Environment

Reach Code Virtual Workshop 06/06/2022 – a transcript

Here is a lightly edited transcript of the Los Altos Environmental Commission’s Virtual Workshop of June 6, 2022.  The virtual event introduced some information and ideas for the upcoming update of the existing 2020 Los Altos Reach Code, which affects only new constructed buildings now, but could possibly affect existing houses and buildings too in a 2022 version.

The City of Los Altos Youtube video of the June 6 workshop with the slides is embedded here below. [Also here is the URL link to the Youtube VIDEO version.] That’s the only City of Los Altos place we found all the slides online. The timestamps in the transcript below are close to but not exactly matching the time stamps in Youtube. We suggest you open two browser windows –  one with this transcript, this other with the Youtube video in order to see slides if you want to.

***Also here is this other post that has the HIGHLIGHTS and RELEVANT SLIDES from the June 6 virtual workshop, if you are looking for something more SUCCINCT

 

 

 

 

Los Altos Reach Codes Workshop – A lightly editing transcript.

June 6, 2022

SPEAKERS

Jose Garcia, Anthony Eulo, Tom Hecht, city staff, Don Weiden, Lara Teksler

Lara Teksler  00:02

So, welcome. Thank you everyone for joining us the Los Altos Environmental Commission. We’re going  tonight to provide an overview of our current work on Reach Codes and get some of your feedback and questions on our work. My name is Laura Teksler. I’m Chair of the Environmental Commission. I’m joined tonight with the two other members of our Environmental Commission subcommittee. Commissioner Hecht and Commissioner Weiden as well as by sorry, I guess the audio is not good. Not sure what to do about that. I don’t know if that’s on my end. So,

Anthony Eulo  00:50

Laura, I’m hearing you perfectly fine. So it could be with someone else.

Lara Teksler  00:54

Okay. Good. All right. So we are also joined speaking of Anthony, we’re also joined by members of Silicon Valley Clean Energy and their consultant TRC who will be presenting on some of the regional efforts. So as I noted, the meeting is being recorded. It will be posted to the city’s YouTube channel as well as on the Reach Code website. And I will also direct you to the Reach Code website where we are adding additional information as we go through this process, so that’s a good place to check-in and learn more about Reach Codes in Los Altos.  We scheduled the workshop for an hour and a half but we do plan to wrap up before then or the presentation is not so long. And we will have plenty of time for questions. So we’ll try and get you out of here a little bit before the hour and a half mark. Please do use the Q&A feature to type in your questions, and we will be answering most of those at the end unless there are really specific clarifying questions that we may pop in and answer as we go. If there’s anything we don’t get to answer tonight, we will follow up with an answer to that if we need to get more information to any of the questions that are asked. We also have a in person workshop coming up on Wednesday at seven at the community at the Community X XXXXXX   Center, and you’re welcome to participate in that as well. The presentation will be the same but of course the questions might be different. So here’s our agenda.  Commissioner Hecht will start us off with talking a little bit about our current Reach Codes and Los Altos as well as our climate action goals. And how that plays in with our Reach Codes efforts. And then SCVE and TRC we’ll be talking about the regional Reach Code effort and what the developments the Model Codes are. Know that the regional effort, I will be addressing some of the common questions and concerns that we heard during the development of Reach Codes last time, and then Commissioner Weiden will walk us through the Model Reach Codes and then of course, we’ll have Q&A at the end. So with that, we wanted to start off with a poll to learn a little bit more about our participants here tonight. So if we could go ahead and put that poll up sorry, I know it’s a lot of back and forth switching to get it the whole running so hopefully we’ll get that up in a minute. Okay, so if you could please go ahead and take a few minutes. To answer these questions just so we can get a little more information about who’s participating. Tonight. Okay we’re just gonna give it another minute or two. For people to finish up the poll Okay, looks like we can go ahead and get started on the presentation Okay, so I will turn it over to Commissioner Hecht for the next slide

Tom Hecht  06:48

Okay, I don’t seem to be able to start my video so maybe I will just do it without video. Maybe it’s maybe you need to hit the slide twice. Yeah, there we go. Can you hear me? Okay.

Lara Teksler  07:06

Yes, we can hear you great. Okay, great.

Tom Hecht  07:09

Yeah, thank you. So as the workshop notes, it is titled, Reach Code 2 Dot 0,   and I think it’s important to note that there is a Reach Code 1 Dot 0  and that is in fact what we are operating under right now. Those Reach Codes are titled Reach Code, because they reached beyond the 2019 California Building Code otherwise known as Title 24. In those requirements, they were adopted back in November of 2020 by the city council, and were developed with a host of community education, outreach, surveys, webinars, and in fact a specific Reach Code informational page. There were really two main Reach Codes or two items that were addressed by the Reach Codes in 2020. One was buildings,  Los Altos buildings, residential and commercial. And those required  Reach Codes, specifically, those required water and space heating be electric, and exemptions for other appliances in new buildings. In addition, any new building required an electric electrification ready, panel, and wiring in mixed fuel buildings to enable electrification later on down the road. The other focus area was EV charging, –and  most simply thought of– the Reach Codes, Los Altos Reach Codes, encouraged a higher percentage of partial spaces that included wireless EV charging infrastructure.

Without an update to these codes this year, those codes will sunset or expire on January 1 2023. That is one of the main drivers of this discussion today. We can go to the next slide. You might want to hit the button twice. Yes. The other main driver for the Reach Code discussion today is the Los Altos Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, otherwise known as Los Altos CAP, that was adopted by the city council early earlier this year in March. And really had three primary objectives, one overriding one being the reduction of the City of Los Altos greenhouse gases. In fact, hitting carbon neutrality by 2035 and those are the two graphs above. Put that in very simple graphic terms. In 2018, we were as a city generating over 110 million metric tons of co2 and the graph on the right so here’s how we’re gonna get to carbon neutrality by 2035.  I think it’s important to note that over 95% of our greenhouse gases are driven by buildings and transportation, not surprising. There are other two other objectives of the cap and that is to increase our climate resilience, which is required by SB 379. And prepare for the future in general. Go ahead with one more slide.  Those were the objectives of the cap and the actions that the CAP included to get to carbon neutrality.

There are really five key actions. The first was we’ve got to be more efficient. So we’ve got to reduce the amount of electricity and gas used overall in homes and businesses by 20% in 2035, in addition, we need to significantly reduce or eliminate methane gas or natural gas in our homes and businesses by 2035. In our Reach Codes, our proposed Reach Codes will address that. In addition, we need to facilitate the installation of solar and expand storage on existing and new buildings in the community. And finally, we have to increase EV component of all vehicles and light-duty vehicles in Los Altos, we have to increase that to 80% by 2035. So really four simple actions that we need to take to hit the Los Altos  CAP objectives. Next slide. And so, as we begin to talk about the Reach Codes, and there’ll be a lot more detail later in this presentation. I think there are five main goals that we think about to give you context for the Reach Codes we are discussing. The first is we need to hit our CAP objectives.  And that is simply speeding electrification of the buildings, reducing our natural gas usage, and encouraging EV adoption. In addition, we also want to improve air quality. Natural gas appliances do cause indoor pollution, significant indoor pollution. And it is a good objective to reduce that.

We also, as I discussed, need to avoid the current Reach Code lapse, and we need therefore, we need to implement new codes by the end of this year. Finally, we need to ensure we align with our California decarbonization goals, which are to hit 40% below 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and hit carbon neutrality by 2045. And finally, we need to make sure the codes are aligned with best energy practices, emerging appliance technology and scientific consensus. And we think some of the Reach Codes that we are discussing will encourage that and will increase the adoption of newer and better and more efficient appliances and technologies in the buildings. Having said that, or I think that is it for this section.

Lara Teksler  13:50

Right and now we’re going to turn it over to SCVEE and they’ll walk us through the next couple of slides.

Anthony Eulo  13:58

Thanks so much Laura. This is Anthony Eulo from SCVEE.  SCVEE is your clean energy provider in the City of Los Altos. We’ve been around for about five years. We’re pleased that one of your council members,  councilmember Fligor, serves on our board currently. Since we’ve been in existence for the last five years we have provided carbon-free electricity to the customers in our service territory, as well as saved close to $80 million in electric bills for those customers.  I’m just gonna touch on a couple of items. One is the idea of a Reach Code is that building all electric to start with, saves a ton of money in the future. In recognizing that the climate action plan for the city looks at phasing out gas in homes, then if you can build the homes without the gas to start with, it’s by far the most efficient. So one thing to note is that it costs less money actually to build a new home without gas in it. And to make it all-electric. In this graphic, you can see some of the different devices that are now in place in modern homes. Notably the heat pump is provided for heating and cooling the space as well, as the water heater. We have our EV charger for our electric transportation and electric dryer. There’s also heat pump-to-pump technology for the dryers as well. And of course the induction cooktop. Next slide please.

For when it comes to electric vehicle infrastructure, of course for single-family homes, this is not a big issue because they’re almost all have garages and it’s fairly easy to install a charger in a garage. The code requires there to be adequate pre-wiring to the garage to support the eventual installation of chargers. Really where the big savings comes in the multifamily housing, not that there’s a ton of it in Los Altos. But when it comes to multifamily housing, ensuring that the EV charging infrastructure is installed during construction ensures that the residents of that multifamily housing will be able to one day buy an electric vehicle.  As we know the state is in the middle of phasing out traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, and it’s projected that all vehicles, all passenger vehicles are going to be electric, sold as of 2035. But of course there’ll be some older cars on the road. But in any event, making sure that multifamily structures have the charging infrastructure built in is a key thing to do during construction as opposed to looking eventually to rip up hardscape and install those kinds of devices in a parking lot. Next slide please.

So, in 2019, which was the last code cycle because code cycles last three years, over 50 jurisdictions in California adopted Reach Codes, Los Altos, of course, being one of them, you can see that you’re in that second tier just got mostly electric. There are some of your sister jurisdictions, only electric preferred, and some others went all-electric. So you guys were kind of right in the middle there. And with the new code coming up — the state code is now strongly electric preferred. So it’s actually much easier to be compliant with the base California code today by building an all-electric building, and that’s directly attributable to the success that so many agencies like ??? had in adopting Reach Codes. The state was able to say statewide, hey, this makes sense. Over 50 agencies adopt this, we should just make it the standard. So the standard at this point is electric preferred /slash mostly electric and talk more about that standard. I’m going to turn it over to my colleague from TRC Jose Garcia. And you’re gonna have the next slide, please. It looks like you need to hit it a couple of times.

Jose Garcia  18:05

Yeah. Thanks, Tony. Thanks, Laura. As Tony said, my name is Jose. I’m a consultant with TRC supporting SCVE tonight, and I do want to emphasize  first how efficient the 2019 Energy Code was, and it also had solar requirements. So just to let people know that, in addition to those, it is now electric preferred. And so how do we see that — we see that in the prescriptive requirements for heat pumps. Heat pumps are now considered as a prescriptive baseline. For instance, in residential, it’s .. heat pumps are required under the prescriptive requirements for space heating and climate zones 3 and 4. And also for water heating in climate zone 12. Also on the non-residential side, water and or space heating is prescriptively required to be heat pumped, to be provided by heat pumps for most building types. There’s also a performance credit for all-electric designs.  Laura, can you click it one more time. Yeah, thank you. In addition to the heat pump requirements, there’s also pre-wiring required if you got any gas appliances installed. There’s a higher ventilation rate for gas stoves, that’ll translate to kinds of costs. And that’s to do with, you know, to improve indoor air quality. There’s also energy storage readiness required. And I do have one more bit Laura. Sorry. Yeah, and let’s click it one more time, I think. Thanks. Yeah. So and in non-residential solar PV and battery storage are prescriptive requirements. We’re not going to go too much into existing buildings. But the new code does restrict newly installed electric resistance heating. And it also includes simplified language for heat pump retrofits. All right, and that concludes the slide.

Lara Teksler  20:19

Okay, thank you, Tony and Jose. Alright, so we just wanted to go over some of the questions and concerns we heard during the development of Reach Codes. Last time and just talk a little bit about those questions.

So the first one being, you know, there’s kind of sometimes a common concern that electric appliances don’t perform very well. Particularly when compared to gas appliances and you know, if you’ve had experience with old electric appliances, space heating or water heating, this certainly can be true.

However, you know, current heat pump water heaters and space heaters perform very well and efficiently. When it comes to gas cooking. We certainly heard that people have a strong affinity for their gas stoves and would guess that that continues to be so. Induction cooktops that are becoming more prevalent, now do perform very well for people who, who use them in their homes report that they perform very well and have good heat control. They also have some safety benefits in terms of that they don’t get hot, so there’s not a burning issue, as well as the indoor air quality and impact health that we’re now learning is even more problematic in gas cooking. So those are some of the other considerations to keep in mind when thinking about the performance of electric versus gas appliances.

The question of the grid and whether it’s stable and able to handle more load as we electrify.

You know, of course, this is a complex question and the capacity of the grid will need to be increased in California throughout the state as we electrify. There are several agencies that are responsible for ensuring that the state has adequate energy supply and a stable grid including: the Public Utilities Commission, and Cal ISO, and the California Energy Commission. So they are they’re overseeing that transition that will happen over time. It is important to note that many of the electricity outages that we’ve experienced in California have been due to wildfires and storms, not from an inadequate supply of electricity on the grid. So we want to keep that in mind. And we can actually think of Reach Codes as somewhat interrupting the cycle in terms of the more fossil fuel we burn the more extreme weather events we’re going to have. And that leads to more power safety shut offs and such. So electrification is one way to reduce the incidence of those extreme events.

Will electric appliances be more susceptible to these kinds of interruptions in electricity?

 So, you know, the thought is that if you have a gas appliance that you can continue to use that will there’s an electric outage. However, when we’re talking about new electric appliances, new gas appliances, excuse me, they all have electronic ignitions so they are not any more resilient when the electricity is out. However, if you are building an all-electric home, and you want that resiliency for outages, you can get that, achieve that by adding in, you know, increasing your solar power [system}, which is required on new buildings, by adding storage to that with a battery so that’s one way to achieve some resiliency in your home during electricity outages.

The question of, you know, what’s more costly to run an electric or gas appliances, is a little bit difficult to answer in general terms.

Because it does depend on the appliance you’re talking about, and what the climate is, and how and how you are using it as an occupant. But generally costs can be considered similar in terms of, we do have the heat pump water heater, the heat pumps are running more efficiently. So even if you think of gas might be slightly cheaper than electricity, the efficiency will make up for that. We may also see natural gas rates going up, higher and rising faster than electricity rates, and that’s a little bit beyond our control. So again, if you’re pairing your additional solar, and with your electric appliances that can also be a way to make it more economical to run electric appliances.

As to the question of carbon savings, are we really saving carbon? If we’re running an appliance when renewable energy is not on the grid and we’re burning a fossil fuel to run the grid to produce the electricity anyway.

As we heard, we are here in Silicon Valley Clean Energy territory, and we have carbon-free electricity and that’s around the clock. So when renewable sources aren’t available, then our  electricity is coming from hydro electric, geothermal stored energy. And so there truly is a carbon savings when you are running electric versus gas appliance. We have SCVE is power content label on the Reach Code website and that shows exactly where our sources of electricity are coming from. And also want to mention that to date SCVE is invested in renewable energy projects that generate 900 megawatts of clean energy and many of those includes storage so we’re able to run those appliances even when the sun is not shining or the wind blowing.  And, as to, you know, is electrification really an impact on emissions? You know, I refer back to Commissioner Hecht who went through our CAP, which shows that yes, our buildings and transportation do account for the lion’s share of our emissions here in Los Altos. And so tackling that and electrifying that that part of our emissions will make a big difference and in the long run. So, of course, other questions and concerns have come up, but we just wanted to touch on those and we’ll again, answer any others at the end. And so I will turn it over to Commissioner Weiden to tell us about the Model Reach Code.

Don Weiden  28:17

Thank you, Laura. Sonia advance to the next slide. Excuse me, so yeah, that’s the next slide or Thank you. Over the next few minutes, I want to present an overview of Reach Code options under evaluation by the Los Altos Environmental Commission for new construction, the renovation and remodeling of existing buildings and electric infrastructure. Go back one please. Go back one slide please. Sonia, can you move back one slide? So we’re having a little difficulty with with the slides. The first slide that I wanted to discuss was relative to new construction.

Lara Teksler  29:40

If you missed …I might be able to share the slides if Sonia is having problems.  There we go.

Don Weiden  29:51

Okay. This slide deals with new construction only.

The columns define the requirements of the 2022 California Energy Code, the current Los Altos code, which Tom had referred to as Reach Codes, 1.0 and a proposed Bay Area Model Code.

The proposed Bay Area Model Code has been developed by the Bay Area Reach Code , by a Bay Area Reach Code organization which is comprised of East Bay Community Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy, and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SCVEE). Together these three community energy entities supply electrical energy to over 40 cities and towns and the counties of Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara County.

The purpose of developing a Model Code is to help provide the towns and cities within these agencies’ jurisdictions to help them consider similar Reach Codes and provide some consistency throughout the region.   Now you can note that the effective date for the California Energy Code is 1/1/2023. That January 1 2023 is also the date that our current code Reach Codes expire. The proposed Model Code would take effect after the city’s adoption and filing with the state if it’s necessary, and it depends on what’s included in the Reach Code will determine if there has to be a filing with the state.

Now for new construction and buildings the definition is pretty much the same on all three of the codes, the proposed codes. Basically, it’s a building that has not been previously used or occupied. There is one difference and that is the proposed Bay Area Model Code… If more than 50% of the foundation or framing is modified in the building, then that entire building would be considered new construction or would have to meet the new construction standards.

So similar…. but one additional factor in the Model Code.  Regarding air, air heating, cooling and water heating, cooling, they’re all three, the California Energy Code, the new California Energy Code, the current Los Altos code and the Bay Area Model Code are very similar where heat pumps are preferred, if not required.  And as the presenter for Silicon Valley said, the electric heat pump is required in area 4 zones 3 and 4 and we’re [Los Altos] in zone four climate zone four,  so it’s required for a heat pump for air conditioning. But you would have under the building code the option for gas or electric for water heating. If you provide wiring, provided that you provide wiring for future installation if you choose gas.

Concerning clothes drying, there you can see that it can be energy… it can be gas or electricity under the Energy Code, but it’s electric under our current code, and also under the proposed Model Code.

In cooking and fireplaces, you’ll note that the Energy Code and the current Los Altos code could be …could be electric or gas. If it’s gas, both require pre-wiring so that it can be converted in the future, and the proposed Bay Area Model Code,  it would all be electric.

One of the significant differences between the proposed Model Code and the Los Altos and the Energy Code is exterior uses of natural gas — such as in pools, spas or fire pits — is really not addressed in either the two codes, but is not permitted under the Bay Area Model Code.

And the last difference is again, that’s something that’s not addressed in Los Altos or in the California Energy Code is an end of service date. And this is sometimes referred to as a gas shut off date by our community. And that isn’t addressed by the state or the city current code of the City of Los Altos. But we’d have a shut off date of January 1, 2045 by the proposed Bay Area Model Code.

It’s a lot to digest as Laura mentioned earlier on in the in the very beginning. The slides will be available if you want to study this in more detail a little later on. Next slide please.

This slide concerns existing building and, renovation and alterations. It’s the Reach Codes in this area are rapidly changing and developing. A few California cities have adopted some Reach Codes, already adopted some Reach Codes for renovation and alterations. Some cities are considering it now. And the the Bay Area Reach Code organization is in the process of developing a Model Code. So the contents of that Model Code have not been determined as of this date.

However, there are potential options or potential inclusions of this could include such things as requirements that

when a construction permit is issued for work on a building, gas system or appliance, then the new construction must meet the new construction requirements in the Energy Code. That’s one possibility.

Another possibility could be if your appliance burns out or you replace the appliance then the appliance that you replace, would have to meet the new construction Energy Codes.

Third one is maybe these types of changes take place upon or required upon sale of the property.

There are many more options as well under consideration, and there’s other things also underfoot. For example,

the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is considering implementation of  phasing out gas appliances, so that over a period of time, in in the Bay Area you will no longer be able to purchase a gas furnace or a gas water heater, that they’ll all be heat pump technology. So there’s a number of things changing and it’s very, very rapidly changing and dynamic area. Next slide please.

 The  importance of the existing buildings renovation and alterations is shown in this slide. Listed are the types of permits issued over the last 15 months in Los Altos. One thing to keep in mind is that Los Altos has approximately 10,000 residential units at this point in time. This is a very round number but it’s fairly close.

The vast majority of our residential units are single-family residences. So if we took the new construction Reach Codes  –which we talked about a little bit earlier — they are people filing for a single family residence permit or a detached ADU permit;, they would have to meet those requirements of new construction. So you can see that’s about 9% of the permits issued over this 15-month period or about 100 permits. When you look at that we have roughly 10,000 residential units you can see that it’s it’s about 1% of the residential units out there. So it would take many years at that process to replace all  -you know – to replace our gas appliances in existing homes within all residences in the city.

The next permit is ‘additions greater than or less than 750 square feet.” These are broken out in the permit issuance because when you do an addition of more than 750 square feet, it triggers in the Los Altos building code that your home or the building must include fire sprinklers at that point. So that hurdle or that level creates a significant change in the utility system of the building.

The interesting thing to look at is the last three categories and you can see the residential alterations, water heaters, and furnaces and ACs are roughly 80% of the permits issued. So, when you look at this and if the carbon — if the reduction, if our goal is to reduce and become carbon neutral as a city by 2035 and as by a state of California 2045 —  it’s pretty clear that we have to address building renovations and remodels within the next few years. Or else reaching those goals will not be attainable. Next slide please.

Okay, this slide is about electric vehicle infrastructure. You’ll note the 3 columns. Again, there’s the 2022 CALGreen code with the current Los Altos code and the proposed Bay Area Model Code. I’ve only shown single-family residences because that’s the bulk of what is within the City of Los Altos. And also, the requirements for multifamily residences and other building types are varying and complex. They’re not as is easy to identify. There are varying requirements depending on the type of building.

But you’ll see within the single-family residence L2 means level two which is a 240-volt charging. Level 1 L1 is typical 120, your typical home outlet. So in the CALGreen code, a single-family residence would require one level two L2 EV ready receptacle. EV ready meaning it’s ready for the vehicle to be charged, plugged in. Nothing additional is needed. In the current Los Altos code it’s also one L2 EV ready. However, our current code goes one step further. If two or more parking spaces are provided for our residents, then basically you’d be required to put two L2 EV ready into the infrastructure of the home. The proposed Bay Area Model Code differs a little bit. If if you have two or more parking spaces, then it’d be one L2 and one L1 EV ready. As I mentioned previously, the requirements for multifamily and other building types vary. And that varies by level. In other words,  is it 120s … two L1  120w or  L2  240w or is it fast charging. Is the system L2 ready or L2 ‘capable’, is another definition that comes in. Ready means that it’s ready to go. You just plug in, and it’ll charge your car.  Capable means that the infrastructure is there for the conduit and breakers but the wiring and energy supply would be provided at a later date when needed. So that the main cost of building the infrastructure in a ‘capable’ situation is already there, and it can be readily added.  And then there are also things like ‘automated load management systems’ and ‘electric vehicle charging units’. And those requirements — like I say– vary depending on the type of building.

When I looked at all of this in generality in some cases, Los Altos has a little more strict requirements, in other cases a little more lenient, depending on which you’re looking at — the proposed model or the CALGreen code. But in overall, the current Los Altos code is really somewhat similar to the proposed Bay Area Model Code. The one significant difference here that again, has to be addressed is that if there’s no partial addition, alteration, or renovation, CALGreen and the current Los Altos code do not address this. Whereas as the Bay Area Model Code says, if you’re doing a partial addition, alteration or renovation then the new code would apply. This ends the presentation or the formal presentation that we have and we’d like to now open that up to a question-to-answer and discussion period.

Lara Teksler  45:25

Oh, go ahead. So thank you. We do have a couple of questions that came in the q&a and I think maybe we’re gonna have Anthony, kick us off with the q&a.

Anthony Eulo  45:39

I believe Sonia is going to read the question.

city staff  45:41

Yeah. So thank you, everybody, for joining us. And now we’re going to move to the q&a portion. As Don and Laura had just mentioned, so our first question was, ‘Why neutrality by 2035? Why not 2030? As many pundits say we needed to do. “

Anthony Eulo  46:02

So I’m going to start this answer and then I’m also going to invite the members of the commission to add on. My answer is twofold. First, not really a question related to Reach Code –. tonight’s a discussion — which codes would contribute to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 as well as 2035. We’re really looking at trying to minimize any emissions associated with new, and in some cases, remodel development. So the question of whether it should be 2030 or 2035, I daresay was a very well discussed topic when the city adopted its CAP. Sure, there’s arguments on both sides and some people arguing for 2045 as well. So but so not really a question for tonight. And there certainly many layers of this onion skin that could be unveiled. But anything to add Laura or other commissioners?

Lara Teksler  47:05

No, I think that’s that’s a good overview. And I would just, you know, reiterate that it’s, it’s a balancing act, right. It’s how … what’s the appetite and how aggressively do we as a community want to make the changes that we’re going to need to make to reach those goals? So I think  in the CAP, the answer was, this is, where we think we can, what we think we can achieve and what our community is committed to.

Anthony Eulo  47:46

Great, so did you want to go to the second question,

Lara Teksler  47:49

 so I’m gonna go to the second question. “So contractors seem very opposed to heat pumps for water or space heating. Since I’ve never seen one,  why is this? Are you able to put them in the same form factor? For example, the same spot a tank water heater would go? Or is there more to the installation?”

Anthony Eulo  48:12

So great question. Really appreciate that. And I’m going to ask TRC to add on after my answer. So there are numerous reasons why you will hear some contractors be hesitant to heat pump technology. But let’s remember that in a new dwelling, the kind of the form factor or the footprint of the technology is pretty easy to accommodate. That’s not typically the issue.

One of the concerns with new development is contractors believing that the customer will not be as satisfied with the product as they would have been. And let’s divide that into answers for all three types of heat pumps that we’re talking about. First off for water heating — a heat pump water heater is a tanked water heater, it is not an instant on, on-demand water heater like we see in many new homes. So it is a different form factor. But much closer to the traditional form factor where you have a tank with a heating unit on.  It’s slightly larger. And because it takes a little longer to heat the water up, people often install larger tanks. So if you would have gone with a 40-gallon tank, for example, you might install a 50 if you were installing a heat pump water heater.

One of the big challenges with heat pump water heaters is in the retrofit area when you’re putting them into a house that’s already built, and has a natural gas water heater. And that is because there isn’t often an adequate amount of electrical current and capacity available where the water heater is. So it takes a second permit in the second kind of level of work in an existing building. But for new development heat pump water heaters are pretty simple to do.

If we look at the space heating, the dynamic there’s a little different because we are kind of spoiled. And many of us are used to furnaces, gas furnaces that act like a  blast furnace. Essentially you wake up in the morning, you turn it on and a bunch of hot heat comes pouring out of your vents and warms your house. And that’s not the experience of living with a heat pump. With a heat pump space heater you typically keep your house a little more …. You don’t let the low go as low as you would otherwise. So you operate it a little differently. Because it does take a little more time to come up to temperature. At the same time, that it is more efficient and it is the electric way to go.

Lastly is the heat pump clothes dryers. Now there are two types of major types of electric clothes dryers. One is the traditional resistance heating which many of us were familiar with in the past. And now there’s a heat pump technology. The heat pump technology does actually definitely take longer to dry. Again, more efficient but substantially longer to dry. I speaking from personal experience because we have one.  So we have just moved in, so we just bought a heat pump clothes dryer, and we’re getting used to it. So far it’s working, but it definitely takes more time. Jose or Farhad from TRC. Did you want to add on to that answer?

Jose Garcia  51:32

Tony, I thought the answer was pretty comprehensive. I would point out that part of the impetus for electrifying in new construction as opposed to not doing that is that it’s easier. You wouldn’t run into the issue of you know, having to add, you know, new wiring or not having the electrical capacity like you spoke to. So that’s pretty much all that I would add.

Anthony Eulo  52:04

Exactly. Thanks for saying I would like to add that we are at SCVEE and also at Bay Run, another organization, we are working very actively to train contractors so that they’re more prepared out in the field and more familiar with electric technology. Laura, do you think anyone from the Commission would like to comment on that question, or should we roll on to the next one?

Lara Teksler  52:29

I think we can move on.

Anthony Eulo  52:31

Super. Go ahead Sonia. So I’m not hearing you so I’m gonna go ahead and read the next question. Which is

“It’s all very well to say, ‘Add solar battery storage’, however currently doing so roughly doubles the price of solar. What is being done to reduce the cost of these vital batteries?”

And to that I can’t comment on the questioner’s  assertion that it roughly doubles the price of solar. It certainly sounds feasible to me. What’s being done? Is that a couple of things are. The first half, I think that the shortage of lithium and the challenges in the supply chain are very well documented in this day and age, and it certainly seems like everything is getting more expensive these days. And batteries are no different. There’s also a backlog on demand of batteries because so many of the new big solar farms — if you will —  include extensive battery arrays. So there’s, there’s only so much battery storage capacity. And as we all know, the laws of supply and demand indicate that when there’s a lot of demand and not enough supply, the prices are gonna go up.

So what’s being done? Is that just about every level of government is working and doing what they can to improve the supply chain and to expedite the production of batteries. People have really seen the value in them. And the need for energy storage, in order to make our transformation successful. I do want to add that SCVEE along with one of our sister agencies serving other geographic areas, recently engaged in a big RFP for ‘long duration storage’ that’s storage that lasts more than four hours. In other words more than typical lithium batteries. And we did see some alternative technologies be proposed to us. And the reason I mentioned this at this moment is because of course if there are other storage technologies that will in fact, make more supply of energy storage in general available, and therefore reduce the cost of energy storage. And if anyone from TRC has a comment on that, I’d be happy to hear it and if not, we will roll on

Jose Garcia  55:03

You should probably roll on.

Anthony Eulo  55:08

All right. Next question is “It would be interesting to know the number of PV [photo votalic – solar] and storage permits pulled in in the past 15-month period?”

And I understand from city staff that there have been 474 PV permits pulled since January 26, 2021. I want to publicly compliment the staff for being able to come up with that number in the span of just mere minutes. Pretty impressive. You won’t get that in every city. I hope that answers the question.

 Okay, the next question is “For replacing a hot water heater in an in-house closet, I was told that I need to relocate the heater to the garage as the heater generates a noise that you wouldn’t have inside your house. And I think that you wouldn’t want to hear in your house?”

Yes. And I think that’s absolutely potentially true. That heat pumps are basically refrigerators. This is the same technology as we use in our refrigerators. And we’re not used to our water heaters making sounds like that. It’s also worth noting that heat pump water heaters kind of export cool air. So having them in the house can be a challenge. So I think that maybe the contractor astutely pointed out that the garage might be a better place for a heat pump water heater. In a retrofit situation as opposed to an in-house closet. I know that speaking for myself and I’m now almost 60 years old. So I have seen the ebb and flow of water heaters over the years, and I know there’s been a big push to kind of get them outside already. I just saw that if they leak, they’re leaking outside. And just it was kind of a safety measure that went on years ago. So I think that’s probably accurate.

I note that Farhad has also pointed out input in the chat:  Some pros and cons of all-electric design, some links, and I’m hoping that people can see that if you’re interested. And Joe has said that he thought –Joe was one of the questioners — Joe was pleased to see that. So that’s all the written questions. Laura, if you want to, it’s possible for verbal questions or if there are others coming up, turn it back to you.

Lara Teksler  57:56

So we were gonna switch… we were gonna stick with the written questions. So if anybody has anything else they wanted to get answered, we’ll do that with a written question. And in the meantime, I’ll just mention that we do have the email address here for the Environmental Commission, which we welcome any further comments, feedback questions. And again, we have our Reach Code website, which we’re updating with information as we go along. If we do not have any more questions, we can go ahead and wrap up. Oh, just give it give it one more minute. See if anything else comes in.

Okay, so we have one more question from John ….looks like.” There are 120 volt heat pump water heaters — I read last year they were coming to market — but also they take longer than 240 volt heaters.?”

Anthony Eulo  59:20

John you know all the answers yourself. That’s exactly true. They’re coming to market. I believe there are some actually available, but they do take longer than 240 volts

Lara Teksler  59:32

And I  would just add that I think that there’s some effort to produce appliances that have lower demand on existing service, you know, for existing homes that have a limited amount of [electrical] capacity. So, being able to electrify your home [appliances] without having to upgrade your service. So I think there’s some effort to do that.

Anthony Eulo  1:00:05

Exactly. It’s really only something that would be suitable for either a very small home that’s new or as a retrofit an existing home.

1:00:18

Yeah, and this is Farhad with the TRC. I’ll just add here that major manufacturers are looking at 120-volt appliances include GE, AOsmith, and Rayne so there should be some variety of options also coming online. But as Laura and Tony mentioned, it’s preferable to go to 240 volts if you can, but you got to balance it with the necessity to upgrade electrical service.

Lara Teksler  1:09:12

Okay with  that, I think we will go ahead and wrap up. Thank you to everybody for participating. To reiterate, we have other options — send us your input. I want to thank all of the presenters tonight, my fellow members of the Environmental Commission, as well as Tony from SCVEE and Jose from and Farhad from from TRC. Thank you for helping us out and providing some support and with that, I will wish everyone a good evening.

About the author

lalahpolitico

Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.