Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Building Decarbonization

Updated: 11/2/22

How does building decarbonization help us reach our climate goals?

With AMP’s 100% clean energy, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of living by transitioning to all-electric buildings. The use of gas appliances in buildings for water heating, cooking, space heating and clothes drying accounts for 27% of emissions in the City. By switching to energy efficient, all electric buildings, we can eliminate 27% of citywide emissions. 

What does 100% clean energy mean and where is the electricity coming from?

AMP sources its electricity from a mix of clean energy sources such as geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and landfill gas. These sources of energy are renewable and has little to no carbon emissions.

Learn more about AMP’s energy mix from the Power Content Label

I thought that natural gas is clean and safe, why is the City switching to electric?

Natural gas is cleaner and safer compared to burning coal and petroleum, which produces more air pollutants and emissions than natural gas. However, AMP now provides 100% clean energy from a variety of sources including wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric that are renewable and have little to no carbon emissions. Natural gas on the other hand, still emits pollutants such as methane, which is 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is harmful to our health. 

What is the difference between building decarbonization and building electrification?

Oftentimes, these two terms are used interchangeably and do often mean the same thing. Building decarbonization focuses on the carbon free aspect of an all-electric building running on clean electric energy, while building electrification focuses on the transition away from gas appliances in the buildings to all-electric buildings.

What are the benefits of building decarbonization in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Health: Gas appliances emit indoor pollutants and increase risk of respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and other long-term illness. Children living in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to develop asthma. Sealing building envelops helps maintain the building at desired temperatures with less energy use, increasing comfort.

Safety & Resilience: Removing gas infrastructure reduces the risk of fires in the event of an earthquake. Electrical service is also expected to return faster than gas service post disaster. Induction cooktops reduce burn risk, and many automatically turn off when not in use, eliminating a leading cause of house fires.

I just bought a new gas stove/ water heater/ furnace/ clothes dryer, does this Plan require me to replaced it by a certain date?

No, the Equitable Building Decarbonization Plan includes recommendations for policies and programs that will help transition to electric appliances, but does not propose removing existing appliances that have not reached the end of their useful life or are not part of another permitted renovation project. Each of the proposed policies and programs in the Plan will require research, evaluation and include opportunities for public comment and participation throughout their development, as well as City Council and/or Public Utility Board approval for implementation.

What are the electric appliances that can replace my existing natural gas-powered appliances?

  • Induction cooktop/stove can replace a gas cooktop/stove
  • Heat pump water heater replaces traditional gas water heater tanks.
  • Heat pump heating and cooling replaces gas furnace and provides air conditioning.
  • Electric clothes dryers or combination washer and dryers can replace gas clothes dryers.

Learn more about these electric alternatives on Sustainable Home: Building Electrification

What is a heat pump?

Heat pump technology provides an efficient alternative to electric coil heating or gas heating. It uses electricity to move heat between the air, water and ground rather than generating heat. One heat pump appliance that you are already familiar with is your refrigerator. It moves heat outside your refrigerator so that the inside is cold for your food. Likewise, in space heating and cooling and water heating, heat pumps transfer heat from one place to another.

Would being all electric make my home less resilient public safety power shut off (PSPS) events or rolling blackouts

Most unplanned outages are due to birds, squirrels and mylar balloons and occasionally, equipment failures. All are re-energized relatively quickly, day or night. AMP has not experienced any Public Safety Power Shutoff events and does not expect to due to its two redundant power feeds. AMP had one 60-minute rotating outage in August of 2020 and one in September of this year. However, for the state as a whole, power supplies can become constrained during hot Summer days when demand is high. During these times, per California law, all utilities must participate in rotation outages, lasting up to one hour each, to avoid a widespread power grid failure. The State is working to reduce the occurrence and extent of these outages with smart grid technologies and development of new renewable power supply.

Does the City have, or plan to have, a list of available electricians/ contractors who can help me with energy efficiency and converting to all electric?

No, there are other organizations that are developing and maintaining contractors lists. You can find them at https://www.bayren.org/find-contractor and https://switchison.cleanenergyconnection.org/

 

Are induction stoves and electric heat pump appliances such as dryers, water heaters and furnaces readily available in the Bay Area? Who carries them in the local area?

Yes, many of these appliances are already on the market and available at Home Depot or Lowes. More will be coming in the near future.

Will electrification save money on my energy bills?

An initial analysis done for City of Alameda projects that switching from older gas space- and water- heating appliances on PG&E gas rates to efficient heat pump space and water heaters on AMP's electric rates will create an estimated savings of up to $800 per year per unit. Much of the upfront costs of these installations can be covered with already available rebates and incentives from AMP, BayREN and other state and local programs. The addition of solar panels would provide additional energy bill savings and depending on the income of tenants, state grants like SGIP or SOMAH may be available to reduce the cost of solar installation.

Why does the Equitable Building Decarbonization Plan not include strategies to increase rooftop solar in Alameda?

Alameda Municipal Power already provides 100% clean energy to all residents, so solar does not help achieve emissions reductions in Alameda. Additionally, solar panels provide electricity to the grid when the sun is shining, however as a bedroom community, Alameda’s peak demand is in the evening. When combined with battery storage, solar panels can help reduce demand on the grid and provide power when residents need it most while improving resilience during blackouts.

My house is really old. Will I need a panel upgrade to go all-electric?

In most cases a standard 100 Amp electric panel has sufficient capacity to power an all-electric home with an EV charger. To reduce demand on the panel, implement a “watt-diet” for your home: choose energy efficient and heat pump appliances, insulate and air-seal your home, use circuit sharing plugs and shared circuit breakers, and analyze your peak demand to see if you are close to the capacity of your panel. Learn more from Redwood Energy’s Zero Emissions All-Electric Retrofit Guide.

Does AMP have the capacity to meet future demands considering electrification and future population growth?

Yes, AMP has a dedicated planning team that monitors trends in usage and performs annual load forecasts. AMP has secured clean power contracts to meet all of Alameda’s needs into the future. At this time AMP does not concerns about meeting future demands associated with electrification.

Are other cities pursuing building decarbonization goals?

Yes, building decarbonization is a central strategy of many cities' climate action plans. More than 90 jurisdictions across the country (64 in California) have adopted zero emission building ordinances similar to Alameda's all-electric new construction reach code. Some cities also require certain electrification and/or energy efficiency measures when undertaking remodels or when equipment needs to be replaced. Go here to view of current list of cities with ordinances.