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All-electric utility bills are break-even or lower in Menlo Park compared to gas bills

From: domainremoved <Sean>
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2019 10:43:45 -0700

Dear Menlo Park City Councilors, Staff and Members of the Public,

Thank you for considering strategies to phase out the use of combustible
methane (“natural gas”) in Menlo Park’s building stock.

As the Managing Principal of Redwood Energy, I have had the good fortune of
getting to work with engineers from around our nation as we co-designed
more than two hundred Zero Net Energy apartment complexes for low-income
households. To guide your deliberations, I wanted to share with you a few
of our findings supporting a phase out of natural gas use in New
Construction in 2020.

1. Reversible air conditioners (aka heat pumps) use 1/4th the energy of a
gas furnace, which leads to break-even or lower utility bills in
California, and significantly lower bills in the majority of U.S. states. Mr. McBirney,
made an accurate argument that using an outdated electric resistance space heater leads to
4x higher bills than burning gas in a ~90% efficient furnace. However,
electric resistance is almost impossible to permit in 2019, let alone being
advisable. Mr. McBirney may not be aware of how modern heat pumps
(reversible air conditioners) use electricity--they do not "burn" it, but
use the electricity to drive a heat-gathering compressor. One unit of
electricity gathers 3 to 4 units of heat, producing break-even bills in
California even without solar offset.

2. California's new low-rise residential construction in 2020 is required
to install solar power, eliminating utility bills. Gas bills cannot be
offset with solar power. Solar power is required because it is the single
most cost-effective efficiency measure available, cutting utility costs by
2/3rds with a 4-8 year payback, even when calculated as an additional
construction expense repaid on the mortgage. All-electric construction
facilitates real financial benefits from solar power for the lowest income
residents of Menlo Park, as well as the wealthy.

3. All-electric high-rise apartments are common world-wide because they are
faster, cheaper and simpler to build. Adding gas piping and venting to high
rise buildings slows down construction, compromises aesthetics and adds
costs. Most high rises in Seattle and Vancouver are built all-electric, as
is true also of Hong Kong. The Related Companies in Manhattan retrofitted
twelve existing 60+ story apartment complexes to all-electric in 2015
alone. In Hawaii almost all of the luxury condos and resorts people stay
have been built all-electric since the 1960s. There are no technical
challenges to building all-electric high rises, just knowledge gaps in some
design groups.

1700 Webster, Oakland; AIA Kowloon Towers, Hong Kong; Ritz-Carlton, Waikiki
Beach; The Emerald, Seattle.

4. In the U.S. there has been a gas pipeline explosion 8 out of every 10
days since 1986 with 548 fatalities; there are 7900 gas-related house fires
a year; 15,000 emergency room visits a year for carbon monoxide poisoning,
and tens of thousands displaced each year from their homes due to a tragic
accident, landlord neglect or their utility’s catastrophic mistake.

I encourage you to make public policy that helps save the citizens of Menlo
Park from the dangers and downsides of natural gas.


Sean Armstrong

Managing Principal

Redwood Energy

*Partner and Project ManagerRedwood Energy*
1887 Q Street
Arcata, CA 95521
Received on Tue Sep 10 2019 - 10:36:36 PDT

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