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Residents push task force to adopt 100% renewable energy by 2030

Columbia residents gathered Thursday to urge a more aggressive path for the city to reach 100% renewable energy.

Their comments came at the Integrated Electric Resource and Master Plan Task Force’s meeting on public outreach.

The task force was created to help with planning for the city’s new Integrated Electric Resource and Master Plan.

One recommendation that the task force plans to present to the Columbia City Council is to revise the Renewable Energy Ordinance to call for reaching 100% renewable energy by the “earliest practical date.”

Two members of the task force shared the opinion that the city should strive to reach 100% renewable energy as early as possible.

There were more than 15 speakers, each allotted three minutes of public input, and nearly every one urged the task force to recommend to have 100% renewable energy by 2030.

The current goal on the Renewable Energy Ordinance is 30% by 2028. A city projection shows the city reaching slightly over 40% by 2025.

Esther Stroh reminded the task force that the citizens of Columbia own the power and utility, so they should have a say in how it is designed and run.

Stroh was also disappointed that the task force report did not include information on grid infrastructure savings, resiliency, grid reliability and the true value of solar power in Columbia.

Diana Moxon pointed out that the amount of energy used is not growing and the load forecast is functionally flat. Therefore, she said she is baffled that the task force is recommending to add more transmission lines.

Sarah Reed warned that the incorporation of 100% renewable energy is not the right decision. Reed said that Columbia should not buy more renewable energy as outlined in the report.

“Why are we going to buy excess energy just to meet renewable targets when we already have the energy we need?” Reed said.

The city buys renewable energy when it is available at a good price, reducing its reliance on fossil fuels during those periods.

She said that selling the city’s fossil fuels would not decrease emissions and that energy costs more than purchasing power.

Barbara Hoppe spoke for the League of Women Voters Columbia-Boone to also advocate for the 2030 goal of 100% renewable energy. The wording in the recommendation is too vague and lacks urgency, Hoppe said.

Christine Doerr also spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club Osage Group to support a goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2030. Doerr pointed out that it could tackle the climate crisis while creating good jobs and protecting air quality.

She cited 42 communities across the country that have already met the goal of 100% renewable energy.

Mark Haim spoke as a grandfather on behalf of his 6- and 9-year-old grandchildren. They live in Germany, where Haim said the country takes climate change seriously. He stressed that the United States harms the globe, not just the country, with greenhouse gas emissions.

Haim urged the task force to phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible and reach the 2030 100% renewable energy goal.

Alice Turner recalled when she taught social studies 40 years ago and was discussing solar power then, and is still discussing it today.

Nick Peckham began by saying, “We are all counting on you.”

He reminded the task force that currently Columbia is ranked 40th in the nation for good towns to live in and No. 1 in Missouri. He said that having 100% renewable energy by 2030 would only strengthen that position.

Jim Windsor told the task force that it does not matter what kind of energy the city buys if it is inefficient, so he believes in extreme or radical efficiency.

Windsor also said that having 100% renewable energy just means that the city would buy enough renewable energy to equal the amount of fossil fuels used.

He also brought up that Columbia’s Climate Action Plan predicts severe weather to increase in Columbia, but the Siemen’s report done for the task force chose to use average temperature and not take into account the potential for extreme weather.

Task force member Tom Jenson assured the speakers at the end of the meeting that it was not the final word.

After recommendations are made to the City Council, each part will be voted on by the council members and there will be opportunity to speak at those decisions.

Task force member Jay Hasheider ended by saying that there are a lot of realities to face before reaching the goal of 100% renewable energy.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.