While Others Talk Palo Alto Goes Carbon Neutral

on October 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM

This photo taken on October 29, 2010 sho

Not everyone can do what Palo Alto has done, but it is worth trying 

Palo Alto is not your average US city. Not only is it home to world-renown Stanford University, it is, by many measures, the intellectual capital of Silicon Valley. It is an above average town in affluence, education, and by most other measures. It has its own municipal utility company, which means it does not need to get anyone’s permission beyond the city hall.

A Few years back, the local utility announced that it wanted to go carbon neutral. The city now claims to have reached the goal by supplying all its energy from renewable resources or by buying carbon offsets. Its resource mix by 2017 will consist of 53% hydro, 23% solar, 12% wind, and 11% landfill gas.

Clean and green, as Palo Alto

Palo Alto

Source: Palo Alto Municipal Utility

There were many skeptics when the small utility declared its intentions, but the city’s drive toward renewable energy and a carbon neutral energy supply has been assisted by an unexpected and persistent fall in renewables energy costs, particularly solar energy.

When the utility held an auction in 2012, it found plenty of solar power for as low as 7¢/kWh, virtually on par or better than brown electricity. The cost of renewables has been so low that the city eliminated its green energy program, which originally was offered at a slight price premium to customers who opted for it.  Now, the city offers everyone green electrons at the same price – there is no premium for clean juice any longer.

Published Originally in EEnergy Informer: The International Energy Newsletter October 2014 Issue.