Energy refers to the electricity and natural gas delivered to the Columbia community. Emissions associated with energy use account for 70% of Columbia’s total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Reducing that consumption and increasing the renewable energy goals voters approved in 2004 present great opportunities to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our resilience.
The CAAP process identified these two energy sector goals:
- Increase generation and use of renewable energy sources, including on-site solar and energy storage.
- Improve energy resilience and demand management.
Our Energy Use
Community Energy Use
Energy is a critical resource that we rely on to go about our daily activities, especially for heating and cooling our homes. By burning these fuels, we are contributing to climate change and polluting our air and water resources. Through continuing to increase our use of renewable energy and improving the efficiency of our homes and businesses, Columbia can reduce its overall community energy use, reduce GHG emissions and become more sustainable. The majority of our energy use and related emissions come from electricity produced by coal and natural gas fired power plants. A much smaller portion of these emissions come from the use of natural gas for water and space heating. Clean, carbon neutral energy sources of electricity for Columbia are critical to meeting the CAAP’s Energy Sector goals.
Our Energy Use
Energy Use By Sector
The energy sector is the largest contributor to our community greenhouse gas emissions - accounting for 71.3% of all our emissions in 2021. Energy used in commercial buildings made up almost half of energy emissions, followed by residential energy emissions at 35%, and industrial energy emissions at 16%.
This means that businesses in the City of Columbia have a big opportunity to reduce emissions, energy consumption, and energy costs. Learn about the City of Columbia’s energy efficiency and solar programs for commercial and residential customers here: https://www.como.gov/utilities/columbia-power-partners/
Energy Use and Energy Emissions: the Difference Explained
Energy usage is measured in millions of metric British Thermal Units (MMBtus) of electricity and natural gas. In 2021, the emissions factor, which is the metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted per MMBtu, for electricity from the City of Columbia Electric Utility was .25. The emissions factor for natural gas is .05. The commercial sector is the largest consumer of natural gas, so while total energy usage for commercial energy is 64% of the energy sector, commercial emissions make up 49%.
Our Energy Use
Municipal Energy Emissions
Municipal energy use measures the energy used to power, heat and cool City-owned facilities, light the streets, and treat and pump water and wastewater. Columbia has a goal to reduce GHG emissions associated with City operations by 50% below 2015 baseline by 2035 and 100% by 2050. Improving energy efficiency of our buildings and increasing on-site renewable energy actions are ways we can meet these goals.
Clean Energy For All
Renewable energy sources are those which naturally replenish in a short time. The most common are solar and wind. Using these “clean” energy resources, as opposed to coal and oil, does not result in an increase in GHGs in the atmosphere. Columbia has already taken several steps toward meeting its energy goals, including adopting a Renewable Energy Ordinance that requires an increasing percentage of electricity to be generated with renewable sources.
Columbia is committed to increasing the percentage of its electricity supplied from renewable energy sources. In 2022, 18% of our electricity came from wind, landfill methane and solar. The current ordinance goal is 30% renewable electricity by 2028. The CAAP calls to increase this goal to 100% by 2035.
Columbia’s Renewable Energy Sources
In 2022, 18.5% of electricity supplied from the City of Columbia electric utility was from renewable sources. The majority came from wind and landfill gas harvested from our municipal landfill. While we did generate electricity from solar, the amount was much smaller than these other two sources. This graph shows the contribution of wind and landfill gas.
Community On-site Solar Capacity
Community on-site solar capacity accounts for the customer-owned photovoltaic (PV) systems in Columbia W&L’s distribution system. This does not include utility-owned PV arrays or PV systems that W&L purchases electricity from. Customer-owned solar can play an important part in reducing energy emissions and increasing resilience to power outages, especially when solar is paired with energy storage.
Renewable Energy Strategies and Actions
The CAAP process identified strategies for increasing renewable energy generation and procuring renewable electricity. Specifically, setting a goal for Columbia Water & Light to be 100% renewable by 2035. Additionally, the City will maximize the potential for distributed solar PV with solar panels on eligible municipal buildings, expanding incentives for renewable energy installations, and offering a variety of community solar program options. Learn more about all the Strategies and Actions in the CAAP on the Action Plan page.
Local Energy Resilience
Increasing grid resilience helps support the City’s energy supply in times of natural disaster and peak energy demand. For example, distributed energy storage can help smooth out the peaks and valleys of wind and solar energy and improve community capacity to maintain electricity with regional outages. Additionally, behavior change can help the utility manage peak demand during the hottest parts of the summer. Reducing peak demand helps the utility and ratepayers save money and prevent outages.
Local Energy Resilience
Energy Resilience Strategies & Actions
The CAAP process also identified strategies for maintaining the reliability of local energy supply and distribution, including the development of energy storage programs, the neighborhood resilience hubs and more demand management programs, all of which will bolster the resilience of Columbia’s energy systems.
Be Part of the Solution!
All Columbians have a role to play in helping us transition to a clean energy future. Columbia Water & Light can help you get started.