Sustainability programs aim to make Columbia more energy friendly

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 | 4:18 a.m. CST; updated 7:30 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Mike Matthes speaks to a group about renewable energy in the City of Columbia at the Daniel Boone Regional Library on Tuesday. Matthes answered questions on the city's energy needs and how it plans to proceed with solar energy.

COLUMBIA — Energy efficiency was the main topic on the table. On Tuesday, The League of Women Voters invited City Manager Mike Matthes and Barbara Buffaloe, the manager of the Office of Sustainability, to talk about the energy programs and sustainability goals of the city of Columbia.

"The cheapest energy is the energy you don't use," Matthes said.

The city of Columbia, through the sustainability office, offers different programs for more efficient energy use.  One of those programs is the "City Green: The District," a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explained in a previous Missourian article.

The Office of Sustainability has also endorsed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement that promotes more efficient building codes. Buffaloe said the city has been following the agreement, but it hasn't been very active in promoting its compliance.

"Hopefully by Earth Day next year, we'll have that report covered and say 'this is how we are doing,'" Buffaloe said of the city's efforts to make the public aware of its energy efficiency programs.

The Office of Sustainability is also working internally, asking employees to turn off their computers when they leave, turn off the lights and print double-sided pages. Buffaloe said the office is trying to get those activities into the city culture.

"Hopefully as this starts to happen internally it will also happen externally," she said.

Matthes also talked about the project from the Water and Light Department to burn wood along with coal at Columbia Power Plant, a program that started in 2008. According to a Renewable Energy Report from the Water and Light Department the power plant, which used a 10 percent mixture of waste wood along with coal, produced 5.8 percent of the city's electric portfolio in 2010. 

Another renewable resource also in the discussion was using the corn from farmers in Missouri for producing biofuel. "The problem with grass or plants is they have this habit of  biodegrading," said Matthes.

At the end of the meeting, the public was able to ask the speakers questions. Recycling, transit and solar panels were the most discussed topics.

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