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Guest opinion: Examining myths about switching from gas to electric

Original post made on Oct 1, 2021

In a guest opinion, Josie Gaillard, a Menlo Park resident and Environmental Quality Commission member, writes about answers to frequently asked questions about switching from gas to electric.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, October 3, 2021, 8:23 AM

Comments (23)

Posted by MP Reader
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 1, 2021 at 4:30 pm

MP Reader is a registered user.

Thanks for this wonderful explainer! I thought I'd add to the wave of support by saying that we're in the process of electrifying our own home as well and it's been nothing but great every step of the way.

We've had a HVAC heat pump for several years (installed by a great, "normal" local HVAC contractor) and it's responsive, reliable, and never needs servicing. Ironically, we added it because our home didn't have AC, but we found that the impacts of climate change -- hotter summer days -- made AC necessary. We wanted to ensure that our AC choice would add as little momentum as possible to the climate's downward spiral and hope to eventually run it off of our own solar panels.

We're also looking forward to switching our gas cooktop to induction in the near future. Although I previously thought that gas was the best cooking method, after reading about the air quality impacts of cooking with gas indoors, I can't wait to switch to a fast new induction cooktop that's cleaner for both for our family and the climate.

We also replaced our old gas dryer with a new electric one, which gives us the peace of mind of not having to worry about the integrity of gas lines behind the laundry machines.

The day when we can stop our gas service for good will be a great one. No more worrying about leaky old lines. And we find that electric is simply easier and better for us in every way (our EV requires no maintenance at all). We're glad that these quality of life improvements to our home also help address the climate emergency that we all so urgently face.


Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 1, 2021 at 6:08 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

There are roughly 13,000 homes in MP, If everyone switched to electric can you calculate how much electricity that would take and where that would come from,


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 1, 2021 at 7:07 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

There are roughly 13,000 homes in MP. Do you have any idea what the average cost per home would be, INCLUDING needed PG&E upgrades as many homes will need it? Do you have any idea how it will be paid for other than raising the utility tax which shouldn't still be in place? Do you any idea how an already taxed electrical grid will handle the additional load? Do you have any idea if the conversion of all these homes will even move the needle of C02 levels? Do you have any idea what this will accomplish besides making you and others feel good because you're "doing something" even though what you're doing is nothing more than virtue signaling?


Posted by Scott
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2021 at 11:28 am

Scott is a registered user.

I actually agree with electrification by code. Moving away from wood burning fireplaces seemed to work in terms of spare the air. I also realize eliminating wood burning fireplaces can't compare to preventing 1 wildfire in terms of CO2 emissions, I think that the climate crisis is such that we are at an all hands on deck point.

I think the writer glossed over the new "appliance "many have - the electric car. I do not think you can have an electric range, dryer, hot water heater, and an electric car on a 100 amp panel.

Finally, the gas infrastructure is aging. There was a recent article in the Washington post about hundreds of low pressure leaks in the Boston area. I wonder if the Almanac can look into how much gas is lost from the PG&E systems from undiscovered low pressure leaks?


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2021 at 6:43 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Scott:

yes it should be all hands on deck, unfortunately it's not. Not even close. MP going all electric will do nothing for world C02 levels. I'm not interested in being forced to do something no one else is and that does nothing but cost me money so the Council can virtue signal on my dime.


Posted by K Wickham
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2021 at 10:35 pm

K Wickham is a registered user.

Westbrook,
In response to your question: "If everyone switched to electric can you calculate how much electricity that would take and where that would come from?" if everyone in Menlo Park switches to electric for their homes and businesses it will happen over a period of years and will be easily accommodated by the electric grid and the energy contracts that Peninsula Clean Energy secures. Jan Pepper, CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy has made public statements to this effect.


Posted by K Wickham
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2021 at 10:48 pm

K Wickham is a registered user.

Scott,
I am responding to the statement: “I think the writer glossed over the new "appliance” many have - the electric car. I do not think you can have an electric range, dryer, hot water heater, and an electric car on a 100 amp panel.”
That is an important point to bring up electric cars since more and more people are getting them and charging them at home. Although the author did not mention charging for electric cars, the watt diet calculator linked in the article gives two examples (a 2000 sq ft home and 3000 sq ft home) that include electric car charging and all-electric appliances (water heating, space heating and cooling, cooking and clothes drying) on a 100 amp service.


Posted by K Wickham
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2021 at 11:52 pm

K Wickham is a registered user.

Menlo Voter,
This is in response to your first two questions.
- The average cost per home to completely electrify will of course vary a lot.  Each existing home is different and owners have different needs and desired upgrades. If it is done over time as older appliances need replacing, the costs will be spread out. It is important to only look at the incremental cost (of any needed electrical work and the electric appliance cost differential) compared to a like-for-like gas appliance replacement. As noted in the article, many homes will not need a panel upgrade and this is where a lot of the incremental cost can occur. 
- How electrifying our buildings will be paid for.  It will be paid for by all of us.  For the last 170 years humans have not been paying the full cost of our energy use.  People say that our children and grandchildren will be forced to pay the costs of a degraded climate, but actually the bill is already coming due. The US is now spending $150 billion a year on climate-related disaster relief, according to a recent Congressional budget report:
Web Link
The cost of electrifying our appliances will look like the deal of the century in retrospect (compared to the cost of adapting to sea level rise, drought, fires, floods and extreme heat and the cost of decarbonizing more difficult sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and shipping).  That said, the city must find ways to support those who cannot afford the incremental upfront cost to electrify at the time of replacement.  There are a number of solutions being proposed.  Of course they will all cost real money.  For the rest who can afford it, get started at
http://www.switchison.org
and
Web Link


Posted by K Wickham
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2021 at 12:22 am

K Wickham is a registered user.

Menlo Voter, In response to your last three questions..
- How the electrical grid will handle the additional load. As more and more cities across the state electrify, and eventually as state and federal regulations change to curb emissions, there are no doubt challenges for grid resiliency. A suite of solutions including long-term storage, demand response, microgrids, under-grounding of power lines, and additional renewable generation are already being worked on by the utilities and the Community Choice Energy entities such as PCE.
- Of course the conversion of all the existing buildings in MP will not move the global needle of atmospheric CO2 levels.  But according to the city’s greenhouse gas inventory in the climate action plan, it will eliminate over 1/3 of the community’s total emissions. That is significant and demonstrates what can be done with readily available technology.
- What electrification will accomplish.  I can say from experience that it does actually feel good to stop burning an explosive gas (that releases carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde and fine particulate matter when it burns) inside my home.  It also feels good to ‘do something’ instead of nothing to address the climate crisis.  All the better that my home is safer, healthier and more comfortable in the process. Besides feeling good and reducing 1/3 of the community’s greenhouse gas emissions, early action by one city such can influence other cities.  There is already an example of this. In 2019 Menlo Park was one of the first to pass an all-electric reach code for new buildings that has since been copied by dozens of cities across California.  With more cities acting, the state is following suit by proposing significantly stronger energy code requirements for new construction in the next code cycle. It takes a leader to get 'all hands on deck'. Menlo Park with its highly educated citizens in one of the wealthiest counties in the US has shown it can be one of these leaders.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 3, 2021 at 8:01 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

K Wickham:

let me know when you get China and india to get their hands on deck since they produce more C02 than we do and are doing NOTHING to curb it. In fact, China is about to bring nine more coal fired power plants on line to dump even more C02 into the atmosphere. And 13,000 homes are going to make any difference to anyone besides those, like you, that want to "feel good"? Not wasting money makes me feel good. And that's what this is/will be, a giant waste of money so some people can feel good and virtue signal.


Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 4, 2021 at 4:47 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

"If everyone switched to electric can you calculate how much electricity that would take and where that would come from?" if everyone in Menlo Park switches to electric for their homes and businesses it will happen over a period of years and will be easily accommodated by the electric grid and the energy contracts that Peninsula Clean Energy secures. Jan Pepper, CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy has made public statements to this effect.
That's all well and good, but you didn't say where that electricity would come from, such as wind, solar, natural gas plants, hydro, nuclear?

It's not just the grid it's the generating plants. ........?


Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 4, 2021 at 5:02 pm

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,
So add higher demand than currently being used, as you propose,
This is what I came up with, I just don't see the math working out. City Council can you look at this please,

Whickham do you know something I dont't know,re; the above supplies?


Posted by Dave Ross
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Oct 4, 2021 at 6:15 pm

Dave Ross is a registered user.

I'm with Dave Boyce on the cooking issue. If I only had one use for natural gas, that would be it. I could live with electrifying everything else. I also agree that EVs will drive a major increase in home electrical consumption, and will also drive many required service upgrades that might not be needed except for EV charging. I've looked at the numbers and calculators, and even our modest house would need an upgrade from its 1949 original service.

In Portola Valley (as, I imagine, in many places), a service upgrade requires one to underground the lateral from the pole. Makes perfect sense, because perhaps within the next 50 - 100 years, PG&E will manage to underground the local power grid. But that means, in our case, something like a $75,000 investment.

Add to that the cost of installing a natural gas-fueled standby generator, because as bad as grid reliability is now, it appears to be declining and may get much worse. Being dependent on a single energy source seems like an invitation for disaster.

As another commenter pointed out, 32% of California's electricity is generated by burning natural gas. According to industry reports, the efficiency factor of converting gas to electricity ranges from 40% and 60%. OTH, heating (and cooking) with natrual gas is around 90% efficient. Does it make sense to increase PG&E's use of fossil fuels in order to reduce our own?

I'm all for positive action on climate change. We work hard to minimize our impact in many ways. I'll get on board with eliminating natural gas when it's rational to do so.


Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 5, 2021 at 10:28 am

Dagwood is a registered user.

The editorial and comments shows how much the city needs clear guidance and help for home owners. What are the steps to figure out what you need, and how much it will cost? What are the options? What are the pitfalls? What cities are doing this and how does our process compare? It is irresponsible and careless of our city council to leave this large-scale change to DIY and ad hoc advice on a weekly news blog.


Posted by EPL
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2021 at 7:43 pm

EPL is a registered user.

Hi Dave..

>> In Portola Valley (as, I imagine, in many places), a service upgrade requires one to underground the lateral from the pole. <<

I live in The Willows and I am not familiar with the electrical code for Portola Valley. Here you can upgrade much more easily. We upgraded from 100A to 200A some years ago and it was fairly cheap.

Setting aside the specifics of Portola Valley, what amperage is your service? Partial, or even full electrification can be done with less electrical cost than most people think. Of course it will depend on the needs of your house, but a Heat Pump house heater is very very efficient, and so is a Heat Pump Water Heater.

If you are interested in the topic, come join us at the Electrification NextDoor Group at Web Link

We will be happy to discuss pros and cons. We have several people that have electrified their houses with 100A panels.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2021 at 7:47 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

EPL:

Still ignoring the added cost of electricity vs gas.


Posted by EPL
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:04 pm

EPL is a registered user.

Hi Wesbrook...

>> We have 11.34% coming from large hydro, 46.54% from natural gas, 9.38% from nuclear, and 32.35% from renewables <<

That information is for energy generated in the state. We "import" energy from other states; much of it green. Full data is available at

Web Link

From there you can see under "Electric power sector consumption by source" these numbers: >>Coal: 0%, Natural Gas: 35.9%, Petroleum: 0%, Renewable: 53.7%, Nuclear: 10.3%. <<

I believe these numbers do NOT include solar panels behind the meter, as in your solar roof.

Yes, switching to electrical appliances, and EVs, will increase the demand for electricity. The demand will be met through multiple ways.


BTW, in San Mateo you can easily arrange to consume all your electricity from green sources. Use PCE -- Peninsula Clean Energy -- in their ECO100 plan. It is all from renewable energy.


Posted by Frengiz Surty
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:19 pm

Frengiz Surty is a registered user.

Did you know?
Through Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the electric power we use in our homes comes from 100% clean sources. That means that when we eliminate the use of methane gas in our homes, we’re able to get our personal emissions closer to zero.

Electric power providers are already planning to supply more electricity in the future to account for more electrification. Gas rates are also going up and faster than electric rates. As more people transition to electricity, people still using gas will pay more.

By thoughtfully selecting efficient products or by using load sharing devices, electrical appliances can be added to a circuit breaker panel without needing electrical upgrades.

Don't be swayed by those who say there isn't enough electricity or we have to wait. This is affecting all of us NOW: Weather disasters have become five times as common, due in large part to climate change – This past summer nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster.


Posted by Frengiz Surty
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:37 pm

Frengiz Surty is a registered user.

To those who choose to do nothing because other countries are not doing their fair share, because other cities aren't doing their share. Do you make your decisions based on what others are doing or what you believe can help the earth? And for those who think that our town can't make a difference in the world, how do you feel about these things?

Why vote if one vote won’t make a difference?

Why eat if one meal won’t make a difference?

Why go to work if one day’s pay won’t make a difference?

Why wakeup if one day won’t make a difference?

“One” is always just the start. The many “ones” put together make a world of difference.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 6, 2021 at 9:19 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Frengiz:

you go ahead and waste your money.


Posted by Cheryl Schaff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 6, 2021 at 12:52 pm

Cheryl Schaff is a registered user.

Thanks for your informed comments, Frengiz. They are much needed. What I infer from this discussion is a lack of awareness that EACH of us, EACH neighborhood, EACH company, EACH government entity needs to do whatever we can to mitigate the devastating, accelerating impacts of this climate emergency. NOW. People talk about costs without realizing, I believe, that we're already paying enormous costs for letting climate change run amok—mega droughts, needing to install AC for the first time in Northern California, days on end of dangerous air quality and particulate matter in our every breath, skyrocketing insurance costs for people living near the Bay and ocean, unhealthy levels of anxiety and depression about what's ahead...particularly among young people to whom we're leaving a sickly habitat that's only going to get sicker. (Recent polls reveal that 70% of people are anxious about climate change.) Around the world we're already seeing increased deaths from heat, droughts preventing crop production, climate migration, even entire island nations needing to relocate. I implore people to become more informed, more altruistic, more concerned about our children's and grandchildren's futures. What will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you, "What did you do to prevent or slow this global tragedy that I'm living?" Will you say, "I didn't do anything because China was slow to act? or "I preferred to cook with gas" or "It was too expensive?"


Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 6, 2021 at 3:05 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.



Am I under the mistaken assumption that the more KWh of electricity I use every month the rate per KWH goes up. sort of like my water bill, it's a graduated pricing system,

and yes I prefer to cook with gas, and yes it;s too expensive to upgrade my electric and fixtures, Thank you very much,


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 6, 2021 at 8:21 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Westbrook:

it depends on which rate plan you are on, although PG&E is planning on moving everyone to time of use which means power costs more between 4 pm and 9 pm. You know, when most of us use the most power.


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