Sparking Change with Ambassador Diane Bailey
Each month the Spotlight Series highlights a Switch is On partner, program, or ambassador’s hard work for a clean, electrified community.
How do you spark change in your community and beyond? As the executive director of Menlo Spark, SIO Ambassador Diane Bailey has found success by aiming both big and small, with big transformational changes for a small local community whose success inspires others to choose electrification.
Who is Diane Bailey?
From the beginning, Diane has been passionate about advocating for cleaner air and a healthier climate. Armed with a master’s degree in environmental engineering, she spent almost 14 years at the Natural Resources Defense Council promoting improved air quality and public health through reduced fossil fuel use, cleaner vehicles, and pollution prevention. Her most recent victories for electrification stem from her leadership as executive director of Menlo Spark,a nonprofit collaborating with local government, businesses, and residents to help the city of Menlo Park, CA become climate neutral by 2030.
“We’re a connector group,” she explains, “We look for people with good ideas about achieving climate neutrality in a way that benefits everyone: residents, businesses, the local economy, and the city itself. Our job is to bring them to the table with decision-makers, give them access and a platform to share their good ideas, and get those ideas propagated.”
This alliance’s work with the Menlo Park government has resulted in 27% lower emissions since 2013, 100% clean electricity, all-electric standards for new construction, and accessible EV charging for all residents of newly built apartments.
What She’s Accomplished at Menlo Spark
Through collaborating with local cities and county leadership, Diane’s work at Menlo Spark helped initiate the community choice energy program (and Switch Is On partner) Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE). PCE launched in 2016; within just five years, it achieved its goal of providing 100% carbon-free electricity across San Mateo county.
“Carbon-free electricity is a foundational cornerstone to the electrification measures that spur the climate movement,” says Diane Bailey. “As communities shift from polluting fossil fuels to electric appliances, we need clean electricity to power them so we can reap the full benefits of electrification.” All-Electric for All New Buildings With Menlo Spark, Diane worked with stakeholders and the city to develop the first all-electric reach code that required electric heating and water heating in all new construction.
“While working with our local leaders in Menlo Park, we came to understand that while the term “gas ban” itself is divisive, many people actually shared the same goals of wanting cleaner, healthier air for the community,” says Diane. “We were among the first groups to help local leaders to create reach codes that not just incentivize but actually require all new construction to be all-electric. These reach codes will help Menlo Park reach its goal of zero carbon by 2030.”
After seeing Menlo Park’s success, several dozen other cities have modeled their reach codes after it. In fact, it’s become so mainstream that California’s 2025 code update may even see the state go all-electric. Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging for Apartments “Everyone who moves into an apartment should have the same EV charging access as homeowners,” says Diane. “Renters who need to drive deserve the capability to swap out gas cars for EVs. At Menlo Spark, we established that as a baseline principle.”
Putting that principle into action, Menlo Spark helped the city adopt new requirements to ensure that residents of most new multifamily dwellings have access to EV charging. And once again, it paved the way; twelve cities to date have adopted similar charging infrastructure requirements for new construction.
Approximately 10% of vehicles in Menlo Park are now electric. In 2021, EVs comprised a third of new cars registered in the city – nearly three times the rate for California as a whole, which itself leads the nation in EV new purchase rates. These EVs include new electric police pursuit vehicles (currently on order), which will be some of the first to hit California’s roads.
“As we celebrate these numbers, we look forward to the next 7-10 years, which will see exponentially more progress in EV ownership as more people replace their current cars,” says Diane.
What You Can Do
Diane credits Menlo Spark’s electrification successes to the alliance’s collaboration between residents, businesses, organizations, and the city to make transformational changes. If you’re eager to help fight climate change but not sure where to start, check out the climate organizations in your area to see what initiatives and projects they’re working on. Teaming up on a local level can provide a better environment for your town and, like Diane’s work at Menlo Spark, create a wave of positive change for many more.