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Palo Alto to go to carbon-free electricity mix; additional cost is about $3 a year on average bill, city says


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The City Council in Palo Alto, Calif., voted Monday night to implement a carbon-neutral plan that commits the city to pursuing only carbon-neutral electricity resources, effective immediately.

"Palo Alto has been a leader in reducing its carbon emissions, but when we realized we could achieve a carbon-neutral electric supply right now, we were compelled to take action," said Mayor Greg Scharff. "Climate change is one of the critical challenges of our generation and we hope our actions will inspire others to follow suit."

Palo Alto said it "is now one of very few entities worldwide [that] can claim to be purchasing completely carbon-neutral electricity."

Palo Alto owns all its own utilities, including the electric utility, which was founded in 1900. "Visionaries back then saw the potentially huge benefits that could come from local control," the city said in a March 4 press release. "And indeed, this local control was exercised tonight to make a bold decision about where Palo Alto’s electric power was going to come from."

The city said it has many contracts for renewable resources from wind farms, solar arrays and renewable gas captured from landfills. In addition to these renewable resources, about 50 percent of the Palo Alto’s electric supply comes from non-carbon emitting hydro power generation.

The decision to make all of the city's power purchases carbon-neutral from now on "involves continued promotion of energy efficiency, taking advantage of existing carbon-free resources, contracting for new short- and long-term new renewable resources and, if needed, balancing any small percent of non-renewable power purchased with renewable energy certificates," the city said.

The economic impact of being 100 percent carbon-neutral is estimated to be less than $3/year on the average Palo Altan’s electric bill, the city said.

"We’ve had cheaper, greener power for our citizens for decades, and being able to make this recent move to 100 percent carbon-free electricity is just another example of how owning our own utilities pays off," said City Manager James Keene.

Palo Alto‘s Climate Action Plan, established in 2007, sets goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including energy and transportation.

"The climate crisis requires a robust response in the next 10 years,"said Bruce Hodge, a grass roots activist who founded Carbon Free Palo Alto in 2011 to encourage the city to rely solely on carbon-free power. "By taking this first step of de-carbonizing its electricity supply, Palo Alto has established itself in the vanguard of forward-thinking communities."

A group of Palo Altans produced a rap video in honor of the city’s decision to maintain a carbon-neutral portfolio. More information about the carbon-neutral plan is available on the city's website. —JEANNINE ANDERSON

 
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