angela
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 13, 2021 at 2:02 pm

Angela is a registered user.

It's collective responsibility; everybody has to own their own part so that we can move the ball forward. It's like voting; our individual votes all add up, even if we think our marginal vote doesn't matter. It does matter. In fact, it matters a lot. Menlo Park has a chance to create a meaningful precedent that others can follow. Let's own that.


Posted by Rvengosh
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 13, 2021 at 3:10 pm

Rvengosh is a registered user.

We are in a climate emergency. The West is burning, sea ice is disappearing and July was the hottest month recorded in human history worldwide. If we don't eliminate emissions, our kids will not have a habitable planet to live on. Homes are a major source of emissions and we must change that. I am proud to live in a community that understands the challenge and is rising to meet it.

As to the complaints about electric appliances - those clearly don't come from folks that have tried modern ones. We converted almost all our appliances to electric and never looked back (still need to do the furnace). An Induction cooktop is FAR superior to gas. Heats up instantaneously, lets you precisely control the temperature and boils water lightning fast. And it does all this without creating pollution inside my home. Seriously folks, try it before you knock it.

We have to leave a livable planet to the next generation. Stop complaining and help solve the greatest challenge of our life times.


Posted by Parent of Los Lomitas and La Entrada grads
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 13, 2021 at 4:21 pm

Parent of Los Lomitas and La Entrada grads is a registered user.

I have an idea
Let everyone in MP make responsible decisions for themselves


Posted by Taxed to Oblivion
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 13, 2021 at 4:50 pm

Taxed to Oblivion is a registered user.

Web Link

If you think citizens will be COERCED into filling landfills to join your virtue signaling, you will be looking at the largest class action lawsuit in history.


Posted by sjtaffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 13, 2021 at 5:12 pm

sjtaffee is a registered user.

I would love to convert my gas oven and gas water heater to electric. My challenge is a maxed-out electrical panel (125 amps). I recently changed out my gas furnace for a heat pump and very happy with that change. I will need to either run more power to my home to change the water heater and oven, or find some clever switching system for my electrical panel to switch certain circuits on/off to not exceed the pane's capacity. Electrician's I've spoken to know little about this new switching technology. One thing the City could help with is help homeowners upgrade their circuits to higher capacity and sponsor projects with the new switching system and training for interested electrical contractors.

- steve taffee, willows


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 13, 2021 at 7:34 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

sjtaffee:

I'm a builder and I haven't heard of a "switching technology" that replaces upsizing a service. Do you have a link to info on it? I'm interested in learning more. Thanks


Posted by Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2021 at 1:59 am

Tom is a registered user.

sjtaffee & Menlo Voter,

There's some info on methods of avoiding panel upsizing on pages 19-24 and 68-69 of this free guide. Web Link The solutions fall into 6 sets and you can mix and match them or or skip them all and upsize your panel. I've only done 1,2,3,4 recently.
1) reduce loads by insulating, air sealing, going ductless etc.
2) use more efficient equipment (better COPs or better SEERs or better HSPFs
etc.)
3) use multi functional equipment (Combo washer/dryer instead of separate dryer or combined range instead of separate wall oven, etc.)
4) use less powerful equipment like larger tank water heater with a lower Amp requirement or 10 Amp 240 V charging for 100 miles/night (36,000 miles/year) etc.
5) Use individual circuit sharing devices like NeoCharge, SimpleSwitch etc.
6) Use automated load pausing like Span.io or DCC9 etc.
I think homeowners can save a bunch of money by making an electrification plan out of ideas from the guide.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2021 at 11:17 am

Enough is a registered user.

"We are in a climate emergency. The West is burning"

This made me laugh because do you know what started the biggest fires? The Dixie Fire and the fire that burned down Paradise a couple years ago, not to mention hundreds or thousands of other fires? Overloaded electrical transmission equipment. PG&E is responsible for those fires and many others. Just Google "PG&E Fires" and see what comes up. How much pollutants have these fires pumped into our environment? Now PG&E wants to bury 1,000 miles of powerlines, great but who pays for it? PG&E customers! PG&E "hopes" to get the cost per mile down so that it will only cost between $15 and $20 million. I am guessing that the cost analysis above does not take that into account. PG&E has have a horrible record for reliability with brownouts, rolling blackouts, etc. I don't trust them and do not play to rely on their electrical power for things like heating, hot water and cooking. So nothing I have heard here convinces me to move 100% away from gas, in fact just the opposite, if more people move everything to electrical it will just add more strain to an already weak power grid and increase the likelihood of failure.


Posted by Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2021 at 3:46 pm

Tom is a registered user.

@ Enough
My reading of articles about the fires is that they were caused by climate change induced forest conditions and climate change induced big hot winds pushing things on underloaded distribution and transmission wires and freak lightening storms etc. Not caused by overloading of electric system. The Carr fire was caused by a gasoline powered pickup truck pulling over. etc.
I respect that you don't trust the gas and electric company to be safe and reliable while their attention is split on two commodities. I suggest we downsize their duties on handling dangerous gas. I still need then to focus on keeping my electric supply super convenient and reliable so I don't have to dust off my $40 propane camp stove. But I'm always ready to get it out if needed.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2021 at 6:49 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Tom:

Looked through your link. Still can't find info on a circuit sharing technology, although it is mentioned.

The other thing I noted was the suggestion to go to condensing dryers. These are absolutely NOT more efficient. I speak from experience. When our dryer died I replaced it with a condensing dryer. It took FOREVER to dry laundry. After a year of using far more electricity drying laundry than we had been, we dumped the condensing dryer and replaced it with another vented dryer. Dries laundry in 1/3 the time with the added benefit that our electric bill went back down to where it had been.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 15, 2021 at 10:45 am

Enough is a registered user.

Tom,

You might want to look at some articles about the origin of the fires in Northern California. PG&E has admitted that it likely was the cause of the Dixie fire, they also caused the deadliest wild fire in California, the Camp Fire and many others. Start by reading this story:

Web Link

I will admit that the National Forest service needs to do more about maintaining their land, but PG&E is responsible for keeping their transmission wires clear and safe and they obviously can not do that. I don't agree that they should focus on electricity and abandon gas, and it just isn't going to happen. There are lots of people like me that have absolutely no intention of replacing our working gas heaters/water heaters/cooktops, etc. with less efficient electrical. The grid is not ready for that added burden and I am not ready to have rolling blackouts that leave my family with out heat, hot water or a way to cook. Glad you are happy to dust off your propane stove but doesn't that pretty much defeat the purpose of using electric?


Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 15, 2021 at 4:48 pm

MP Resident is a registered user.

"there is no additional cost to convert gas to electric power in most existing homes when one considers current incentives for financing the appliances over time and combines them with solar power."

What's the plan for those who can't combine with solar power? What if you are in a multi-family dwelling? or your roof doesn't need replacing? or you live under trees?

Truth is, forcing conversion is going to cost a lot of money, and that money will need to come from residents' pockets. And PG&E is not anywhere close too prepared.

Any thoughts on nuclear? It's proven, and produces reliable, inexpensive electricity (assuming a new plant could get built).


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 15, 2021 at 6:36 pm

Enough is a registered user.

MP Resident,

I really don't think the problem is in the generating of electricity, it is in the transmission. These huge fires are caused by the transmission wires and transformers failing (either because they are old, defective or trees get blown into them) and PG&E certainly does not currently have the infrastructure to deal with it. It took PG&E 8 hours and 30 minutes to get a person up to where the Dixie fire started after they knew there was a problem. How does it take 8 and a half hours to get someone up there? If it was that remote they should have used a helicopter, instead we have one of the biggest fires in California doing Billions in damage and putting untold tons of pollutants into the atmosphere. Now people want to put higher demands on a system that can't handle the current demands. Not thought through very well in my opinion.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 15, 2021 at 7:06 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Another thing that hasn't been thought out is that they are forcing everyone into solar power. Except, this city loves its trees. Trees are an obvious problem when it comes to solar. Are we going to force people to cut down trees that shade roofs where solar panel goes? No, then you will be forcing people to use power that is significantly more expensive than gas. A tax of a sort. And I think everyone would agree that is not fair to those homeowners.

So, here we are again, government pushing an agenda that isn't well thought out because they desperately want to be seen as "doing something". Virtue signaling.


Posted by Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2021 at 8:42 pm

Tom is a registered user.

My memories of fire science is that it takes 3 things to make fire: combustable fuel like climate damaged trees, oxygen like from normal or freak wind storms, and a source of ignition like a cigarette or lightening or trees blown into normally loaded electric lines. But electrification does not cause fires. In fact converting to electric devices rather than combustion devices will probably decrease fire risks of kitchen fires, dryer fires, catalytic converter fires etc. Hopefully getting on top of the climate problem will decrease the climate damage to trees and decrease the freaky weather that causes or oxygenates the fires. I can see how electrification may in net terms reduce all three of the things needed to cause fires. And I expect the exceptions to be highly publicized compared to the old common boring fossil fired causes.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 16, 2021 at 7:40 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Tom:

That's a stretch. A big one.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 16, 2021 at 11:18 am

Observer is a registered user.

"there is no additional cost to convert gas to electric power in most existing homes when one considers current incentives for financing the appliances over time and combines them with solar power."
Makes no sense, of course there is a cost - the cost of financing, especially if you don't have an "excellent" credit rating.
MP Res - nuclear- really?
Do you have any idea of the cost of building a new nuclear plant? And who do you think is going to pay for it? Us rate payers and residents. And it will do nothing to alleviate dangers of fires from electricity and transmission lines - because you need a way to transmit the electricity produced by the nuke plant. The only folks who want them are the unions and the plant developers.


Posted by Atherton Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 16, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Atherton Resident is a registered user.

Saw this headline on NewsBreak from ABC7 News Bay Area

PG&E warns of potential power shutoffs for parts of Bay Area this week due to dry, windy conditions.


Can Menlo Park Spark explain how electricity will be delivered more reliably than gas? There seems to be a lot of notices of power shutoffs with the least amount of bad weather. What is the back up plan to provide dependable energy?

Web Link


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 16, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Enough is a registered user.

Tom,

You are correct, the three ingredients needed for fire are Fuel, Oxygen and Heat (fire source) and PG&E has definitely provided the fire source (heat) hundreds or thousands of times in the past few years. PG&E is also responsible for removing the fuel by keeping trees and other combustibles away from their electrical lines. They have certainly failed to do that over the years. While there have been incidents from their gas systems (San Bruno in 2011) they are much less frequent and cause much less damage and deaths as fires cause by PG&Es electrical system. PG&E's electrical system has also been responsible for the millions of tons of pollutants put into our atmosphere by those fires. Finally once you factor in the burden of putting a fraction of their transmission lines underground ($15-20 Billion) which PG&E wants to pass along to the customers, it is hard to argue that electricity is cheaper or safer or more environmentally friendly than natural gas.


Posted by ln
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 16, 2021 at 7:54 pm

ln is a registered user.

@Nicole
Re: #6 "Do the right thing on your own and no one will need to force you."
So, I guess you get to decide what the "right thing" is? And, Nicole, who is going to "force" people to do your "right thing?" You? The police? Maybe you can get the Gestapo back to get us nonbelievers all in line to do your right thing. Seems like these sorts of things have been tried throughout history, with some not very great results. Seriously, think about what you are saying here. Or is there no more free choice left in America (unless it is what you choose for us all)?


Posted by Cheryl Schaff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2021 at 12:56 am

Cheryl Schaff is a registered user.

To Menlo Park Voter,
We installed solar panels on our roof in West Menlo Park about two years ago, did not have to remove a single tree and the panels are delivering generous amounts of power. Please don't be worried about the need to cut down trees to install solar panels. We can have both beautiful, CO2-absorbing trees and clean-electricity-generating solar panels.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2021 at 3:13 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Cheryl:

not all homes in MP are the same in terms of tree location and coverage. Nor are the roof directions in relation to trees necessarily advantageous to solar. Yours is but a single example that did work without cutting trees.


Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 19, 2021 at 2:53 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

No advantage unless other cities on the peninsula enact the exact same laws. Meaning this should be at the state level.

Come back when Palo Alto and Atherton enact the same. Until when you're pissing in the wind.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 19, 2021 at 6:52 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Come back when Palo Alto and Atherton enact the same. Until when you're pissing in the wind."

Bingo! Except you didn't go far enough. It's pissing in the wind if the nations of the world with the largest populations and the largest C02 emissions get on board.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 20, 2021 at 8:13 pm

Enough is a registered user.

Maybe that is the answer, let's approve wind turbines around the city. If there is wind to piss in then let it power our houses...It has to be better than PG&E


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