Let’s talk about electricity.

Let’s talk about electricity.

I am sure we all love the air conditioning during the hot Missouri summers. I also suspect many folks are grumbling about the recent rate increases for our electricity.

I think we are fortunate to have a city-owned electric company versus a privately owned power company, but it also creates some added challenges and some obligations for the citizens.

The Independence City Council will soon be funding a consultant to evaluate the next round of electricity rate increases in order to make sure our power company is financially solid. At the same time maybe we should also compare the costs and benefits of a city-owned electric company with being part of a larger private electric company.

Yes, I know that is radical thinking, but with new federal regulations impacting our coal power plant and the need to replace that 54-year-old facility, maybe it is time to review all of our options.

The Little Blue Power Plant at 23rd Street and Truman Road was built 54 years ago. Not long ago there was quite a bit of chatter about replacing it with a newer coal power plant on property adjacent to the Missouri River. Building a new coal power plant is not likely any more due to stronger environmental regulations, more difficult financing, the high cost and the growing citizen concern with burning coal to make electricity; but what are our options?

If we continue with a city-owned electric company then we, the citizens, need to be engaged in the conversation about how we are going to replace the old power plant (keep in mind we also own a very old coal power plant in Missouri City). Do we want a coal-fired power plant, wind turbines, nuclear or natural gas?

Few new coal power plants have been built in the United States in the last five years. Their negative impact on the health of fellow citizens is well documented. The link to emphysema and other respiratory diseases has created an environment in which it would appear the era of “king coal” is winding to a close.

Currently 38 states now have utility-scale wind farms. Northern Missouri and western Kansas host some of these huge wind farms used to provide basic power for homes and factories. Major power companies such as Ameren and KCP&L are now buying into wind farms, while many citizens still believe that this type of investment is too risky.

The price of natural gas has dropped substantially in recent months, making this source of creating electricity a rising star. Natural gas is more environmentally friendly than coal. It is readily available here in the Midwest and considerably less costly than a new wind farm. Natural gas is the fuel source used at the Dogwood Power Plant, in which the city bought a stake in Pleasant Hill and is the source of 80 percent of the new power plants being built around the nation.

Recently Gov. Jay Nixon and Ameren stepped up with a bold plan by announcing an effort to secure federal grant money to build a new generation of mini-nuclear power plants called “small modular nuclear reactors.” The first one would be built at Fulton, on the site of the present Ameren nuclear power plant. The plan was clear: They had a vision that this technology could be the answer to much of our future demand for energy.

While our options to replace the Blue Valley Power Plant are few, I hope the community conversation explores the cost, the environmental impact as well as our future electric rates.