CoMo Energy Challenge kicks off

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COLUMBIA - Columbia's bid to win a $5 million prize entered its next phase Friday at the CoMo Energy Challenge Kickoff.

The city was named one of the 50 semifinalists for the Georgetown University Energy Prize in January.

The event began with a ribbon cutting Friday afternoon at the Westlake Ace Hardware store and continued throughout the evening with various educational booths on how residents can make their homes more energy efficient.

"Having an energy efficient home is important for everybody. Your house could be more affordable to run, more comfortable to live in, and also in an energy efficient home there's better air quality inside so it's healthier for you and your family to live in," said City of Columbia Sustainability Educator Brenna Reed.

The booths also included tips for residents on how to caulk their homes and different options for appliance performance evaluations. LED bulbs were also sold for a discounted price.

John Nichols, an environmental specialist for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said he planned on saving money thanks to the city's energy audit and rebates available.

"I want to try to make my house as energy efficient as possible so I plan on taking advantage of those programs," Nichols said.

According to the competition's website, over a two-year period semifinalists must "demonstrate its initial effectiveness and sustainability."

Reed said the city's strategy to win will be to highlight the impact of programs already in place from AmerenBoone Electric, and Columbia Water and Light.

"We are really trying to spotlight those programs and encourage participation in those, since they've proven to be effective in the past so we know they will be effective in the future, so we are really pushing participation in existing programs," she said.

If Columbia wins, the funds are at the discretion of the city. To help officials figure out what their constituents would want them to do with the money, comment cards were distributed at the event.

"We want the people of Columbia to tell us how to spend the $5 million and improve energy in the community," Reed said.

So far, she said the community has shown a lot of interest in renewable energy options, and there is a common section at their website as well .

The festivities continue on Saturday at Westlake Ace Hardware at 1910 W. Worley, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.