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City of Palo Alto

Photo credit: City of Palo Alto

Solar-rooftop-at-baylands, Photo credit: City of Palo Alto

CubberlyPV, Photo credit: City of Palo Alto

100% Renewable Energy Goal Achieved:

Starting in 2013, 100% of city wide electricity demand will be met with combination of onsite renewable sources, contracts with renewable energy producers, and renewable energy credits.

By 2017, all electricity demand will be covered by onsite generation and contracts with renewable energy producers.



Palo Alto, CA



The City of Palo Alto is located in the heart of Silicon Valley in California's Bay Area. Approximately 35 miles south of San Francisco and 13 miles north of San Jose, the city has a population of about 63,000 people. Palo Alto owns its utilities, so the local government can choose how to run them in the best interest of local citizens. In July 2013, the City Council voted to make the city's electricity supply 100% renewable as part of the city's commitment to carbon neutrality.

As a precursor to this decision, the local Department of Utilities first offered a 100% renewable electricity plan. In 2011, more than 20% (more than 6000) of their customers were enrolled. To supply the program, the utility purchased Renewable Energy Certificates - or RECs. RECs are symbolic credits that represent producing 1 MW of renewable electricity. Utilities purchase RECs as evidence of compliance with the California Renewable Portfolio Standard program, which mandates that 33% of utility power come from renewables by 2020. Historically, Palo Alto's RECs came primarily from wind projects in the Pacific Northwest along the same regional power grid as Palo Alto.  The program also drew electricity from 4 solar PV projects within city limits that are owned and were funded by the City.

To enroll in the 100% renewable plan, customers agreed to pay a slightly higher electricity rate. In return, the average household that enrolled avoided about 9500 lbs. of CO2 emissions annually, roughly the equivalent of not driving a car for 10 months. Those enrolled were mostly residential customers (95%), with commercial customers making up the rest of the mix. Those who signed up were motivated by a desire to do the right thing and provide role modeling for the next generation.

In 2013, the 100% renewable power option was to be entirely supplied by solar RECs. Also in 2013, Palo Alto adopted a carbon neutral plan for the electric supply, so that all the supplies would be carbon neutral going forward. The city's utility plans to achieve this with long-term renewable contracts and hydro supplies starting in 2017 and, until then, they would buy RECs to be 100% renewable and carbon free.

On July 22, 2013, the City Council voted to make the city's electricity supply 100% renewable effective immediately. The plan is for this to come from 50% hydropower, with the remainder coming from electricity purchased by the city, which is generated by wind farms, solar arrays, and renewable gas captured from landfills. If all Palo Alto’s electric needs cannot be supplied directly by these renewable sources, the city utilities will buy RECs to offset the non-renewable power it uses.

The average cost to customers of the City opting for 100% renewable electricity is less than $3 per year, a nominal sum for such a significant reward.



We met with Gil Friend, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Palo Alto to talk about the city's 100% carbon neutral renewable energy achievement.

Watch the video:

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