Mar 20 2022

OPINION: POOL Size Reductions and Electrification

“..the pool is the single biggest municipal GHG emitter in town.”

Letter to the City Council:

City staff is recommending that significant modifications be made to the schematic design to reduce the cost of the new pool. 

The staff report and lifecycle analysis in the energy report show that the all-electric option is the best financial and environmental option for the pool so I encourage you to direct staff to redesign the pool based on the all-electric option.

The lifecycle analysis shows that an all-electric pool saves the city $1,000,000 over 25 years, probably an underestimate given state and federal restrictions that will drive up the price of natural gas over that time.  Most importantly, the all-electric design will reduce GHG emissions compared to that from the existing pool, let alone the new pool.  Such reduction is needed for the City to achieve its 2030 and 2050 reduction targets.  More importantly, proceeding with the all-electric design will show the residents that City Council takes climate change seriously.  Having restricted the installation of natural gas in new construction in Piedmont, the all-electric option will show the City’s commitment to reducing its own GHG emissions and serve to motivate residents to take additional actions at reducing GHG emissions as well.

Electrifying the pool today is the single-most effective action the city can take to achieve the municipal GHG reduction targets set forth in CAP 2.0. The staff report implies that the current pool is less that 20% of municipal GHG emissions but that is biased by inclusion of employee commute as part of municipal emissions (figure 1), a GHG source City Council has little control over.  Excluding employee commute from municipal emissions, facilities comprise 44% of city GHG emissions.  And as figure 2 shows, city takeover of the pool in 2015 doubled municipal emissions – the pool is the single biggest municipal GHG emitter in town.  A natural gas option for the new pool would more than double municipal facilities emissions.  Achieving reductions in all municipal sectors is needed for the city to reach its GHG 2030 and 2050 targets and building an all-electric pool now will result in the single largest step this Council can authorize towards achieving those goals.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The table on page 3 of the staff report shows that a cost savings of $1,000,000 is achieved with the all-electric option compared to the hybrid (natural gas) option.  The 2/17 presentation to the Pool Advisory Committee by ELS showed that this savings is attributable to utility costs – $77,600/year for natural gas, $57,100/year for electricity.  The figure on page 7 of Attachment A shows higher annual costs and the all-electric option still saves costs compared to the hybrid option, with or without photovoltaics but more so with photovoltaics.  Total 25-year costs assume escalations for both rates but it is a safe assumption that natural gas will incur added costs due to costlier production and stricter regulation than electricity will. These factors are hard to account for now, but I think would favor an even greater 25-year lifecycle cost savings from electricity compared to natural gas.  Some have raised the possibility of installing natural gas now and converting to electricity in the future. At the 2/17 PAC meeting, Clarence Mumuyac of ELS said “It’s really expensive” and the energy consultant advised against it.

The other important figure of the report is on page 8 of Attachment A – Facility Annual Emissions.  The difference between the two options is the most important reason for the all-electric option – no new GHG will be emitted from the all-electric pool.  Decarbonization is the path to reversing climate change yet since 2016, natural gas usage in Piedmont has increased 14%.  This is not from the municipal sector (those emissions have been declining) but what message will it send to our residents if this new facility so vital to our community contributes to global warming?

Getting the right design for the energy infrastructure of the pool facility now has important ramifications for the long-term operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions of the pool. In both cases, the all-electric option is the best option.   Additional cost analysis will be provided you by April 4, but would seem unlikely to change this conclusion.  It would assist the redesign efforts of ELS were you to give direction tonight that the pool facility redesign be based on the all-electric option and I encourage you do so.

The pool facility has reached the point where a difficult choice has to be made. Conservatively, $4,000,000 in costs savings have to be found if the City is to stay within the spending limits of ballot measure UU.  ELS is looking at reductions to the recreational pool but if those and an all-electric pool can’t be accommodated within the $25,000,000 UU limits then Council should look at reducing the size of the aquatic pool – it is the largest user of energy within the facility and largest area of square footage.  It is not fair to the larger number of residents who obtain seasonal passes to have their pool use restricted nor future generations of Piedmonters to have their climate impacted by GHG emissions from the aquatic pool.

Bond Measure UU generated a great deal of enthusiasm for the new pool and I think Council can rely on this community support to accept reductions to all the pools in the current design.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

The matter will be considered at the March 21, 2022 City Council meeting.

Agenda and participation information > PCA council-current-agenda 3212022

Staff report >

Staff report >

One Response to “OPINION: POOL Size Reductions and Electrification”

  1. Excellent analysis. It would be absurd for a city that is clamping down on home gas appliances to build gas into an energy hog like the pool. Go electric and include solar generating capacity to reduce the need to buy from PG&E.

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