COLUMBIA — Columbia residents and businesses might expect to be enticed into energy conservation if the Power Supply Task Force recommends the findings of a report presented at a public meeting on Wednesday night.
Forty people turned out to review and question the interim report presented by the task force and Kiah Harris of consulting firm Burns & McDonnell. The report outlined the city’s energy consumption and supply options through 2027.
The report is a draft of the “integrated resource plan” for the city’s electric utility. It weighs the costs and benefits of different approaches to meeting the city’s power needs and emphasizes strategies for reducing the demand for energy.
City Council member Chris Janku said he thought the meeting suggested the city should focus on energy conservation and efficiency to lower demand. The decreased demand could buy the city more time to evaluate future energy sources, he said.
This would allow for more research on local generation options and transmission lines to bring power to the city.
Many at the meeting said they preferred the options that incorporated renewable resources, such as purchasing regional wind power, a biomass plant or solar panels on commercial rooftops.
Susan Flader said she went to the meeting to see if the plan incorporated “some consciousness for the need for renewable energy and conservation.”
Space cooling, lighting and refrigeration make up almost 50 percent of the average American home’s electricity use, Harris said in his presentation. For this reason, the plan focuses on heat and air conditioning use and appliance change-out programs to reduce energy consumption, much as the city’s compact fluorescent light bulb program strives to do.
The report suggests that the city could offer rebates to people who convert to high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps, solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems, which use energy directly from local solar panels placed on roofs.
“My heart is in the renewable energy, but when you look at the costs, coal seems the most likely option,” said John O’Connor, a water specialist who attended the meeting.
By 2015, two boilers at the city’s Municipal Power Plant are expected to be retired. Those boilers now produce 11.5 percent of the energy generated by Columbia Water and Light.
Already, almost 5 percent of the city’s required energy is produced through renewable resources such as wind turbines at Blue Grass Ridge Wind Farm in Gentry County and burning landfill gases from Jefferson City and Columbia. One scenario presented in the report involves the purchase of more wind power to replace any new energy needs that normally would be met by coal-fired plants. Another scenario includes rooftop solar panels and a biomass burning turbine as part of one existing power plant.
One comment during the meeting by Monta Welch of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition addressed the issue of decentralizing power generation in the interest of national security. Another meeting attendee, Bruce Watts, echoed a similar concern after the meeting.
“I would like to see on-site generation and conservation,” he said. “It would really help in an emergency situation.”
Nuclear power was not considered during this study at the direction of the Power Supply Task Force because of the uncertain plans for a nuclear power plant in the area.
For more information or to download the interim Integrated Resource Plan, please visit http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/WaterandLight/Electric/ElectricSupplyInformation.php.