In November 2004, voters in Columbia, Missouri approved a proposal to adopt a local renewables portfolio standard (RPS).* The initiative requires the city's municipal utility, Columbia Water & Light, to generate or purchase electricity generated from eligible renewable-energy resources at the following levels:
Eligible renewable-energy resources outlined in the ordinance include solar energy (both electricity and heat), wind electricity, hydroelectricity, geothermal energy, and biomass sources, including landfill gas, paper based products, such as cardboard and newsprint, wood and wood wastes, cellulose based products that originate from trees or shrubbery; and other materials that come directly from trees or plants. Passive solar and geothermal heat pump energy systems are ineligible.
Columbia has also established a goal of meeting 1% of its RPS target using solar energy and is developing a new program, termed Solar One, to assist in achieving this goal. The Solar One program allows utility customers to voluntarily purchase 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) blocks of solar energy for a small additional charge on their electricity bill. Solar power is generated by local facilities on city-owned properties and local businesses, currently totaling 10 kilowatts (kW). An additional 15 kW of solar capacity is expected to be added by Fall 2010, allowing the utility to enroll additional customers in the program.
Resources must meet the environmental criteria approved by the Columbia City Council, after review by the Columbia Environment and Energy Commission and the Columbia Water & Light Advisory Board. Electricity purchased from on-site renewable energy systems owned by Columbia Water & Light customers may be included to meet the standard. Resources must be close enough to Columbia that the power can be physically transmitted into the Water & Light system. In the future, however, the higher compliance requirements may force the utility to look at green tags (i.e. renewable energy credits) as an option. The Water and Light Department intends to pursue this avenue only as a last resort.
The standard will be met to the extent possible without increasing electric rates by more than 3% as a result of the standard. According to the 2013 Report
shows the city reached 7.94% in 2012. The utility's current energy portfolio is largely based on wind and landfill gas resources, with a small amount from biomass/coal co-firing and solar.
By February 1 of each year, the Columbia Water & Light Department must issue a renewable-energy plan, detailing a proposal for how the city intends to comply with the RPS ordinance during the following year. The plan explains the city's due diligence in pursuing renewable-energy opportunities and detail all cost assumptions and related utility rate calculations, except with regard to confidential information that may be withheld pursuant to state law. It is then be reviewed by the Columbia Environment and Energy Commission and the Columbia Water & Light Advisory Board, and submitted to the Columbia City Council for approval following a public hearing.
* The RPS was approved by 78% of voters, with no organized opposition. The state renewable electricity standard adopted by ballot initiative in November 2008 does not apply to municipal utilities such as Columbia Water & Light.