Distributed Energy Resources

Columbia Water & Light exceeds 15 percent renewable target

A draft report shows that 15.7 percent of the power supplied by Columbia Water and Light in Missouri in 2018 was furnished by renewable generation, exceeding the public power utility’s target for last year.

Columbia Water & Light's power supply included wind at 12.33 percent, landfill gas at 3.1 percent and solar at 0.22 percent, according to a draft report issued by the utility, which sold 1.25 million megawatt-hours last year.

Columbia voters passed an ordinance in 2004 mandating that Columbia Water & Light provide electricity from growing amounts of renewable energy, starting at 2 percent in 2008. The target increased to 5 percent in 2013 and 15 percent last year. The target steps up to 25 percent in 2023 and 30 percent in 2029.

Columbia Water & Light's largest source of renewable energy is from NextEra Energy’s Crystal Lake wind farm in Iowa. The utility buys power from the wind farm under two 20-year contracts that are for 21 megawatts and 27 MW at a price of $45.08/MWh and $20.12/MWh, respectively.

The second contract, entered into in late 2016, jumps to 45 MW in 2023 and includes a 2 percent annual price escalator, according to the draft report. The contracts currently account for 9.4 percent of Columbia Water & Light’s power supply.

In addition, Columbia Water & Light is paying $69.35/MWh for 6.3 MW from the Bluegrass Ridge wind farm near King City, Missouri.

The utility also buys electricity from two landfill gas projects for $53.01/MWh and $54.87MWh apiece.

Columbia Water & Light has a contract to buy electricity from a 0.33-MW Free Power solar facility for $54.95/MWh.

Looking ahead, the City of Columbia entered into a contract to add 10 MW of solar onto its system starting on Dec. 31. Columbia Water & Light is also developing a community solar project, according to the draft report.

Columbia Water & Light is also considering converting assets at its municipal power plant to burn only biomass fuel. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has issued an air permit for the 18.3-MW project and a scope of work and preliminary cost estimate for the project has been developed, the draft report said.

Columbia’s Renewable Energy Standard ordinance limits renewables from increasing electric rates by more than 3 percent from what they would have been without the renewables.

The utility spent $2.4 million extra for its renewable supply last year, below a $3.9 million cap, according to the draft report.

The draft report will be reviewed by two panels and then sent to the Columbia City Council for approval.