Decade-long transmission line project put on hold, Columbia Water and Light officials say

New numbers show line may not be needed

Decade-long transmission line project...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia Water and Light staff have been working on a transmission project ever since forecasted models of electricity use showed the system wouldn't be able to handle the amount of demand, possibly creating brownouts. That was 10 years ago.

While staff was preparing for a new Integrated Resource Plan, they found data that showed Water and Light customers were not using as much electricity as predicted in the forecasted models, officials said.

In 2008, forecast models showed customers using 328 megawatts of electricity at the peak of usage in 2017. Data from 2017 showed customers only used 269 megawatts during the peak usage day.

Lucia Bourgeois, spokesperson for Columbia Water and Light, said the new data means the utility company has time to look into other options besides a transmission line, which is a very expensive option.

Bourgeois said there are three different reasons why the demand for electricity isn't as high as they originally predicted: weather, energy efficiency and the recession.

Bourgeois said the weather hasn't been too hot or too cold for customers to use more electricity.

As far as energy efficiency, Bourgeois said home appliances have come a long way since 2007. As new technology comes out, more household items are more energy-efficient.

Bourgeois said the recession affected demand because the population of Columbia didn't grow as much as anticipated.

But the population has been growing, and Bourgeois said because of that, the transmission line project hasn't been thrown out; it's simply been put on hold until a study from Quanta Technologies is completed.

"We still need to address the issue. Distributing more electricity to the south is something that will need to be done. Because we haven't reached that demand yet, we just have more time to figure out a solution for it. It's something that we're still working on," Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois said Quanta Technologies is looking into what options the city has to increase electrical capacity, other than installing a new transmission line or substation.

Voters approved a $63 million bond in 2015. Half of the money would go toward the new transmission line and the other half toward maintenance and repairs.

Bourgeois said voters won't see an increase in electricity rates for half of the bond until plans move forward with the project.

Water and Light staff brought their findings to the first city council meeting in January. Matt Pitzer, 5th Ward councilman, said he's glad Water and Light staff were straightforward about their findings.

"I really wanna commend them for having the ability to come back and say look, there may be other ways to solve it, there may be cheaper ways to solve it. You know, reduce the burden on our citizen rate payers and find a solution that is more tailored to the world we live in today," Pitzer. 

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