Feb 27 2021

OPINION: Without Resident Approval Reach Codes Limit Energy Sources

Dear Members of the Piedmont City Council,,

I was just alerted by my neighbor, Sylvia Fones, that Piedmont has evidently adopted something called Reach Codes.  I just now discovered that these are local building energy requirements that go beyond those of the state.    How has this happened?   I am reasonably well informed but have never even heard of this.  Moreover, there was apparently some survey done of the residents concerning adoption of these codes and no one I know had even heard of it, so were definitely not included in the survey.   Sounds to me like a deliberate concealing of this effort from the public.
This is appalling to me.  This affects every resident.  How can a relatively tiny number of residents  (384 out of 11000) be allowed to provide a distorted consensus of opinion for an entire city?
There are two issues that are very alarming.
1) Given the small pool of participants in the survey, there apparently was an effort underway to get this concept adopted without proper input from the residents.  Where  is the democratic process?  How is a tiny cadre of “activists” able to railroad this through without even the knowledge of the whole town, much less its consent?
2) The end result from a cursory examination of the Reach Codes issue seems to be a limiting of our energy sources, under the guise of some goal that is definitely controversial.  Of all things that require investigation and accumulated knowledge before coming to a decision, this is certainly a prime example.
Energy is a huge and complicated issue.  Why would we ever want to limit our energy resources?  After witnessing the calamity that just befell Texas and its inhabitants, how can we possibly start down a path like this?
Joan Maxwell
Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

5 Responses to “OPINION: Without Resident Approval Reach Codes Limit Energy Sources”

  1. Gas powered home during a blackout retains: heating, cooking, and hot water. No lights? Candles.

  2. How has this happened? Short answer, global warming. Long answer, the state has given local governments the authority to go beyond state building code in their efforts to reduce local GHG emissions to meet the 2050 reduction target. The state, county and city of Piedmont have all committed to reach these targets, hence the “Reach” codes. These codes are very modest enhancements to Title 24 which applies only to new construction. The Reach codes are particularly necessary for Piedmont because there is virtually no new construction in town to which Title 24 applies – think of the 1 wall tear down projects in town that are considered “remodels”. The state CEC confirms the effectiveness and economic feasibility of the Reach codes.

    The problems in Texas were not caused by limitation of energy sources. I think the NG grid may have failed more than the renewable grid.

    Finally, point 1) is factually wrong and insulting to the efforts of city staff. The city conducted extensive meetings, workshops and online surveys to asses public opinion on the Reach codes.

  3. Ms. Maxwell, Your neighbor has misinformed you. The process for writing and approving the Reach Codes was lengthy (from September 2019 to February 2021)and open to the public at every step. There were a series of public workshops in March 2020, at which residents, building energy contractors, and legal experts weighed in, and the final Reach Codes incorporated all this feedback. The workshops and the development of the Reach Codes were publicized in the local media and discussed at numerous City Council meetings. The survey that was done followed the statistically sound practice of intervewing a random, representative sample of Piedmont residents. Such surveys simply do not interview everyone in the population.

    You are in a minority if you believe that the reality of climate change is “controversial.” There is wide consensus among climate scientists and other experts that global levels of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the release of methane and other greenhouse gasses is reaching catastrophic levels. We have to act now to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels or face heat waves, wildfires, sea level rise, and increasingly erratic weather patterns (such as the recent freezing weather in Texas)that will make the lives of our children and grandchildren increasingly difficult, if not lead to civilizational collapse. The stakes are very high, and doing nothing is not an option.

    The Reach Codes are a small and carefully thought-out regulatory step towards Piedmont homes decreasing their carbon emissions. All of the measures in these codes were evaluated based on strict cost effectiveness criteria established by the California Energy Commission.

    Changing our energy sources may seem like a difficult undertaking, and it will take effort on all of our parts. But transitioning to clean, renewable electricity is possible, and it is, in fact, California’s goal to do so by 2045. Speaking to my neighbor Rick Schiller’s comment, the goal is to also strengthen our electricity grid, so that power outages of the type we’ve been experiencing with the unprecedented wildfires will be much less likely. To insist on staying with gas while our forests burn as a result of climate disruption caused by burning that very gas is short sighted, to say the least.

    With respect, I encourage you to learn about the reality of climate change and the different climate solutions that are being pursued.

  4. While I stand by my initial comment about what essential services would still be available for the traditional gas powered home during a blackout (until the electric grid is significantly strengthened); there has been extensive local outreach and media coverage. There was so much interest after the first reading that the City paused the process and added a survey, a Town Hall with Q&A and modified the Reach Code ordinance. I agree that GHG and global warming is a serious threat; I disagree that the hyper local Reach Codes are, on balance, the best solution.

  5. I agree with Mr. Schiller. Climate Change is real and serious, and the solar and insulation requirements are defensible. However, the required electrification is not. Burning the NG at the point where the heat is needed like your water heater or your stove is inherently more energy efficient than doing it 40 miles away and losing energy all along the way. That’s what mandatory electrification produces. Fortunately, since Piedmont is built out, it will affect relatively few projects.

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