City looks to comply with energy ordinance

Friday, April 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:26 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The change in the way electricity flows to and from Columbia comes at a turning point for the city, which is evaluating upgrades to its own coal-fired plant and looking for long-term energy contracts. The city is also attempting to acquire electricity from renewable sources such as wind farms in Kansas and is considering using methane from Columbia’s own landfill to provide up to 1 percent of the electric supply.

Columbia, which uses an average of 110 megawatts of electricity in April, has the capability to produce up to 86 megawatts of power on its own. But the city is looking for another 75 megawatts in the short term and 120 megawatts by 2015. The city has paid Stanley Consultants $98,500 to evaluate upgrades to the Municipal Power Plant and expects the firm’s final report in April.

The city is considering four options:

  • Building a new coal-fired boiler that could generate 70 to 100 megawatts.
  • Investing in another plant out of state, possibly a Peabody Energy plant in southern Illinois.
  • Entering a long-term power purchase agreement. The city’s contract with Ameren expires in 2008.
  • Employing a combination of all three options.

When the city gets the preliminary report back from Stanley, it plans to hire another consultant to evaluate the economics of the three options. “The power plant is just one piece of the energy puzzle,” said Tad Johnsen, the city’s power plant manager.

Columbia is halfway to meeting the first requirements of a voter-approved renewable energy ordinance that requires the city to receive 2 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2007. But Dasho said representatives at the Midwest Independent System Operator told him that Columbia probably won’t be able to get electricity generated from landfill gas during times of peak demand.

Aquaterra Environmental Solutions recently delivered a report on generating methane at the Columbia landfill. To gauge interest in the purchase of methane, the city’s Public Works Department, which operates the landfill, is finishing a proposal for bids that will go out in the next few weeks to Kraft Foods, 3M and Columbia’s Water and Light Department.

City officials estimated last fall that Columbia’s landfill could supply 1 percent of the city’s energy needs, and that amount could become vital to Columbia Water and Light’s ability to comply with the renewable energy ordinance.

John Coffman, a utility consumer advocate for Missouri and member of Columbians for Clean Energy, the group that wrote the renewable energy ordinance, said several states in the region governed by the new electrical distributor provide renewable energy. Coffman said that makes him confident Columbia will be able to achieve the goals of the ordinance.

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