Columbia’s Electric Utility

    Overview of Columbia’s Electric Utility

    Electricity is generated at a power station or power plant from fossil fuels or renewable resources. Approximately 90% of Columbia’s energy comes from sources outside the city.  Once the power is generated, it has to be moved to where it is going to be used.  Large amounts of power are transferred with electric transmission lines which feed into substations where transformers step down the power to lower voltages. From there, power is delivered to individual electric customers by distribution system. 


    Columbia Water & Light is responsible for construction and maintenance of transmission lines, substations and distribution lines. Our crews are available around the clock to repair unexpected problems as quickly as possible.

    Electric Rates


    Simple Electric Grid
    By United States Department of Energy, version by User: J J Messerly


    Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For electric utilities, it is the first process in the delivery of electricity to consumers. The other processes as transmission, distribution, energy storage and recovery using pumped-storage methods are normally carried out by the electric power industry. Electricity is most often generated at a power station by electromechanical generators, primarily driven by heat engines fueled by combustion or nuclear fission but also by other means such as the kinetic energy of flowing water and wind. 


    The electric transmission network delivers electricity to Columbia’s grid from outside suppliers. Columbia Water & Light is in the control area of the Midcontinent System Operator (MISO).  MISO is an independent system operator that controls the flow of electricity in northern part of the Midwest.  

    Proposed Transmission Line Project

    Renewable Energy

    In November 2004, Columbians approved a renewable energy ordinance for the city’s power supply portfolio. The ordinance mandates Columbia Water & Light purchase increasing levels of energy from renewable resources. Each year, the utility is required to submit a plan outlining compliance with the ordinance. The Water & Light Advisory Board and the Environment and Energy Commission review the report before it goes to the Columbia City Council for a public hearing.
    In 2016, Columbia had 6.68% of the electric portfolio generated from renewable sources. The renewable portfolio comes from wind (3.43%), landfill gas (3.12%) and solar (0.13%). The total amount exceeds the requirement for 2016 of 5% by 1.68%. The additional cost is 50.2% of what is allowed by the renewable energy ordinance.


    Future electric supply and energy efficiency program plans can be found in the 2013 Integrated Resource Plan.

    Constructing a new building? See the Facilities Connection Requirements for the electric system.