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High utility bills give Palo Altans a shock

Original post made on Jan 23, 2008

Palo Altans experienced sticker shock this month when utility bills nearly doubled for some residents.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 5, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (80)

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Posted by Freezing at high cost
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I hear ya! Last month our bill was $400 and I thought that was bad until I got this month's bill for $500. This is outrageous!!! We don't have the gas on during the day at all and I do business out of my home and only put the heat on from 11PM-8AM. What can be done to lower the rates or usage?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2008 at 3:52 am

You get what you vote for. Palo Alto has run the utilities as a cash cow and a "statement" rather than as an essential service. They pride themselves on rejecting the lower cost, dependable energy sources in lieu of fadish "green" energy. The recent wind contract was a case in point. I am sorry I did not retain a copy of a letter I received from a previous utility director, telling me there was no interest in electrical demand control at a time when demand control was one of the few avenues open to holding down costs.
Palo Alto should sell the utilities and use the money to fund the generous pension benefits.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:29 am

There are ways you can cut back on your heating bill. Turn your thormastat off at night and don't turn it on again until you return from work at the end of the next day. My utility bill for a 2,000 sq. ft. home in December was $21.44.

For all you parents who have kids who complain about the cold in the morning, all I can say is, too bad. My kids did it for 4 years of high school and it got them out of the house in the morning!!!! A little cold never hurt anyone.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 7:51 am

A lot of these homes were built 50s and before and are under insulated. I insulated an attic in So Cal and the savings paid for the insulation in 1 season and it's warmer in the winter down there.
Insulation is not hard to self install.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:30 am

Talk about misplaced priorities. We in Palo Alto are REQUIRED to use Palo Alto Utilities. It's a monopoly that is out of control. Providing water and gas to the residents of Palo Alto should not be a money maker. We can't even go to another provider and it's wrong. I wonder if it's illegal to squeeze these kinds of rates out of the residents.


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Posted by Rate
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:51 am

Anyone knows if Palo Alto's current utility rate is higher than neighboring cities?
I seem to remember a few years back I was paying much less than friends from other cities.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

The city of Santa Clara has (or used to have) a city owned utility. At least in the old days the bills were widely known to be much lower than PG&E. When we moved to Palo Alto, I assumed we would benefit from having a city-owned utility, too, but now I'm not so sure. We have high bills for all city services here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:19 am

Utility costs will continue to increase, because California does not produce enough electricity, and uses natural gas to supply peak demand (thus increasing pressure on the NG market). The simple answer, is to sign nuclear power contracts, then start builing more nukes. The luddites have lead us to this sorry state, and it is only going to get worse.


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Posted by Paula
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

I admit I was taken aback by the unprecedented size of our bill, especially since we're actively conserving in our house. We used less gas and less electricity than the same month a year ago, yet our bill was more than $100 higher. What would it have been like were we not conserving? Yikes!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bambi
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2008 at 11:51 am

WOW I hear you! I was also shocked to get a HUGE bill for the small place I live in. But the CIty has been great to offer suggestions and to check my meter to see if there was a problem at all. I really never use my oven or heater. I eat out a lot. But this month it has been chilly. My water heater has been turned way down to try to bring down this bill. But if you see me in town or at Peets with icicle's just nod and know I am cold in Palo Alto!

Bambi


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Posted by Not on my Utility Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Don't forget the PA Utility Department must recoup the $21 M. they gave to Enron's creditors. How are they going to do that if they don't increase your utility rates?


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 24, 2008 at 12:33 pm

The Enron deal is a red herring. California did not produce enough electrcity. Palo Alto, attempting to be special, signed spot market contracts with Enron. The idea was that the untility department would look like very intelligent heroes, if PA was able to avoid blackouts, while the rest of California was experiencing them. This is similar to PA buying up hydroelectric contracts in order to make itself look green (nobody ever seems to ask about how that makes other cities look non-green, and that there is no net benefit on the carbon footbprint).

If California had produced enough electrcity for itself, there would have been no necessity to pay spot prices for scarce electricity. Thus, PA could have saved the $21M. I don't think PA citizens understand the structural problem here. In any case, whining about Enron will not fix it. Only building more nukes will do that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 24, 2008 at 2:06 pm

I wish global warming would get here; it's chilly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rufus
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 24, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Where is Al Gore?

Why do you people need all this artificial heat?

Palo Alto is the leader in global warming awareness. What is going on here?

I just want more green awareness, and a lower bill, it that too much to ask?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Insulation guy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Insulate your attics. It will pay for itself quickly. Insulating the
floor under the crawl space saves mess, but make a big comfort
difference (cold feet). And weatherstrip around old windows, doors and
elsewhere for air infiltration.

You can get a free home energy audit from Santa Clara which will help
find the problems.

Face it, rates are going up and going to keep going up. Too much demand
and not enough supply. The only way forward it to use less - either
by suffering in discomfort or improving your home.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by energy reduction
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Simplest way to reduce energy usage is to just increase it's cost. This is all part of Palo Alto's green initiatives. What, you didn't think you'd get them for free did you?


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Posted by Renter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 3:58 pm

The folks crying "add insulation" simply don't seem to recognize the situation that renters are in:
We pay for fuel, and can't engage in construction projects
Our landlords pay to add insulation, and don't pay for fuel.

As a result, rental housing tends to have rather poor insulation (since the landlord doesn't benefit from it) and renters aren't in any position to do anything about it.


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Cold?
We live in a house where the heating outlets are in the ceiling, so our second floor rooms are hot and our downstairs ones are cold. Also, the cement slab floor keeps your feet cold, even with parquet flooring and wall-to-wall carpeting. I put a thermometer on the floor, and the temperature there is 6 degrees colder than where the thermostat sits on the wall! Never mind the $100+ increase of gas & electricity in the last utility bill - we used less, paid more and still are wearing longies, wool sweaters and a blanket when home!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cyclist
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Climate change is going to end life on this planet in our lifetime, because of we succumbed to greed and ignorance and allowed this country, the major global polluter for so long, to be a corporate state. And here people worry about the deck card game while the Titanic is sinking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anti-whack-job
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Cyclist,

"Climate change is going to end life on this planet in our lifetime"

As long as you are first, I'm all in favor!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm

And STILL the city is allowing building permits for huge mega-mansions where one family can eat up the utility capacity of many homes. It's happening all over Palo Alto. Look at the monster home going up on the northwest corner of Seale and Cowpwer. There were two small cottage homes torn down on Parkinson and the lots combined for one super house.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Renter,

Have you approached your landlord? I rent out houses and I'd work ut a deal with any of my tenants. Offer to supply the labor if he supplies the materials and put in for the rebate to reduce his costs.
Insulation bats are cheap and easy to install in most attics. I did a 1500 sq ft attic in a weekend


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Palo Alto's electric rates are MUCH lower than PG&E, even if you pay the extra for Palo Alto Green. Here are the rates per kWh:
Bracket Palo Alto PG&E
--------------------------------------------------
First 300 kWh per month $.09229 $.13
Next 600 kWh per month $.11766 $.19
Above 600 kWh in a month $.15198 $.24

For Palo Alto Green you add $0.015 per kWh to the rates above, still much lower than the PG&E rates. I haven't checked on gas pricing, but knowing the electricity pricing makes me VERY glad that Palo Alto has their own utility company. I haven't heard good things about the PG&E customer service, either. I think it would be a terrible mistake to sell CPAU.


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Posted by Long-time PA resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:12 pm

My thermostat is set for 64 degrees from 6AM to 6PM during the day, and turns off completely for the night. Yet my gas bill alone was $295.21 for one month (11/27/07 to 12/28/07). The previous month (10/25/07 to 11/27/07) it was $217.38. How can PA Utilities claim, with a perfectly straight face, that our rates are less than PG&E? My house has 1750 sq. ft., 3 small bedrooms and 2 baths. Our total utility bills are outrageous, particularly for a senior on a fixed, dwindling income.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 11:50 pm

We are cheaper on electric rates than PG&E, not gas.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2008 at 1:25 am

" think it would be a terrible mistake to sell CPAU."

Not if we got enough money for it to solar-enable most of our community, with several hundred million left over as a General Fund trust (this could bring in $10-15M per year).

If we had sufficient solar generated here, PG&E would have to PAY Palo Alto. :)

In all, selling CPAU may be a bad idea, but I don't understand why we don't look into it, to see if it's feasible. If not, what's the harm done?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 3:15 am

PG&E surrendered to the Green Idiocy and accepted a program of wind, "renewable" and scarcity in return for a guaranteed profit without regard to the cost of service. The decision to ration energy by scarcity instead of making prudent investments in increased capacity was another Club of Rome idiocy. All our energy is more costly than its production can justify because of intentional acts of government.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 6:18 am

Mike said "If we had sufficient solar generated here, PG&E would have to PAY Palo Alto. :)" No, PG&E would pay the individuals who own the solar panels. I think there is an upper limit on the size of the installation that qualifies for this "net metering" so that PG&E doesn't have to pay other utilities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andres
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2008 at 6:51 am

Green energy will be the safest bet for job prospects in the near future as all our priorities will change within about 10 years toward saving life on earth the planet from extinction and the republicans will still be spouting the same conspiracy theories about Al Gore.

I do believe that, in the future, the US will be the one major power that resists doing anything about it. Thats what happens when one of your main political parties is basically a suicide cult and your country isn't actually a country but a giant corporation.


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Posted by Eric
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 6:56 am

Another often missed source of cold air is your chimney. Even if the flue is "closed", in most houses around here they leave a nice big gap. It basically is like having a window open a few inches in your living room all the time -- allowing your heating system to draw cold air into the house. There are a number of solutions to this (besides fixing the flue) including inflatable insulated balloons that block the air flow. Google is a good place to start on looking for these.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:24 am

I suspect that Andres would call someone who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old a fundamentalist fanatic for holding views totally at variance with observation. He believes in a future totally at variance with any known physical process yet condemns those of us who have made a career of observing and explaining. How's the weather on Mars, Andres? How about on Charon? Amazing how far the republican influence reaches.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Grey
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:50 am

The scientific debate about human induced global warming is over but policy makers - let alone the happily shopping general public - still seem to not understand the scope of the impending tragedy. Global warming isn't just warmer temperatures, heat waves, melting ice and threatened polar bears. Scientific understanding increasingly points to runaway global warming leading to human extinction. If impossibly Draconian security measures are not immediately put in place to keep further emissions of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere we are looking at the death of billions, the end of civilization as we know it and in all probability the end of man's several million year old existence, along with the extinction of most flora and fauna beloved to man in the world we share.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:04 am

Repent! The Kingdom is at hand!
Amazing how the antidote to Global Warming is the same as the antidote to Global Cooling which was the same as the antidote to Capitalism which is the same as the antidote to unGodliness. Out of the Garden, ungrateful mankind!
The only unanimous scientific truth is that only calamity howling generates grants.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chilly-In-Palo-Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:38 am

> Anyone knows if Palo Alto's current utility rate is higher
> than neighboring cities?
> We are cheaper on electric rates than PG&E, not gas.

Generally, the PA electricity rates have been cheaper (on the residential side) than surrounding PG&E. However, natural gas prices have been higher than PG&Es because PA uses small amounts of gas compared to buyers like PG&E and sellers have been uninterested in long-term, low-cost contracts to small, uppity buyers--like the PAU.

The City Council has for a long time now given directions to the PAU to thing "rate stabilization" as the lynch pin of their pricing strategy. When natural gas was not in such high global demand, there wasn't much of a problem finding suppliers. This is no longer the case. The PAU's approach is to provide billing that is "predictable", rather than "lowest cost". So, the PAU has found itself signing contracts for higher priced gas than can be purchased on the so-called "spot market".

If we ever had read City Council elections, we might get a chance to talk about these things at Candidate's Forums. But with PAN and the League of Women Voters scripting the sessions that that nothing of consequence is discussed in public, it's doubtful that the City Council will ever be held accountable to the job they were hired to do.


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Posted by geology joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:41 am

> Scientific understanding increasingly points to runaway
> global warming leading to human extinction.

Mass extinctions are a part of the cycle of life on planet Earth--get used to it.

Web Link
Web Link

To date, "scientific understanding" has not fully explained any/all of these events.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:18 am

Ok, I thought it was just me getting stiffed. I live in a small apartment that doesnt even have a thermostat, just an old wall heater unit for the entire 2 BR. apartmet with "high, medium and low" settings. I usually turn it in the midafternoon and turn it off at night and I was shocked when I opened my bill yesterday and saw that it was $170 more then last month for a total of $250!! That is about a quarter of what I pay for rent! This is ridiculous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wears sweaters--lots of sweaters
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:41 am

> I thought it was just me getting stiffed.

And don't forget, the Utility Users Tax is bigger than ever too!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rogue_trader
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:57 am

What are heating bills like in the Midwest and Northeast, where it is much colder than Palo Alto?

We get highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s and 40s. That's much warmer than many parts of the country, where it does not even get above freezing point for the entire 24 hour day.

How much energy are they consuming to keep a home > 60 degrees when it is 10 degrees outside, and what are their heating costs?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2008 at 12:42 pm

"Mike said "If we had sufficient solar generated here, PG&E would have to PAY Palo Alto. :) No, PG&E would pay the individuals who own the solar panels. I think there is an upper limit on the size of the installation that qualifies for this "net metering" so that PG&E doesn't have to pay other utilities."

Thanks for the correction. That wouldn't be a bad outcome, either. :)

Again, a sale of PAU may not be a good idea, but we owe it to ourselves to vet the possibilities. Why not?

For instance; I have heard numbers like $800M-$1B kicked around as a potential sale price. Those numbers may be wrong (too high). However, if they're not, just imagine what our community could do with that kind of cash - to enable universal, local "solarization", with the remainder in a permanent trust to continue feeding the general fund.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Mike,

"to enable universal, local "solarization", "

One thing to bear in mind about solar energy as an answer to energy problems on the local level: Palo Alto natural gas costs are due to increased demand at all levels (local, state, national, international). Solar electricity, at the local level will need to displace NG in order to make a difference in most heating bills. This means that the demand for electrcity will go up, significantly, as NG is displaced. This is not, necessarily, a bad thing, as long as the new electricity is carbon free (as it is with solar). However, the effciencies of solar panels are still very low, thus the increased demand for clean electricity must mostly come from nuclear. If the electricity is generated by increased use of NG, then nothing has been accomplished, becasue the cost of that electrcity will increase dramatically.

There is no free energy lunch.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Engineer,

I won't argue about free lunches, but I will argue that lunches can be made so cheap that they often take on commodity-status pricing, as solar technology will do as demand rises for cheap and safe alternatives.

Here is only one example that a friend of mine is working on...

Web Link

Nuclear technology will never be adopted en masse in America; it's a public relations nightmare, and a political land mine - in addition to being very undafe compared to alternatives.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Warming-With-Heated-Water
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm

> Solar electricity, at the local level will need to displace
> NG in order to make a difference in most heating bills

Yes.

> This means that the demand for electricity will go
> up, significantly, as NG is displaced

Perhaps, perhaps not. If solar energy (sun light) were used to heat water which would then be circulated within the home, the only electricity needed would be for the motor to circulate the water. This thermal augmentation might not be enough to keep a home toasty, but it might be enough to reduce electricity needed to offset the displacement of NG.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by nuclear is the future
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm

> Nuclear technology will never be adopted
> en masse in America; it's a public relations
> nightmare, and a political land mine

Funny .. France is obtaining about 80% of its energy from Nuclear.

What do they know that we don't? Maybe the US should hire their PR people.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Solar energy is showing more promise. However, it has always shown more promise. I would be delighted to see a major breakthrough that overcomes real world problems. Theoretical efficiencies (now approaching 30% in the lab), do not translate to actual usable efficiencies on top of our roofs, due to decreased efficieincies at each step (weatherproofing, line losses, invertor losses, etc.).

Solar thermal, at least at the industrial scale, has some promise.

Passive solar design has been around for a long time, and it works, but few people want south facing windows with heat sinks as a major design feature.


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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Nuclear will never be accepted as the coal companies would be put out of business and they have hundreds of millions available to lobby against Nuclear energy. I feel that most against Nuclear are paid lobby people.
Just as the buggy and buggy whip people lobbied against the automobile when they were threatened to coal industry is lobbying against Nuclear. About 3000 people die from auto accidents every month in the USA it's strange that cars are still around isn't it.

The US just dosen't have the technical ability to desing, build and run Nuclear power plants safely!! That is the argument against them.
Also no one has ever died or gotten ill from coal and coal industry. Another argument for coal.
Coal fired power plants don't emit CO2 or any other harmful emissions or radiation producing material or Mercury. And they don't need or have emmission controls. Another reason to support coal generated power. People believe this stuff!!!

France dosen't have a hugh coal industry that will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby against Nuclear.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:41 pm

"The US just dosen't have the technical ability to desing, build and run Nuclear power plants safely!! That is the argument against them."

That argument is rubbish. If we had the political, regulatory and institutional will to spend as much on nuclear power plant safety as we spend on astronaut safety, we could build nuclear power plants that operate very safely (ignore the waste problem for the moment). It really comes down to a political and economic issue regarding the standards to which we demand the engineers design. If we let them design to loose standards and don't review and inspect vigorously, then we will have shoddy work and unsafe plants. If we demand the very best, with high standards, redundancy and regular independent testing and inspection then we could get nuclear power plants that we can trust. It doesn't appear that anyone is willing to go to those lengths in this country at this time, though.

I assume the comments from "long time resident" on the safety of coal are sarcastic, because they are all exactly backwards.


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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Yes I guess you could say it's sarcastic. It's the arguments you can expect from the antinuclear people. I am pro nuclear and think the arguments against nuclear are rubbish and from many illinformed people or pro coal people. Lacking at three mile island nuclear were trained, educated people running the place.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 3:38 am

At the turn of the last century there were as many as 25 fatal boiler explosions every week in the US. In my half century engineering I recall only three. We know how to build and operate safe boilers, and Hartford makes us apply that knowledge. We have designed and operated nuclear powered subs and aircraft carriers for much of that half century with an exemplary safety record. The energy industry knows the magnitude of the forces they conrol and act accordingly, not out of nobility but because you can't sell energy that is out of control.
The current high cost of energy is an artifact manufactured on the theory than mankind is not worth the effort of maintaining. If you don't think that energy is worth the inconvenience associated with its reaping, try doing without.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 6:32 am

One of the problems with these increased rates is that the City Council votes on the increases in July of the previous year. If you don't like your huge utility bills you must speak up before Council when they are making the decision to increase the rates.

I just happened to be at the City Council meeting in July when these increases were voted on and nobody objected. It pays to be politically active in this City.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:49 am

Resident of Midtown - City Council should be looking out for the residents of Palo Alto, not the utility company. It doesn't take a big thinker to know that residents are not able to continue paying these kinds of rates for basic services. They need to draw a line in the sand now. There is no way that residents can stay on top of all the council votes. Might as well be a member of City Council if you are able to get copies of all the paperwork presented to Council by staff, review it and then sit through a council meeting where your agenda item might come up very late at night. People have kids and lives, one reason they didn't run for City Council. However, residents expect City Council to watch their back. Council members wanted the job, they need to support residents, especially when it concerns basic services.


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Posted by Gene
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

The public HAD an opportunity to write letters, protest, and attend hearings. Few, if any, did so.....not that the last council would listen. When it comes to getting involved, most of the residents are just 'brain dead' until the axe falls. Then, they wonder what happened. Only a small percentage of the residents try to keep up with what is going on at City Hall. The rest don't care unless there is a crisis.


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Posted by Spot-Market-Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:46 am

> I just happened to be at the City Council meeting in
> July when these increases were voted on and nobody objected.

1) While there is an "right of objection" to rate increases, there has to be a significant number of rate payers objecting before the Council can/will do anything.

2) Prices on every will continue to rise--including energy. So, if people object -- so what? What is the PAU supposed to do, since they have already likely looked at all of the possible vendors?

3) One thing the Council could do is to direct the PAU to act more like an energy company, and less like a Municipal practicing risk avoidance, and buy energy commodities on the spot market as PG&E does. This would result in the PAU's bills being a little less predictable, but also less expensive in the long run.

Objecting to the City Council's uninformed management of the PAU (indirect management via "policy") is a part of the problem.


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Posted by Spot-Market-Advocate,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 5:11 pm

Correcting the last post to read:

Objecting to the City Council's uninformed management of the PAU (indirect management via "policy") would be the first place to start.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 26, 2008 at 5:31 pm

"What is the PAU supposed to do, since they have already likely looked at all of the possible vendors?"

Spot, that is not true! They have rejected nuclear contracts. They have thus shut us off from the one major solution to our enegy crisis.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 5:50 pm

PAU is managed to be PC. They have succeeded in that goal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Spot-Market-Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:03 pm

> Spot, that is not true!

The particular point is only directed towards the NG commodity. You are most likely correct when it comes to electricity.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Spot, since NG is used to generate electrcity, it is not possible to cleanly seperate the two. Nuclear generation of electrcity would decrease the demand for NG.

I would also point out that nuclear contracts can be very stable. This is becasue the cost of uranium is a very small part of the cost of running a nuclear plant.


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Posted by Spot-Market-Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:05 pm

> Spot, since NG is used to generate electrcity,
> it is not possible to cleanly seperate the two.

Looking at the picture from the 20,000 foot level, maybe. But we are only talking about the PAU's being able to buy blocks of gas for extended periods of time. Certainly more plants using NG to generate electricity drives up the price, but the issue here in Palo Alto is that the block sizes (contract sizes) are too small to be of interest to the largest suppliers, so the PAU ends up dealing with 2nd tier operators.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2008 at 2:32 pm

We pay more to heat our houses because nuclear and oil and coal generated electricity has been banned, and we pay more for our food because subsidized ethanol is more profitable than people food, and we pay more for our gas beause every domestic oil source is opposed and those who deliver it are threatened with loss of incentive.The harm of the cost increases damages us far more both directly and in lost opportunuity than any of the evils the policies were meant to fight.
Oh Brave New World, that has such people in it. Or, If I may say it in a family paper, Oh Ford!


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Posted by Perfect time to Sue the city
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2008 at 7:14 pm

If the residents were not paying attention to the rate increases - does not entitle the Utilities to screw the residents royally.

Utilities are basic needs, if the city gets sued even at a much later time refunds will be due. These are basic needs are rates fall under the category of TAXES.

It is time to sue the city.


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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Definitely, Perfect, you should sue. It will be fun to watch.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 27, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

We keep our thermostat set at 60-61 degrees. I am fanatical about turning off lights. This month's bill was a whopping $476. Outrageous! I am tempted to just use little portable floor heaters, but it just gets so damn cold. I am so angry at this blatant ripoff.


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Posted by Let-There-Be-Light
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 7:28 am

> I am fanatical about turning off lights.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting elements should be considered. While still a little pricey ($35-$50), they are very inexpensive to run (consuming 4-6 watts), and have a lifetime of up to 100,000 hours. They don't have the same environmental problems that CFLs do.

LED manufacturers claim that users can save $400-$600 over the lifetime of the devices, compared to incandescent bulbs and somewhat less compared to CFLs.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2008 at 7:59 am

We are seniors on fixed income - close to eighty years old. We are home most of the time.
Our latest bill is close to $500. This is insane. We feel trapped and outraged. It's cold today so we'll pack up and spend the day at the library and yes, we will take a sandwich and I dare anyone to tell us we can't eat lunch in the library.


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Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 28, 2008 at 11:26 am

France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear energy. Ironically, they do this using reactors designed by American engineers. We have the know-how, but not the will. If global warming is going to be so cataclysmic, then the benefits of nuclear energy clearly out weigh the risks.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2008 at 11:39 am

Let-There-Be-Light,

Do you have any LED lightbulbs? I was considering them, but the lumens are so low, they dont appear to be a good replacement. Are lumens not a good metric for judging these vs incandescent bulbs?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm

It is time to begin building facilities for clean and safe nuclear energy. The United States could then stop depending on other countries for oil. If only we could convince Congress!


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Posted by Ready Kilowatt
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 28, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Why the GREEN power people are all GREEN with Palo Alto taxpayers cash.

California wind tends to peak in the deep dark of the morning 2 a.m.- 4 a.m. when most palo Alto citizens are asleep in dark homes. Therefore there is literal next to no load on the Palo Alto electrical system. However the power gets generated and billed under the contract to the people of Palo Alto and then promptly dumped. But that's of no consequence to the wind provider (he-he-he). The wind generator gets paid under the laws of the federal renewable production subsidy. This is one of the many reasons GREEN ENERY cost you big time.

Here you go my dear, Palo Alto taxpayers:

Elected officials and city staff gathered Wednesday (11-15-06) to celebrate the dedication of the new Shiloh Wind Power Plant, located at the sheep farm near Rio Vista. Twenty-five megawatts of the plant's wind-generated energy will be sold to Palo Alto under the city's 15-year, $75 million contract with the plant's owner, Oregon-based PPM Energy. Supplying enough power to run 9,600 Palo Alto homes, the contract represents the city's single largest purchase of renewable energy to date.

"This fits into our city philosophy," Palo Alto Utilities Director Valerie Fong said. "To the extent that we are purchasing more power, we want to make sure it's renewable."

In 2002, the Palo Alto City Council approved a "long-term electric acquisition plan" to meet 20 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy by the year 2015.

>> Is there still time for you feel good environmentalist to wake up?




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Posted by Let-There-Be-Light
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm

> Do you have any LED devices:

Check is in the mail to get a couple overheads, as we speak.

> Lumens?

Yes, lumens are one of the issues to consider. Since each application is different, it's possible that some LED applications would work fine, and others you might need to add light fixtures to increase the number of total lumens produced.

There are a couple of sources of lighting elements to review:

LEDs:
Web Link

Incandescent:
Web Link

In most cases, the incandescent devices produce more light, at significantly higher power (and cost).

Will post about light output differences the next time this topic appears.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2008 at 2:52 pm

SOMEBODY OWES ME SOME FLOWERS.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm

thanks.


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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Ready Kilowatt: Can you explain the process of Greem Power in more detail?
It looks like: Residents pay extra to buy Green Power. They think they are actually getting Green Power to their homes.

Actually they are just putting money in a pot used to buy Green Power that is mixed with all of the other power the city buys as tere is no way the city,etc, seperates green power from coal power.

Is this how it works or is it more complicated?

I wonder how many of the giant corporations H.P.,etc) in Palo Alto are buying green power. They consume most of the power the city buys and therefore consume most of the cheap (Federal Hydroelectric)power the city buys. This figure should be publizied in the newspapers as I suspect they buy next to none of the higher priced Green Power.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 5:30 pm

> therefore consume most of the cheap
> (Federal Hydroelectric)power the city buys.

Those days are over. The WAPA contract ran out in 2005, and was not renewed by the Federal Government.


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Posted by Toasty in my slippers
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Big homes + wasteful consumption = large bills.

Our utility bills (Elec., Gas, Water, Sewer, Garbage, Storm Drain and 10% tax) range $150-$200/month for a family of 4. We're even buying renewable energy through the PaloAlto Green program at a small additional cost per month.

Utilities just pass through ever-increasing purchase and operation costs. Anyone seen oil go to $100 recently? Petrol costs in Europe are >$6/gallon.

Buy some LED lights, CFLs, energy star appliances, turn things off, bundle up, and stop whining.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Two thoughts:

1)Clearly global warming is not real because I ave been freezing for the last two months.

2)Why don't we build a nuclear power plant in the baylands (which are useless and smelly as far as I can tell), sell electricity to other utilities thus allowing us to keep our rates down, and we can use the hot water that cools the reactor to warm our homes.

Any takers?


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 29, 2008 at 2:44 pm

"Why don't we build a nuclear power plant in the baylands"

Mike, that is an excellent idea!. I have proposed it myself, in the past. Palo Alto could become a tax-free zone, with so many amenities as to make all other local cities extremely jealous. Maybe each citizen could also get a cash rebate each year, too...depending on market conditions.

It is refrshing to hear such a rational idea about energy!


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Posted by NoPA Gobbledygook
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 29, 2008 at 4:10 pm

My friends it is a new day. So to you I say BOHICA!

Some of you think you are in a time warp where the local power grabber is looking out for you, and because they are democrats they will do what is good and honest. Ha, I say, they are counting on you rushing your kid off to the next over scheduled event or shopping on the internet, or sucking down a 500 calorie Starbucks. These elected and bureaucratic officials know you are not looking when in your name they ink deals to line their pockets and their pals pockets. To help keep you in the dark the manipulators will trot out the Green Al Gore Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ Mašíaḥ משיחא المسيح‎ )ready in wait to pull your leg and fool you into thinking the sky is falling, again.

When and not "if" the big blue marble we call earth wanted us gone for reasons unknown to us, she would shrug the human race off the face of this mighty globe like a 3 day cold.

As to what the manipulators are up to all I can say is: Ladies and Gentlemen get ready to open those purses and wallets because your beloved city provocateurs and eco parrot sympathizers "you" have elected are fleecing you in the big swindle. Much like hogs to the saluter you have swallowed the non-sense of green power gobbledygook.

Green Power the joke of the generation.


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Posted by Cities-Should-Stick-To-Basics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm

> "Why don't we build a nuclear power plant in the baylands"

This city has demonstrated that it can not run a children's theater with out making a mess of things.

I'd just as soon not read about all of the problems at the Palo Alto Bayland Nuclear Plant ..


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Posted by Mrs. Gobbledygook
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 30, 2008 at 1:54 am

"Green Power the joke of the generation"

And the joke is on you, and all those who thought waste was good.


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Posted by NoPA Gobbledygook
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 30, 2008 at 9:33 am

Mrs. Gobbledygook:

Not once did I suggest the waste of energy.

My point is:
The waste of taxpayer funds on feel good scams backed by false science promoted by people who have neither the intellect to evaluate facts nor comprehension of the scientific method.

We must stop these under educated and ill informed provocateurs and eco parrot sympathizers now, and we must get their money grubbing hands off taxpayer funds.


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