Columbia is well ahead of 2022 goal for renewable energy

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | 6:11 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia is ahead of its goals when it comes to renewable energy.

In 2004, Columbia voters overwhelmingly passed an act to make Columbia a greener city by requiring 15 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2022. A yearly report is required to make sure all is going according to plan. City Council reviewed last year's progress and this year's expectations Monday.


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According to the staff report, Columbia currently obtained 4.3 percent of its energy from renewable sources as of December 2009. It is estimated that by December 2010, that number will reach 5 percent, which was the goal set for 2012.

In a letter addressed to the council, the Boone County Environment and Energy Commission commended the Columbia Water and Light for its work with this project. The commission stated in the letter that members hope the 15 percent goal will be seen as a minimum and not a cap.

 “I would like to see the city continue to move as rapidly as possible toward that 15 percent goal,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said Monday night.

According to the staff report, the current breakdown of renewable energy sources is as follows:

  • Bluegrass Ridge Wind: 1.5 percent
  • Jefferson City Biogas: 1.3 percent
  • Columbia Biogas: 1 percent
  • Columbia Waste Wood: 0.5 percent

Solar energy was not included in the totals due to the small amount produced. The ordinance stated that the cost of energy from renewable sources must not raise electric rates more than 3 percent and many solar projects do not fall within that guideline.

But, because Columbia wanted to start developing this resource, it entered into a contract — called Solar One — with private businesses in 2008. Under Solar One, the businesses buy solar panels and sell the energy generated by the panels to the city. The goal of Solar One is to have solar energy account for 1 percent of Columbia’s electric portfolio. The costs of each other source are laid out in the 2010 Columbia Water and Light Renewable Energy Report.

“There is strong support for renewable energy from the people of Columbia,” said Win Colwill, co-chair of the Boone County Energy Matters Committee, on Monday night. “We see this through Solar One that people are even willing to pay extra for solar energy.”

“The 2004 Renewable energy act was very well-crafted,” Mayor Bob McDavid said. “I think the Water and Light Department is doing everything in their power to move this project forward. If we could be at 6 percent right now, we would do so.”

The council also authorized changes to the demand side management program, which is designed to encourage consumers to modify their electricity usage. The city will now offer larger rebates for commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning units based on size and efficiency, as well as savings based on commercial lighting improvements. 


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