REDI endorses city's purchase of Columbia Energy Center

Thursday, March 10, 2011 | 5:22 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Regional Economic Development Inc. board of directors has endorsed the city's proposed purchase of a facility that uses natural gas to generate electricity.

The REDI board on Wednesday voted to endorse Proposition 2,  a $49.5 million bond issue that will be used to buy the outstanding 75 percent shares of Columbia Energy Center on Peabody Road.

Voters will decide the issue on April 5 during city elections.

City ownership of the energy center would provide another in-house source of electricity.

"If there's any interruptions in our transmission line, the only thing we have to do is to flip the switch, and the energy is there," Dave Griggs, chairman of the REDI board, said.

The advantages of buying the energy center include providing extra electrical generation capacity as well as "a backup for renewable resources," Columbia Water and Light director Tad Johnsen said at the meeting.

In 2010 Columbia had 5 percent of its electric supply produced by renewable resources, such as wind and solar. The supply of electricity from renewable sources is not steady, however, and the energy center would serve as a backup.

Jim Loveless, member of committee appointed by Mayor Bob McDavid to promote the bond issue, said the energy that is produced to meet periods of high demand, especially in July and August, would be costly if purchased from outside sources.

Loveless said he is in favor of buying the energy center because it will save $1 million annually in operating costs.

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