2018 Renewable Energy Report shows Columbia Water & Light meeting renewable energy goals

The renewable energy goals were established by a 2004 mandate that limits cost increases due to renewable source usage to 3 percent.
The sources of renewable energy production in Columbia in 2017. courtesy of the City of Columbia

The city of Columbia generated 15.7 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2017, meeting the mandated target of 15 percent. This target was approved by a 2004 voter mandate that requires the city to obtain an increasing share of its overall electrical energy from renewable sources through 2028.

The 2004 mandate, officially called the renewable energy standard ordinance, limits cost increases due to renewable source usage to 3 percent. Cost increases associated with renewable energy production and implementation in 2017 summed to $2.5 million, more than a million dollars beneath the $3.7 million ceiling for the year.

Lucia Bourgeois, community relations specialist for Columbia Water & Light, said the 3 percent threshold “is a huge part of our consideration” when planning for future projects.

The majority of 2017 renewable production — 12.34 percent — came from wind, while landfill gas from the Jefferson City and Columbia landfills accounted for 3.24 percent and solar energy produced the remaining .12 percent.

According to the Columbia Water & Light 2018 Renewable Energy Report, landfill gas is “created from decomposing waste at the landfill.” Columbia Water & Light also has a 20-year contract with the Jefferson City landfill and purchases landfill gas energy from it.

Like the agreement with Jefferson City, the majority of the renewable-sourced energy used by the city is purchased, rather than generated from infrastructure owned by the city. Purchasing from another supplier “is the most cost-effective way to expand our renewable energy profile because developing our own infrastructure is very expensive,” Bourgeois said.

While Water & Light had been intensely focused on hitting the end-of-2017 deadline of 15 percent renewable energy usage, the next renewable energy target is set for December 2022 and requires 25 percent of energy to be purchased or generated from renewable sources. In order to reach this goal, Bourgeois said that Water & Light will likely continue to purchase from other sources as a means of managing costs.

At a Columbia City Council meeting on Feb. 5, the council voted to approve a $28.3 million contract with Truman Solar LLC. According to the agreement, the city of Columbia will purchase solar energy from Truman Solar and distribute it directly through Columbia’s distribution system rather than purchasing it on the open market. Comparatively, Water & Light’s current annual budget for purchasing power is $68.5 million. The solar field agreement would increase solar production by 1.9 percent of total energy.

Bourgeois said the solar field agreement is a “pretty low risk that could have a huge impact on our community” and added that “it’s the most cost-effective way to increase our renewable profile at this time.”

Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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