Residential Electrification – City of Palo Alto, CA

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Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability, making impressive progress in reducing its carbon impact, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and resource consumption. City Council has identified “Protection and Adaptation to Climate Change” as a council priority for 2022 and, through revised rebates, programs and permitting processes, we are offering simplified tools to electrify your space. These resources are available to help you make better choices when considering upgrading your home, electrifying it and reducing GHG emissions.

Palo Alto makes it easier for the community to take action locally with global impact and this new web portal provides tools for homeowners who want to make home improvements such as:

  • Installation of solar energy and management of additional electricity thanks to battery power

  • Install an electric vehicle charger

  • Replace your gas water heater with a heat pump water heater

Palo Alto Utilities provides electricity, gas, and water to the community, which means lower utility costs; it also means that the City has unique utility requirements as part of the permitting process.

Why electrification is important

Climate change causes rising sea levels, extreme weather events, rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns that affect people’s lives. Burning gasoline and natural gas releases greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming, which leads to climate change. The City has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 42% from 1990 levels, primarily by shifting its electricity supply to carbon-free sources. To learn more, see the FAQ on carbon neutrality. Most of the remaining community emissions come from cars and buildings. Reducing emissions requires more cars and buildings running on Palo Alto green electricity instead of gasoline or natural gas.

In addition to helping the climate, an all-electric lifestyle is cleaner and healthier than using carbon-based fuels and can also be more affordable. The City is encouraging customers to consider electrification, a shift from carbon-based fuels to electricity for space and water heating, transportation and cooking. Advances in electric space heating, water heating and other appliances have made the switch to high-efficiency electric appliances more compelling than ever.

What’s new

Solar App+ launched as a pilot program: Working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to implement a streamlined permitting process for eligible PV projects, the City earlier this spring announced a new program called SolarApp+. It is an electronic interface that allows licensed contractors to apply for and receive a permit without interacting with City staff. If you’re interested in simplified permitting, consider selecting a contractor enrolled in the Solar App+ program.

Proposed update to the 2022 Green and Local Scope Building Code: Access codes are more advanced building codes than those required by the state. Palo Alto staff have begun the process of updating the city’s green building regulations and energy scope code with a target effective date of January 1, 2023. Learn more about the proposed 2022 local energy and green building code update here.

Home electrification tools

Click on the green bars below to learn more and find resources on what you need to know when considering electrification.

Upgrade to a heat pump water heater

The standard gas storage water heater is a significant carbon contributor for the average home. Water heaters typically last about 12 years. For your next water heater, consider upgrading to an electric heat pump water heater (HPWH) which looks like a standard gas water heater but uses Palo Alto’s carbon neutral electricity.

Start your permit application

Upgrade to an electric heat pump heating and air conditioning system

The average lifespan of a gas furnace, boiler and air conditioner is 10 to 20 years. For your next heating or cooling system, consider an air-source heat pump (ASHP) that provides both. ASHPs have been adopted for decades around the world as an efficient, clean and quiet device for space conditioning. The most common types of electric heating systems are ducted or non-ducted air source heat pumps and hydronic radiant heating systems. Current permit guidelines are being updated.

Start your permit application

Install an electric vehicle charger

Ready to join the EV revolution? There are several options when installing a home electric vehicle charger.

Level 1 charger: Uses a standard 120 volt outlet and provides a range of 3-5 miles per hour.

Level 2 charger: Manage electricity consumption with a low-power Level 2 EVCS charger. Level 2 chargers require a 240 volt outlet, but the amount of current supported by Level 2 ranges from 12 to 80 amps. Low-power chargers (≈ 20 amps, 3 kW) can provide ≈ 10 miles of range/hour, which may be more than enough for most drivers. For those in a hurry, a high-power Level 2 charger (≈ 60 amps, 11 kW) can provide up to 60 miles of range/hour.

Residential EV Charging Permit Guidelines(PDF, 1 MB)

Install a solar system

Installing solar panels on the roof of your home reduces the electricity portion of your electricity bill. Your City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) provides electricity from the grid when your solar panels are not producing enough to meet your needs and compensates you for excess electricity that you export to the grid when your system is generating more than you are using.

Photovoltaic Residential Permit Guidelines(PDF, 2 MB)

Install a battery storage system

Battery storage allows excess energy to be stored for later use, such as during evening hours when residents tend to use the most electricity, or to provide resiliency during a power outage.

EHS Residential Permit Guidelines(PDF, 1 MB)

Additional Resources

Throughout the year, the City of Palo Alto offers a variety of events and workshops focused on resource sustainability, emergency preparedness, community resilience, and more. Learn how to reduce waste, conserve water, save energy, prevent pollution and electrify your home for an upcoming event.

Join a free workshop

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