Proposition 2 passes, finances purchase of Columbia Energy Center

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 | 10:45 p.m. CDT; updated 12:55 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What happened? Proposition 2, a $49.5 million bond issue to finance the purchase of the Columbia Energy Center, was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday night.


  • Yes: 8,973 votes, 86.01%
  • No: 1,459 votes, 13.99%


Mary Wilkerson, co-chair for the the committee that promoted the bond issue said, "I'm really glad that the citizens of Columbia know the importance of this. It's a long-term solution. It increases our ability to generate energy, especially during the peak time."

Mayor Bob McDavid credited the committee for its work promoting the measure. "They advocated it in an understandable way. It's a complicated issue and it takes a lot of skills to explain this," he said.

How would the city benefit?

Purchasing the energy center would save the city $1 million per year. It would also be used in case of an emergency and would provide energy during the summer, which is the time of the year when it would be used most.

What's next?

The contract between the city and Ameren ends on May 31. During the transaction time, the city needs to continue filing paperwork to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to get the approval for the purchase. 

"Ameren needs to tell us when to start, when to stop and at what level to run the energy center," said Tad Johnsen, Water and Light director. 

Johnsen said the bonds will be issued in mid-May. The city's finance department will determine details for the bond issue. 

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Derrick Fogle April 5, 2011 | 11:40 p.m.

Isn't this the biggest margin ever for a prop? BTW, not to nitpick or anything, but we aren't technically "generating energy." We're actually consuming energy. The CEC just converts the energy we consume from one form (natural gas) to another form (electricity).

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 6, 2011 | 8:17 a.m.

Yes, Derrick. And any time you convert energy from one form to another, you lose some of it.

For example, is it more efficient to heat a home with natural gas, or to use a ground-coupled heat pump (which many misleadingly call "geothermal") powered by electricity?

The heat pump is able to move two to three BTU of heat for every BTU of energy it uses. It can be three times as efficient as electric resistance heat. But the issue here is how the electricity is generated. Burning natural gas in the CEC turbines is maybe 35% efficient. Natural gas furnaces for homes are typically in the range of 80-90%. So we've pretty much cancelled out the efficiency gain of the heat pump in having to use an inefficient process to generate the electricity, and convert heat to electricity, just to convert it back into heat.
Of course, if you're generating the electricity renewably, then the advantage is to the heat pump. But renewables will not be a factor in our electrical mix for decades, due to cost and availability, so this is what we're left with.


(Report Comment)

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