Bend City Council: Electrify Bend with a Just Transition
Bend City Council
Bend residents of any age can sign this petition.
We the undersigned ask:
Dear Mayor Kebler and Bend City Council members,
Our community is already experiencing the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. From prolonged drought to extreme heat, wildfire and hazardous air quality, all Bend residents are feeling first hand the effects of a warming world.
Many young people today will still be alive at the end of this century. The steps we take today and in the next decade will have a huge impact on how much the planet warms, how much sea level rises, and whether the planet is hospitable to human life or any other life in 2050 and beyond. The global scientific community is raising the alarm bell and urging us to do more immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give us all a chance at a livable future.
We need to take faster action in our local community. The stakes are too high to miss any opportunities for bold decisive action to transition away from polluting fossil fuels.
In light of this, the undersigned organizations are writing to urge the City of Bend to take rapid steps to reduce the usage of polluting fossil fuels and promote electrification and the transition to clean energy in order to reach the City’s Community Climate Action Plan goals, and the goals of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 recommended by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Specifically, we are asking the City to take initial action within the next 60 days on these items:
Commit to electrify all city-owned buildings in Bend by 2030 and begin this work immediately
Set a goal for 50% of all homes and buildings in Bend to be electrified by 2030, and create policies and programs to achieve this outcome
Create policies to require all newly constructed homes and buildings in Bend to be all-electric to the full extent allowable under the law, starting no later than 2025
Strengthen the City’s existing right of way law to increase revenue and create a climate justice fund to support inclusive, community-wide electrification
All-electric buildings provide robust benefits for communities and the climate
Homes and buildings are the single largest source of climate pollution in the city, and passing policies to electrify the city’s building stock is essential to Bend reaching its climate commitments to reduce fossil fuel use by 40% by 2030. When newly-constructed buildings are dependent on inefficient and polluting fossil fuels, the amount of air pollution and greenhouse gasses released over the building’s lifespan is staggering. Thankfully, with new cash rebates and tax credits for high efficiency heat pumps and other electric appliances coming online as part of the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and with the passage of the Resilient Buildings Policy package at the state legislature, it is more cost effective than ever to build smart from the start. And, because of the passage of HB 2021 which requires electric utilities to provide 100% renewable energy by 2040, going all electric will mean that Bend’s buildings are ready to take full advantage of the renewable energy transition.
Transitioning existing buildings to be highly-efficient and all-electric can also help Bend residents reduce their energy bills and burdens. As governments around the world transition off of fossil fuels, the cost of methane gas is increasing rapidly, and ratepayers are suffering the consequences. Long-term planning for electrification can provide a pathway for Bend to support this transition while ensuring access to healthy and affordable homes and buildings. The City can start this transition by planning for electrification retrofits for City-owned and -funded buildings in order to provide a model to the rest of the City, and to ensure that public buildings are healthy and comfortable places on the community’s best days, and resilient and safe refuges on the community’s toughest days.
Methane Fossil gas in buildings harms public health and the climate
The use of methane gas in homes and buildings is one of the top growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and the single largest source of emissions in the City of Bend. Gas use is also putting residents at increased risk to their health and safety due to the high levels of air pollution that it generates.
Transitioning our buildings to highly-efficient electric appliances comes with many co-benefits. One of the most significant of these is the dramatic reduction in air pollution generated by gas appliances. A recent study found that children that grow up in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to develop asthma symptoms due to associated indoor air pollution. Beyond the direct health benefits of electrification, high efficiency electric heat pumps provide lifesaving cooling as our City increasingly experiences deadly climate-driven heatwaves.
Bend can lead the way – with widespread support from other cities and communities statewide
Bend has the opportunity to join with over one hundred cities across the country that have begun the process to transition from gas to a more renewable and equitable future, and to help lead our state toward a necessary clean energy transition. Here in Oregon, the Cities of Eugene, Milwaukie, and Ashland and Multnomah County are in various stages of the process to develop and pass policy to tackle the climate crisis and electrify homes and buildings.
We urge Bend City Council to join the growing list of local governments taking concrete climate action and advance policy solutions that support the electrification in homes and buildings in the City as quickly and as equitably as possible such as creating an emissions standard for new homes and buildings (see the policy being explored by the City of Ashland) and blocking new gas pipelines in City right of ways. Additionally, with the City’s current franchise agreement with Cascade Natural Gas expiring next year, the Council must take advantage of the opportunity to allow the contract to lapse, and strengthen the City’s existing right of way policy to include a 10% fee on revenue generated by the utility in Bend, with the additional revenue being used to create a climate justice fund to support electrification.
In line with the urgency of the climate crisis, we request that the Council take action to move these recommendations forward within 60 days of the receipt of this letter. Let’s ensure that the buildings in the community reflect our collective dedication to climate action and desire to invest in our clean energy future. Thank you for your leadership and your consideration.
Why is fossil gas, AKA natural gas, so unhealthy for the climate?
The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing CO2 levels, trapping heat, and contributing to global climate change.
CO2 is released during combustion, the process used to generate electricity.
Methane is leaked in large quantities during extraction (fracking) and transport of natural gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is about 87 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period.
Studies show that global methane emissions have spiked dramatically since 2002. This is mostly due to the boom in natural gas extraction (fracking) in the U.S. Leaked methane cancels out any reduction in CO2 emissions brought about by replacing coal with natural gas. (GreenAmerica.org)
Why is fossil gas, AKA natural gas, so unhealthy for people?
Gas Stoves, even when turned off, emit dangerous pollutants. (Stanford study) These toxic pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds that are released from burning natural gas trigger asthma and may worsen respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Asthmatic children exposed to NO2 indoors, at levels well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outdoor standard (53 ppb), are at risk for increased asthma disease. Risks are not confined to inner city children but occur at NO2 concentrations common in urban and suburban homes.” (National Library of Medicine and Oregon Health Authority)
Why is fossil gas (AKA natural gas) and other fossil fuels dangerous to transport?
The transport of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas, or Methane) and crude oil has a history of deadly explosions that destroy property and result in deaths. In recognition of this serious risk, the Bend City Council, along with many other government jurisdictions, symbolically passed a “no oil by rail resolution in 2021” These risks are multiplying as wildfires increase in communities with fossil gas infrastructure. https://350deschutes.org/oiltrains/
Is the power grid ready for full electrification?
Full electrification will take many years to achieve and according to Oregon.gov and the Oregon Environmental Council, a public utility company serves its customers’ needs and is planning for increased electrification through grid modernization, electricity storage, microgrids, solar/wind power, distribution system planning etc.
Doesn’t quite a bit of Oregon’s power come from fossil fuels?
As of 2019, 45% of Oregon’s power came from a mix of fossil gas & coal. The rest is from hydropower and a fraction from wind and solar. By 2030, Oregon will phase out all electricity created by coal. By 2040, 100% of Oregon’s electricity must come from clean energy (House Bill 2021). According to Rewire America, the creation of electric appliances/cars need to go in parallel with the grid becoming cleaner if we are to reach our climate goals.
What happens when the power goes out in the winter and my electric heat pump can’t produce heat? Wouldn’t a fossil gas stove/fireplace be an adequate back-up?
It is important to understand that fossil gas furnaces will not work when the power goes out either. Electric heat pumps are best as a primary heat source, but for those very rare wintery days in Bend when power is lost, having an emergency propane heater available would provide the necessary heating to keep warm. If you have a fossil gas stove/fireplace for these very rare occurrences, then you will have to pay a monthly connection fee to the fossil gas company. For more information on propane heaters available today, go to Best Indoor Propane Heaters for Power Outages and Emergency Preparedness (primalsurvivor.net)
Buildings contribute at least a third of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions. (EPA)
How will electrifying buildings reduce Oregon greenhouse gas emissions?
Electrifying buildings reduces CO2 emissions, improves indoor and outdoor air quality, can power structures with renewable energy sources, and supports a national decarbonization strategy. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, https:nationalcore.org)
Builders and Homeowners Benefit
Is building electrification more expensive or cheaper for builders?
In most cities, A Rocky Mountain Institute comprehensive study found that the mixed-fuel home (with gas furnace, water heater, air conditioning, and new gas connection costs) had a higher up-front cost than the all-electric home, which uses a heat pump system for both heating and cooling. This is true in Austin, Boston, Columbus, Denver, New York, and Seattle. The Minneapolis climate requires a higher capacity heat pump than other cities in the study. This comes at a higher cost, outweighing the equipment and labor cost savings seen with heat pump systems in milder climates. https://rmi.org/all-electric-new-homes-a-win-for-the-climate-and-the-economy/
How does home electrification affect homeowners of new and existing homes (that are retrofitted)?
In many scenarios, notably for most new home construction, Rocky Mountain Institute found that electrification of space and water heating and air conditioning reduces the homeowner’s costs over the lifetime of the appliances when compared with performing the same functions with fossil fuels. Costs are also reduced for customers in several retrofit scenarios: for customers switching away from propane or heating oil, for gas customers who would otherwise need to replace both a furnace and air conditioner simultaneously, and for customers who bundle rooftop solar with electrification. New homes and homes currently lacking natural gas service also avoid the cost of gas mains, services, and meters not needed in all-electric neighborhoods. (Rocky Mountain Institute)
Why is fossil gas a bad economic choice for space and water heating?
Fossil gas, unlike electricity, has price volatility due to geopolitical factors. Fossil fuel supplies are likely to remain price volatile for the foreseeable future. This price volatility causes massive swings in price, often moving into unaffordable range for many. Electricity pricing does not have this volatility. (https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/energy-environment/2022/03/21/421470/experts-say-oil-prices-and-consequently-gasoline-prices-could-be-volatile-through-2022/)
Industry, large and small businesses all profit from electrification
What are the cost benefits of electrifying commercial buildings?
According to Tim Kohout, Director of Sustainable Design at National Community Renaissance (National Core) in California, “At National CORE, we are agnostic to fuel choice: all our building decisions are guided by economics. We carefully consider our technology choices to ensure affordable building costs, low long-term maintenance costs, and the lowest-possible utility bills for the households we serve. Based on economic considerations, all of our developments currently under construction – as well as those we plan to begin building this year – will be built all-electric.” (2021) Tim went on to say:
“There are energy-saving benefits with new, efficient technologies, like heat pumps. This lowers building costs and utility bills.”
“Heat pump units also act as air conditioners, saving additional money to the builder.”
“Builders save money by not having to install pipelines to connect gas lines to the home or business.”
“At National CORE, our operational savings for typical developments range between $20,000 and $40,000 per year. These savings, over a 30-year time period, can add up to millions of dollars – funds that can be invested in enhanced resident services such as after-school programs for children or health and wellness activities for seniors.”
How do small businesses lower costs with electrification?
Small businesses that invest strategically can cut utility costs 10 to 30 percent without sacrificing service, quality, style, or comfort, all while making significant contributions to a cleaner environment. By becoming more energy efficient, small businesses help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve their own financial bottom line. Small businesses can typically save as much money and prevent as much pollution, per square foot, as large corporations. https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/buildings/tools/SPP%20Sales%20Flyer%20for%20Small%20Business.pdf (Energystar.gov)
What incentives are available to businesses?
Energy Trust of Oregon also provides incentives to businesses. Energy and water audits and assistance with strategic energy management can start you on your journey towards more efficiently using energy and water and helping contribute to your bottom line. CPACE, Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, is a program that will be operational in Deschutes County by August 1, 2022. This will enable financing that helps clean energy, efficiency, storage, and water conservation to create cash flow for commercial building owners. Hospitality, nonprofit, multifamily housing, industry, healthcare and retail are eligible to qualify for the CPACE program.
How does industry benefit from electrification?
Electrification of the fuel that industrial companies use for energy has several benefits. Generally, electrically driven equipment is only slightly more energy efficient than the conventional option, but it has lower maintenance costs, and, in the case of the industrial boiler, the investment cost of the electrical equipment is lower. And, if zero-carbon electricity is consumed, the greenhouse-gas emissions of the industrial site lower significantly. It is technologically feasible to electrify up to 50% of the energy used by industry. (Mckinsey Company) https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/electric-power-and-natural-gas/our-insights/plugging-in-what-electrification-can-do-for-industry)
Are other local governments requiring electrification and banning gas hookups?
California just notched its 50th jurisdiction to ban fossil gas. The states of Washington and New York are also considering similar bans. Requiring electrification is a powerful goal that would provide emission reductions today, and in the future. Bend can both lead and protect our community with this proposed electrification. https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/gas-ban-monitor-calif-count-reaches-50-as-west-coast-movement-grows-67732585
How electrification benefits underserved communities
How do underserved communities benefit from electrification?
Energy burden can be reduced in underserved communities, particularly through efficiency, solar and/or community solar. Additionally, improved air quality, both indoors and outdoors, improves health. Research suggests that a combination of high-performing all-electric appliances and equipment, a high-performance building envelope, enhanced ventilation, and better building energy management can deliver the most health benefits to our underserved and overburdened communities. These building-level interventions must also be paired with protections from eviction, displacement, gentrification, and other forms of housing injustice. (Rocky Mountain Institute) https://rmi.org/investing-in-healthier-low-incomehousing/#:~:text=As%20a%20guiding%20principle%2C%20beneficial,manage%20electricity%20demand%20more%20easily.)
What is a “Just Transition”?
A just transition enables programs that increase access to clean energy and efficiencies to all people, not only the wealthy. This is particularly important for low-income people of color who often lack access or resources to deploy clean energy programs. Additionally, about 40% of low-income individuals do not own their homes and are dependent on a landlord to provide clean energy and efficiency. Just Transition programs can be set up and paid for through fee revenues, grants, incentives, community labor, bulk purchasing, and partnerships. They are essential in underserved communities who often bear the greatest burden from pollution, volatile energy prices, and climate change.
Does this mean that I will have to replace my wood burning or pellet burning stove?
No. Although any burning causes emissions that are not good for our environment, the focus of this petition is to remove dirty fossil fuels, i.e. natural gas from being used in new and eventually existing structures.
Questions about equipment and incentives
Will I save money through electrifying my space and water heating?
Electric heat pumps use 3 to 4 times less energy than gas furnaces and act as both a heater and an air conditioner. Energy Trust of Oregon states that homeowners can save up to 50% by installing a heat pump. Also, the price of natural gas is often volatile due to geopolitical issues, while electricity does not have that same up and down price fluctuation. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, https:nationalcore.org) https://energytrust.org/residential/incentives/furnace-and-heat-pump
What is an option for not using a gas stove?
Induction cooking uses magnetic fields to directly heat cookware instead of heating the stovetop. Furthermore, Induction cooking heats much more quickly than natural gas stoves. Chefs familiar with induction often prefer them to gas. For under $100, households can purchase a single “hob” burner to test how it works. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
What is a heat pump?
Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners for all climates. Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house. During the cooling season, heat pumps move heat from your house into the outdoors. Because they transfer heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can efficiently provide comfortable temperatures for your home.
The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. Today's heat pump can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 50% compared to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters. High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months. Air-source heat pumps have been used for many years in nearly all parts of the United States, but until recently they have not been used in areas that experienced extended periods of subfreezing temperatures. However, in recent years, air-source heat pump technology has advanced so that it now offers a legitimate space heating alternative in colder regions. (energy.gov)
What cash incentives are available for heat pumps in Bend?
Customers of Central Electric Cooperative (CEC), Midstate Electric Cooperative, and Pacific Power can all take advantage of heat pump cash incentives, which are subject to change. CEC offers cash incentives between $250 and $1,850 depending on the efficiency of the heat pump, the type of heating system that the heat pump replaces, and the condition of the ducts. If you’re a Midstate customer, you can expect a heat pump cash incentive between $500 and $1,400, and Pacific Power customers get between $250 and $700 via the Energy Trust. (GreenSavers)
Bend City Council
From: [Your Name]
Dear Councilors, City Staff and ECC Committee:
Please find the undersigned signatures from two separate petitions on Electrifying Bend with a Just Transition from both individuals and business.
Thank you for your consideration
Clean Power Bend Youth and Committee