Council to discuss a potential natural gas ban

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday (Aug. 31) will review a proposal to have residents and building owners replace their gas appliances to all-electric when they need replacement.

To replace a hot water heater could cost an additional $2,775 if a homeowner does not seek out incentives to replace their gas burning heater with an electric one. If they do, it will only cost an additional $555, according to a report from Sustainability Manager Rebecca Lucky. However, the replacement could save residents up to $7 a month on their monthly bill, according to Lucky’s report.

The council-appointed Environmental Quality Commission has been tasked with advising the City Council on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Menlo Park as set in the council’s Climate Action Plan. One of the goals in the plan is to “explore policy program options to convert 95% of existing buildings to all-electric by 2030.”

The commission is recommending  council pass an ordinance that bans the installation of new gas appliances in the city. The council previously approved all new construction having electric appliances.

The mission to replace gas appliances is because 41% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from natural gas use in buildings around town, according to Lucky’s report.

Currently, the city requires residents and landowners to get permits for new gas water heaters and furnaces, so when a property owner goes to apply for a new one, they will be told to get an electric appliance. The commission agreed at its Aug. 19 meeting that the council ought to get this ordinance on the books ASAP, and in the mean time, will work on other ways to get residents to switch to electric appliances.

One way to get residents to switch is by educating them that it may be relatively easy to switch the type of appliance, according to a memo from commissioners Josie Gaillard, Tom Kabat and Angela Evans.

The commission also suggests the city provide building owners with free electrification plans.

The commission at its Aug. 19 meeting also discussed that other ordinances may need to be passed in order to reduce gas burning appliances in town.

For example, Kabat suggested a future ordinance the commission can look at is requiring electric appliances be installed when a home or building is sold.

Kabat said that about 400 homes are sold every year in town, so in 10 years, about 30% of homes will be electrified.
Tonight, the council will not pass any ordinance, but instead discuss the ideas brought up by the commission, review whether it’s cost effective for residents to make the switch, and tell Lucky and City Attorney Nira Doherty what sort of ordinance to write for the council to vote on, if any.

Residents weigh in

Over the past week or so, at least 30 residents have sent emails to the city council through its public CCIN portal to weigh in on the topic.

Multiple residents including Kristal Powers, Paul Chua, Joseph Lam and Kellie Morris all signed onto a form letter that was sent to the council at least 20 times over the past week, urging the council to accept the commission’s recommendations and make sure the city becomes a “true climate leader.”

“These actions are critical right now. We have no time to waste! By supporting these policies, you will be demonstrating to the world what a proper response to this climate crisis looks like,” part of the letter says.

A smaller number of residents have written to council opposing the idea, such as Sue Kayton, who says the plan is not “practical, economical or ecologically sound.”

Kayton argues that replacing gas with electric could cost a homeowner $25,000 to “drop new electric service, jackhammer through their slab, break open walls, rewire the entire house, replace all their circuit breaker panels, redo kitchen cabinetry, and lose close space to house replacement furnaces or water heaters.”

The council will discuss the potential ban on Tuesday at 5 p.m.


  1. If 41% of Menlo Park’s greenhouse gases come from natural gas appliances, that means that 59% is coming from members of the City Council and staff. Hope the local residents like driving to other cities for dining. No restaurant will operate on all electric appliances.

  2. Our climate crisis has escalated to the level of “code red for humanity.” Each of us needs to invest in a livable future—with tolerable temperatures, available drinking water, clean air—for our kids and grandkids by making better choices and some sacrifices to stop burning fossil fuels. Now. We’ve already lost half of the species on earth, the Arctic is on fire, sea levels are rising, ecosystems precious to all life are disrupted. Buying some gas appliances is a small price to pay to prevent the extinction of humans.

  3. Here is the most basic reason why this is not a good idea. Across our nation, 90% of all of our electric energy generation is carbon based.
    And to generate that electric energy, approximately 70% of that energy is wasted. Well, not really wasted. Simply put, for example, take Moss Landing. Gas turbines. Which generate electric power at about 30% efficiency. Give or take a percentage point.
    So… all of us greenies, using electric appliances simply transfers the carbon dioxide being contributed to the atmosphere from Menlo Park to Moss Landing!
    And now comes the serious waste. And this is real. If you use natural gas to boil a pot of water on top of your stove, somewhere between 80% to 90% of the energy coming from the stove top natural gas boils the water. A lot higher efficiency than taking electricity from Moss landing that is only 30% efficient!
    Please note that many of us have natural gas furnaces that are well over 90% efficient!
    I am sure I will get some questions, feedback, and possible disagreement with my numbers. But I look forward to an enthusiastic and energetic exchange of ideas and statistics.

    • Hi William. While I agree with your argument that electrification is really a transfer of the location of carbon emissions, I just want to correct some of your numbers. Moss Landing and approximately 90% of our stationary power plants that make up the “base” load of the Western US power grid are actually what’s called a combined cycle plant. It’s true that the heart of the plant is a gas turbine, which these days are about 35-40% efficient and now the waste heat from the gas turbine exhaust is captured and used to run a steam turbine, bringing the total plant efficiency to about 50-55%. After transmission line losses, the net efficiency is still in the 45-50% range, far better than the old supercritical, ocean water cooled Moss Landing plant used to be (which itself was a big jump in efficiency from the steam plant it replaced).

      You’ve pointed out the biggest issue – while during the day and when the wind blows, California has a *cleaner* energy grid. At night, on cloudy days, in the winter months and when the wind doesn’t blow, natural gas power plants provide our power, plain and simple. During a drought, our hydroelectric power (which is also clean but actually not considered truly renewable because of the environmental impact of dams – an argument of semantics, frankly) is far less than in wet years and so we’re relying more on the natural gas plants and bringing on more “peaking” plants (simple gas turbines and even diesel generators) to make up the difference. Despite all of this, we still have days where demand exceeds supply and we have rolling blackouts. Not to mention that there are severe risks of fires due to the CPUC giving PG&E, SCE and SDG&E a free hand at taking ratepayer money to maintain power transmission facilities and not doing the work for more than three decades! I’m not advocating doing nothing; like you, I recognize the hypocrisy behind the so-called decarbonization movement and decry the outright lies they are selling. By the same token, electric cars are not zero emissions by any true measure. They are simply moving the emissions from the tailpipe to a stack far away. What we need is to clean up our gas supply and transition to hydrogen as well as upgrading the electrical grid and generating more clean power. There’s no perfect solution and “decarbonization” certainly isn’t even close. Menlo Park needs to remember the adage “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Relying on an unreliable electric grid and predominantly natural gas base production facilities isn’t going carbon-neutral; it’s just shifting the carbon emissions somewhere else. I’d love to see the actual numbers that they use to come up with these percentages as well as why they’re only applied to residential buildings and not commercial buildings (hint: Follow the Money!). I think if we dig into the data, the truth will come out.

Comments are closed.