Initiative focuses on energy

Petition calls for the city to add renewable energy in 2007.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:21 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

An initiative petition filed Tuesday morning would require the city to add renewable energy to its power supply beginning in 2007. Columbians for Clean Energy collected about 2,800 signatures from city voters in the petition drive that began on Earth Day.

The goal of the proposal is to gradually increase over 15 years the amount of renewable energy the city uses and to do so without increasing rates by more than 3 percent. The proposal calls for at least 2 percent of the city’s retail sales of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2007, then to gradually increase to 5 percent by 2012, 10 percent by 2017, and 15 percent by 2022.

Some of the acceptable forms of this renewable energy, also known as green energy, are solar energy and wind power. Some forms of bio-energy might also be acceptable.

This initiative would require the Columbia Environment and Energy Commission and the Columbia Water and Light Advisory Board to develop criteria for judging which forms of renewable energy would be appropriate for the city to buy.

“Bio-fuels are at best a lateral move and are normally several steps backwards,” said Chris Hayday, a member of Columbians for Clean Energy.

Hayday said the Northwest Missouri State University power plant, which burns hog manure, paper, sawdust and other biomass, is an example of a utility using alternative energy and keeping costs down.

Hayday cautioned, however, that corporate hog farms should not be considered a provider of energy.

“We do not want to copy what they are doing,” Hayday said. “Just because it isn’t coal doesn’t mean it’s clean.”

The League of Women Voters has also been active in pushing the switch to renewable energy. It circulated a petition around Columbia generating support for the issue before work to make the issue a proposed ordinance began.

The League, the Sierra Club and Columbians for Clean Energy worked together to collect the signatures needed to send the initiative to the Columbia City Council. A minimum of 2,276 signatures must be verified by the city clerk, Sheela Amin, before the initiative is certified.

The council would have two choices: approve the initiative as a city ordinance or place it on the Nov. 2 ballot for voters to decide.

Hayday said that it was easy to collect the signatures and that the most difficult thing was organizing the project.

“I spent more time coordinating people,” Hayday said.

The energy petition is the third to be submitted to Amin. On Monday, the Columbia Alliance for Patients and Education submitted two petitions seeking changes in the way the city handles misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

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