Columbia exceeds renewable energy goal

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COLUMBIA - Columbia has shown it can save green while going green.

A new report from Columbia Water & Light shows the city exceeded its goal for renewable energy sources in 2016. Though the city was required to have 5 percent of its energy sources be renewable, it arrived at 6.68 percent, surpassing its goal for the third year in a row.

Despite using more green energy than required, the city managed to save almost $2 million in the process.

Columbia has a cost limit for adding new renewable energy, capping electric rate increases at 3 percent yearly. The allowable cost limit for 2016 was $3.48 million, and the city spent $1.86 million.

Connie Kacprowicz, a spokesperson for Columbia Water & Light, said 2016 was a great year for signing new energy contracts.

"The cost of renewable energy has gone down quite a bit, especially when you look at our wind contracts. The one we first signed in the very beginning is a lot more expensive than the last one we signed, and then this one is coming in at a much lower cost," Kacprowicz said.

Kacprowicz said any time the city can find a cheaper contract, it impacts the rate payer. 

"If we can save any money we can on power purchases, that is a great thing for both us and the consumer because that's our most expensive part... actually paying for the electricity used by the citizens," Kacprowicz said.

Following an energy mandate approved by voters in 2004, the city must make 15 percent of all its energy sources renewable by the end of 2018.

With a new wind energy contract, landfill gas and solar energy, Columbia is at 12.35 percent for the start of 2017.

The city signed its first wind contract in 2008 with Bluegrass Ridge Wind Energy out of King City, Missouri. Bluegrass Ridge supplies Columbia with 13 thousand megawatt hours, costing the city $67 per MWH.

The newest contract brings in five times as much wind energy at one third the cost. Coming from Crystal Lake III Wind Energy Center in Iowa, the contract brings in 70 thousand MWH at a rate of $19.75 per MWH.

Kacprowicz said the decrease in cost for contracts can be attributed to more federal investments for renewable energy and an increase in energy supply.

Columbia has energy mandates in place for the next decade. The percentage of required renewable energy must increase from 15 percent to 25 percent by 2023 and set a new goal of 30 percent by 2029.